Sermon for the 13th of February 2011, ‘Be like God –Mission impossible!’

Be like God –Mission impossible!
Amos 3: 1-2
Ephesians 5: 1-17

May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

When I was a young man I didn’t have much time or inclination to watch the television. That might be because our set was tiny and the picture was quite often fuzzy due to the weather conditions at the time or it might have been because there were a lot more distractions to occupy a young man growing up in the ‘sixties’ than to sit at home and watch the goggle box! But there were a few exceptions, I looked forward to the ‘Six Five Special’, ‘Juke Box Jury’ and my favourite drama series; ‘Mission Impossible’. It always started the same way with a voice from a tape recorder inviting the hero to take part in some impossible challenge with the words; ‘You’re mission should you accept it is’ and always finished with the words; ‘Good luck, this tape will self destruct in five seconds’. It caught my imagination, and in the same way the opening line from our reading from the letter to the Ephesians brought the program back into my mind as I read; ‘In a word, as God’s dear children you must be like him’, I thought how can we possibly be like God, that surely is ‘Mission Impossible’. And what makes it impossible is the thing that has always separated us from God – our sinfulness.

We expect the condemnation of sin in the Bible, but most often the sins that are being condemned are what I call the big ones, but here in Ephesians we are looking at what at first sight might appear to be lesser sins. The sins condemned in this section include; stealing, anger and slander; fornication, greed, impurity, silly talk and drunkenness so should we take these any less seriously as we do the so called ‘big ones’ is there a difference? Well technically no, I don’t think there is because any sin will keep us apart from God. So how do we define sin, so that we know better how to avoid it? A good place to start is with the definition of sin given by ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’ and its definition reads; ‘Sin: The purposeful disobedience of a creature to the known will of God’.

So where can we look for a solution to this problem. I don’t think we have to look any further than the first of the ‘Ten Commandments’, when asked what was the greatest commandment of all Jesus replied; ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. Put simply today he might say put God first in your life. Sin happens when we put God second. And the thing that drives us to put God second mostly is greed. And this is the great warning contained in this letter to the Ephesians, that greed by putting things above God becomes in itself idolatry. That is taking the place that should rightfully belong to God. Material thing are turned into idols, when they are given importance above God in our lives.

Probably the temptation to greed’s no stronger now than it has ever been, but the opportunities are greater than ever before, and we live in a very materialistic age. People are respected and judged by what they own, the cars they drive the designer clothes they wear and not by who they really are; advertisements and peer pressure fuel the demand for ever more stuff, and the Christian message is not welcome in our materialistic society. The result’s a lack of attention to truth, beauty and goodness, because they can’t be measured in the scales against a Porsche or Mercedes, and are therefore thought to have no importance. Materialism robs life of any moral purpose, because it presents the aims of evolution as completely selfish.

As Christians we need to make conscious decisions to resist the insidious adoption of these materialistic standards and to teach this lesson to those around us not only by our words but by our example. We need to look at the basis of our society, and question it. Even if there is no immediately obvious alternative to capitalism as the basis for economic growth, Christians need to argue for a compassionate capitalism, a system which protects the needs of the most vulnerable in society at the expense of the worship of the wealthy and powerful in society. We don’t have to look far to see the consequences of what unbridled greed and the lust for wealth and power can do when it becomes the God we worship. We are today living through the painful consequences of the actions of those who run our banks, the corner stones or our society and who so very nearly bought the world’s economy to its knees through their worship of unbridled greed.

By our example we must make it obvious to everyone that love of God and love of neighbour are what matters. That compassion, art and music and family life, are what gives life its true human quality, and raises us above the survival of the fittest that is the law of the jungle. But as Christians we have an additional, far more important reason for resisting the irresistible spread of creeping materialism. We know, because Jesus has told us that greed is a form of idolatry and therefore sinful. We know the consequence of sin is to keep us apart from God, not only in this life but for all eternity.
The message from Ephesians, and your mission should you wish to accept it is a simple one, the need to; Put God first in your life!

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