Summary: First in a series from Ephesians; and for the Day of Prayer for World Peace. Our lives and our world seem fragmented. But God brings order to our lives by choosing us; He redeems the messes we make; and He calls us to the work of restoration.
Do you experience life in pieces? Do you find that each day is a jumble of bits and pieces, fragments? That most of the time there isn’t any coherence, there isn’t any consistency? Do you feel that each day is a whole lot of things to be done, but they don’t always hold together?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think I need somebody just to pick up those pieces and put them together. They must be part of some gigantic jig-saw puzzle that eventually fits together. But I don’t always see it, do you?
The trouble with picking up the pieces is that sometimes we like the fragments more than we like the whole! There is something more attractive about the jumble of pieces than about the whole thing put together! It would frighten the socks off us if somebody were to pick up the pieces tell us what our lives are all about. That would be scary!
Several weeks ago I walked into my office and got a terrible shock. There in front of me was my table, completely cleared off, clean as a whistle. That was not the way I had left it! Not on your life! When I left my office the night before, that table was stacked high with stuff.
On one corner there had been a computer and a keyboard, several cables and connectors of various kinds. I was getting that ready for one of our financial officers, but was not quite finished yet. So bits and pieces.
On another corner I had piled odds and ends for Vacation Bible School. Some books I had planned to use; two or three videotapes I was going to show; the rough draft of a handout I intended to distribute; some diplomas I was expected to sign; and the usual accumulation of the things without which no self-respecting Vacation Bible School could operate: coffee cans, popsicle sticks, drinking straws, crayons, scissors, and, so help me hannah, a roll of duct tape. You know, duct tape fixes anything. There is a rumor around that it came in very useful with one particularly loudmouthed teenager. But I’m not sure.
Computer components here, Bible School miscellany there, and then just piles of this and that. Addresses and phone numbers, mostly from people wanting to sell something to the church; mail to be answered (or not, because I find that if you wait long enough, the question will go away anyhow), memos: memos on the capital projects fund, memos to the deacons, memos to the Sunday School, and a memo to me, reminding me not to write so many memos. All of this terribly important stuff! But bits and pieces, fragments.
And on this dreadful morning, it was all gone. Somebody had "done me a favor" and had picked up the pieces. I didn’t want the pieces picked up! It may have been a mess, but it was my mess, and I knew where to find things! Who did this? Now my office is infected with a case of terminal neatness! I don’t like it!
Life is like that- mostly pieces, fragments. Most of the time there isn’t any coherence. Just a whole lot of fragments, lots of things to do, but no pattern. Sometimes we like the fragments more than we like the whole. And it frightens us when somebody picks up the pieces to make sense of them.
What a mess our world is in! Not only my office table, and not only my life, but my world. Not only my life and your life, but our entire world. We prayed today for world peace, but what we have is a world in pieces. We prayed today for wholeness, but what we have is terrorism in Jerusalem, panic in Brooklyn, mayhem in Belfast, and slaughter in Kumasi. We prayed today for an end to strife and bitterness, but what we have is slander in the White House, racism in Congress’ House, suspicion in God’s house, and bitterness in our houses! What a mess of fragments we live in! What a confusion we have created! Who will make sense of it all? Who will pick up the pieces?
In the most sweeping language anywhere in the Bible, Paul in the Ephesian letter speaks of the vast scope of the work of Christ. He uses one long doxology, one majestic sentence of praise, to proclaim that Jesus Christ has come to pick up the pieces. The Ephesian letter begins with a claim of breathtaking proportions.
God "set forth in Christ .. a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." In Christ there is a plan for everything, and, at the right time, in His own way, He will gather up all things. What does this mean?