Lives That are Worthy
Based on Psalm 51, 2Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35
I have had the privilege to be in relationship with many people as they neared the end of their lives. In all of those situations, at one point or another, the topic turns to the meaning of their life – what their legacy might be, what would people remember about them or say about them. Most of the conversations ultimately come around to an assessment of their life and how they feel they measured up to this standard or that. The degree to which they achieved their desired goals in life determined how satisfied they were as they neared their deaths. There were those with a lot of guilt or remorse, and those who had tied everything up and are ready for the next part of the journey – most people, in my experience, fall somewhere in between.
Today’s scripture readings offer us some viewpoints to assess how we are living our lives, and if we are leading lives that are worthy of our calling – to paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. From Psalm 51 and David and Nathan’s show down, to Paul exhortation and Jesus’ teaching to work for the food of eternal life, we have a wide array of options from which to choose to evaluate at this moment in our journey, how are we all doing? Let’s stop for a moment and ask God to open our minds, hearts, eyes and ears that we might hear what God has to say this morning. Won’t you join me in prayer?
The mourning time has ended for Uriah and Bathsheba is taken into David’s house to be one of his wives. She brings forth a son in due season and all seems to be going along well. However, God is not pleased with David’s actions and sends the prophet Nathan in to confront the King over his choices. Confronting kings can be life threatening, so wise and careful prophets seek to come at the subject in a round about way. Nathan tells David a story that has David pronouncing judgment at the end – that’s when Nathan springs the trap saying, “…You are the man!…” Nathan goes on to tell David all the consequences of his poor choices, and then tells David that “…the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die….” Time’s a coming though that David will wish he had lived a life worthy of who he was in God. Psalm 51 is his heartfelt song about how wrong he was and how he needs the LORD’s help to cleanse him from all his sinful choices.
The crowds are still following Jesus around, but when they find him, Jesus tells them that they are not looking to him for miracles, rather they are looking to him for a handout of bread to satisfy their physical hunger. He turns it around on them and corrects their thinking that it was Moses that gave manna in the wilderness. No, Jesus says, the manna came from God – which is from where the Son of Man has come. Jesus tells them that if they would only believe in him and follow, that they would never hunger or thirst again. Yet, the crowds did not lead lives worthy of their calling as children of God, and they ended up killing the source of eternal life.
Paul is writing about unity in Christ and echoing the sentiment that Jesus was just talking about. Paul tells them to “…lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…the gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity…” This is the calling that we are all called to live into. The calling that all of us have been gifted uniquely to play an important role in building up the body of Christ. This is why it is so very important that each of us knows what our spiritual gifts are, so that we can live into our calls and work towards unity in faith and knowledge of Jesus – that is our spiritual maturity.
Paul uses a body part term “ligament” in his letter to the Ephesians as part of a metaphor on holding the body of Christ together. You may be interested to know that the Latin root for the term “religio” (where our word religion comes from) means ligament. Ligaments in our bodies connect bone to bone, thus they tie the structural framework together so that we can stand upright and move easily from place to place. Without ligaments we would, to a large degree, be incapable of movement. Thus, Paul is making a point to his audience that being part of this new religio of Jesus means that we are all working to tie together believers into one sacred and loving body which can continue to grow.
Living a life worthy of our calling then requires us to first understand how we are gifted and then to discern how it is that God is calling us to put those gifts to work to build up the body of Christ. This week I heard from some of you that you had gone ahead and completed your spiritual gifts inventory – congratulations on completing that step on the journey towards unity and spiritual maturity. Now, the next part is the tough part – discerning how to use those top 5 or so gifts to get the body of Christ working together to be built up in love.
Discernment requires us to be truthful in our “inward being” as Psalm 51 states, in our “secret” hearts. Discernment is the process of prayerfully considering the choices available and then choosing the one which appears to lead to love and goodness. We continue to discern all along the path, because it is somewhat easy to be mislead by evil. We have to be able to say, like King David in the Psalm, “…you know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,…” Applying our gifts to the service of God requires that we are openly truthful to ourselves and God, and that our secret hearts are attuned to the things of God and not to worldly things.
We apply our gifts and lead a life of worth, in the words of Paul, “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace….” We do this to make the body of Christ stronger and with firmer attachments within its skeleton. Just like ligaments attach bones to each other, so our gifts forge strong bonds between each believer. With a strong body then, we reach out into the world to do the work of God, in God and through God with the help of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. This is how we grow into maturity in our faith – into our likeness of God. Living a life worthy of our calling and baptism vows means according to Paul, that “…We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness and deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,…” Let us live together in this worthy way, so that as our lives on Earth come to a close we can all look forward to life eternal without regret. Amen!