Sunday 15th August 2021
As in previous weeks, these are offered to help you in your worship at home
- The collect (the prayer for today)
- A Bible reading
- A reflection on the reading
- A prayer of blessing
You might also like to spend some time praying for the church, the world, and those whom you know who are in particular need
God of glory,
the end of our searching,
help us to lay aside
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom,
and to give all that we have
to gain the pearl beyond all price,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How wise are you? – it’s OK, that’s a rhetorical question, and I’m not going to embarrass anyone!
Over the last 3 weeks, we’ve been reading through the very practical advice contained in Ephesians about how best to live a Christian life. We’ve seen that key qualities that we should see in our lives are: unity, and being an imitator of God. Today, we’re shown another key quality, and that’s wisdom.
Wisdom is actually a very practical quality, quite distinct from cleverness or intellectual ability. Probably more than at any other time in history, we are awash with information. Don’t know something? Then Google it! But do we know what to do with the mass of information around us?
Wisdom is about knowing the right thing to do in any given situation. And that’s certainly the way that wisdom is viewed in the Bible. But there is more, much more, to the quality of wisdom in the Bible.
There’s a stark contrast in the Bible between wisdom, and the opposite quality which is folly. Wisdom has its roots in God, whilst folly is ignoring God.
Psalm 141 opens with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” In Proverbs 1416 we read: “The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.”
And clearly, these verses from Ephesians draw on that basic understanding of God as the source of all true wisdom. There are three striking contrasts that build up the picture:
- Don’t be unwise, but rather wise
- Don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is
- Don’t get drunk, but be filled with the Spirit
The unwise are characterised by dissipation; the wise by their dependence upon God
This call to abandon folly and to be wise comes within the wider context of what’s being said here: that as Christians, we are people who have been rescued from darkness, ignorance, and separation from God. So, we need to put these things behind us, and live a distinctively Christian lifestyle – and godly wisdom is one characteristic that we should see in the lives of Christian people.
In the verses we read today, there isn’t much said to expand on being unwise – except to avoid folly and drunkenness – but there’s much more said about what it means to be wise.
The wise “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” This isn’t about filling every waking moment with purposeful activity (which would be exhausting!), but rather about readiness, about being able to seize the moment. Many of Jesus’ parables deal with readiness (such as the wise and foolish bridesmaids) and these are about the need to live in a constant state of readiness; being willing to do what the Lord wants of us whenever the need arises.
And what about this business of “the days being evil”? with the news from home and abroad right now, we probably wouldn’t argue with the days being evil right now. But what is actually meant here? Well, maybe one way of understanding this is to realise that as Christians, we are people who are taking a stand in the conflict between good and evil. That’s something made really clear in a prayer we use in the baptism service, when the congregation prays these words for the person to be baptised:
Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ
against sin, the world and the devil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.
The wise also “understand what the Lord’s will is”. How do we do that? Well, there are the obvious things we can do. The Bible, the word of God, is a good place to start. The discipline of regularly reading the Bible (and making sure that we include all of the Bible and not just the parts we like best!) enables us to grow in knowledge and understand of God. Prayer is also essential as we seek to apply what we learn from the Bible to our lives. Prayer is our communication with God – and like communication with anyone we love, we discover more about the One we are communicating with. Through prayer, we draw closer to God and we gain a better understanding of what his will is. E best understand the will of someone when we are in tune with them; and we best understand the will of God when we are in tune with him. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul puts it like this: 5 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Lastly, we read that the wise are those who are “filled with the Spirit”. Those who are filled with the Spirit are empowered and energised by God himself. And it’s worth reminding ourselves that being filled with the Spirit isn’t the preserve of a spiritual elite. It’s the birthright of every Christian person. In Acts 2, Peter tells the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost: 38 … ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’
Here, being filled with the Spirit is demonstrated by lives that are full of worship, praise, song and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a basic Christian response to the God who has given us life in the first place, the means to sustain life, and the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life through the costly sacrifice of his Son. We have so much to be thankful to God for. If we are wise, and filled with the Spirit, that thankfulness will be evident in lives that are full of worship and praise.
Once again, we find ourselves with some deceptively simple advice on what it means to live as a Christian.
Consider carefully how you live. Don’t be unwise; choose wisdom. And wisdom involves readiness, understanding the Lord’s will, and being filled with the Spirit.
The Lord bless you and watch over you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you,
the Lord look kindly on you
and give you peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.