The Third Sunday in Lent 24 March 2019 A.D.

The Third Sunday in Lent                        24 March 2019 A.D.           Morning Prayer

                  The Epistle: Ephesians 5:1-14                 The Gospel: Luke 11:14-28

                                We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty
                                desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the
                                right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all
                                our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord.          Amen.

                                                      “Light and Darkness”

1. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.
St. Paul begins this passage, taken from his letter to the church at Ephesus, with a command and request. The command is that we be followers of God. We are to strive to be like God in all our doings, all our days, always striving to please Him. The request, in the same concept Christ gave us when he was here, to do this command as ‘dear children’.  
  Why as dear children ? 
The innocency and desire of children to please was what Jesus said we must do to become part of the Kingdom. We must enter the Kingdom as a child, with a faith that accepts the gift of God the Father just as the pre-fallen Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Innocency in accepting what God has done for us by sending His Son to die in our stead, that is what Jesus was telling us to be like. 
In verse two we see the fulfillment of Christ sacrifice, which had been foreshadowed in the prophecies of the Old Testament. ‘An offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.’
From the time of Cain and Abel, the burnt offering, the smoke rising to heaven (symbolizing our ascending prayers) rising up to God, will be proscribed to foreshadow and predict the coming Christ.  This will be replicated again and again until the final once and for all great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. 
Now all will be fulfilled. As we approach the Holy Week and the great and glorious day of resurrection, Easter, let us remember what a great work this was and what a great promise for us it will reveal. Death will be deposed, death will be overpowered, death will no longer hold fear for those who are children of God.
The next five verses Paul explains who will not participate in the life everlasting in the Kingdom of God.
3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

The trade city of Ephesus in what is now modern day Turkey, was famous for great silversmiths. These artisans crafted some of the most beautiful statues of the Greek goddess Diana. There was a large temple in Ephesus dedicated to the worship of Diana. Part of that worship included purchasing these finely crafted statuettes of Diana to leave at the temple as a means of sacrifice. Being made of silver, they were most likely very expensive, thus adding to the concept of sacrifice. 
Paul is pointing out the behavior of the average Ephesian as being so far removed from the Kingdom of God as to guarantee no access to that kingdom. He catalogs both individual sinful behavior and what was considered accepted corporate behavior, especially in cities where these Greek temples were located. If you think of it in a modern parlance, “what happens in Ephesus stays in Ephesus”. Travelers to these holy sites located all over the ancient world were expected to partake in the revelry and debauchery that was common to the city in question. Paul makes no bones about it, ‘...Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience...’  And then to emphasis the point one more time, Paul in verse seven says to not be partakers with them. Notice that it is a behavior that is corporate or accepted. 
Today in our post-modern world we struggle with elements of the church that try to downplay the evil behavior of the world by saying things like; ‘ is a victimless activity...’ ‘ one is getting hurt...’  ‘... it is among consenting adults...’  And mind you this is from the so called Christian world.  St. Paul wrote that we are not to be partakers with them.  
Now after all what seems like gloom and doom, St. Paul now gives us a primer in what we should be doing. Let’s look at the next seven verses and read about the positive hope in the lives of believers.
8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
What an interesting construct of words. ‘ were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord...’  The very activities made you darkness. Wow, that is some pretty heavy stuff. We know that people watch Christians very closely to see if they will mess up. They are ever vigilant in looking for flaws in a Christian’s conduct. So Paul writes that we were sometime darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord. What a great promise. What a great change. How do we stay in the light ? We must walk in the Light... ‘..walk as children of light..’  There is that theme of being a child again.  Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. All this that is proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  Notice that it is in the form of a sacrifice. ‘...what is acceptable unto the Lord...’   
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
Now we are to not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, and yet we are to reprove them. Understand that there are ways to show your disapproval of evil behavior. We must do it will meekness and gentleness. We must never appear as if we are holier than the sinner. Because in reality, we are sinners also, forgiven daily as we pray for such, but sinners none the less. So we should approach the idea that such behavior or unfruitful works of darkness are contrary to what we know is the truth. We need to explain that concept with gentleness. You will be rebuffed. You will be told to ‘...judge not lest ye be judged...’  A bit of scripture twisted out of context. If you look at what Paul wrote, by having no fellowship, by not even speaking of it, by not being partakers of such behavior...we are judging. Yes by not being part of it, we are making a judgement to avoid such behavior. Sorry folks, we have been told to stay away from such things...that in itself is a judgement call. We are to avoid evil, we are to flee from sin as Joseph fled Potiphar’s wife.
13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
So how then are we to live in this evil world ? Verse thirteen gives us a very simple prescription. 
All things evil that are revealed by the light of the Gospel, the epistles, the Word of God are to be avoided.   We are to live in the light, we are to grow in the light, we are to reveal that light to the lost world.
Verse fourteen can be understood in two ways. The spiritually dead are commanded to wake up, to arise from that death and they will be given the Light of Christ. And the other way this can be understood is those who have gone before into death (sleep) shall arise from the dead because of Christ and His glorious resurrection and He shall give them light.
As we reflect on these words that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, let us apply them to our own spiritual journey. We are on the road to His Kingdom. We are taking theses forty days to reflect on that great event that took place outside the walls of Jerusalem that fateful, awful and yet wonder filled day, the day He took our sins upon his body, and he bore them so we would be free from the spiritual death we were born with. 
May God richly bless the rest of this day and in the weeks to come and on into your continued journey to His Kingdom.   Amen

Let us pray:

 O God, who dost ever hallow and protect thy Church; Raise up therein, through thy Spirit, good and faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ, that by their ministry and example thy people may abide in thy favor and be guided in the way of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end.

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.                                                                         Amen.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, bless you , and keep you; the Lord make his Face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the LORD lift up his Countenance upon you, and give you peace.                                                                                     Amen.