Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Epiphany, Norfolk 8/12/18

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Epiphany, Norf. 8/12/18

In case you haven’t figured it out –
Julia Ashby and I
really enjoy working together.

We’re both mature enough –
with enough experience under our belts –
that we’re not threatened by each other.

We’re both classically educated –
and comfortable in our own skin.

We also both have
somewhat twisted sense of humors.

We laugh a lot
when we’re working.

Well –
as we were planning our preaching schedule –
Julia checked the reading for the coming weeks.

I was in the Parish Hall –
and I heard her let out a “Ye Ha.”

I went to the office to see what was so exciting –
and she was waving today’s lesson sheet.

You have to preach on this one.

I’ve got to hear what you say about:
“and do not make room for the devil.”

Now that becomes sort of a dare.

I couldn’t turn THAT down.

And then yesterday –
she taunted me
by sending me by email –
a “Baptist Word Study” on Satan –
from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Fort Worth, Texas.

God knows where she found that –
but more on that in a minute.

But first –
a word about our reading for this morning –
from the Epistle to the Ephesians.

This whole reading
presents a little litany
of unattractive behavior –
and how we should avoid these pitfalls
that get us into trouble.

They all make wonderful sense.

I should read them every morning when I get up –
and every night when I go to bed.

It’s a wonderful passage.

In fact
when they revised the lectionary
the first 5 verses of this morning’s reading –
were added to the lectionary.

Julia’s reference to the devil
wasn’t included as part of the reading –
until about 10 years ago.

But it is there now –
and I kind of like it.

I have to admit
that I don’t spend a lot of time
thinking about the devil.

That’s not to say
that I don’t take the devil seriously.

I’ve bumped into him too many times –
to dismiss him.

I used to blame lots of stuff
on the devil.

“The Devil made me do it.”

And sometimes I kind of felt that way –
especially when I wasn’t very happy
with my own behavior.

I could NOT have done THAT on my own.

I had to have help – the Devil.

Well, from where does all of this come?

Theologically –
our creation is made up of opposites.

So – if we’re going to have a personification of “good” –
we also need a personification of “not good” –
and that seems to have been laid
at the feet (or hooves) of Satan –
the devil.

Well,
most of us know a romanticized Satan
from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” –
or The Book of Job – from the Bible –
or the play “JB” that is a staging
of the Biblical Book of Job.

Satan is not a very nice guy.

He’s a fallen angel –
that got kicked out of heaven –
which should properly be translated as “the Garden” –
and now wanders the earth –
causing all sorts of mischief.

Well – what is it
that the Baptists say about him?

If I’m reading the article correctly –
Satan is not the archenemy of God –
but the heavenly “prosecuting attorney” –
“The Executioner” –
God’s executioner.

Good grief.

That doesn’t fit my theology very well.

If I had to come up
with my own theology of Satan –
I would fall back on “the tempter.”

I run into “The Tempter” from time to time –
and he can really get me into trouble.

“I know you don’t need a new car –
but just look again at that Jaguar.
“Smell the leather.
“Touch the wood.
“Listen to that engine.
“Picture yourself sitting behind the wheel –
driving up to a Clergy Conference –
with your nose held so high.”

Oh – I know The Tempter.

There is a wonderful little reading
in the service of Compline –
which we sometimes use around here –
like after a Lenten Program.

It actually is a short passage
from the First Epistle of Peter.

Compline is one of the old monastic services –
read by monks before going to bed, –
and this little passage
is a perfect “Going to Bed Reading.”

“Be sober, be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Resist him, firm in your faith.”

I’ve always liked that.

It’s not necessarily material
for sweet dreams –
but it speaks to our vulnerability –
even in our sleep.

And I like that idea of “the prowling evil.”

Ephesians links the devil to anger.

And it never says not to be angry.

In fact, it says the opposite.

It says:
“Be angry but do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not make room for the devil.”

Now that’s an interesting idea.

Go ahead and be angry if you have to.

But don’t go to bed angry –
or you can make room for the devil.

Again – the idea of Satan prowling around at night –
and finding us in our sleep with anger.

Unresolved anger
becomes the portal for Satan to enter.

And then –
later in our passage –
we get another great little passage.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you are marked with a seal
for the day of redemption.”

At Baptism
we mark the person with a sign of the cross
on the forehead –
and claim that person
as “Christ’s own for ever.”

“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism
and marked as Christ’s own
for ever. Amen.”

We have snatched the person
from the hands of Satan.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you are marked with a seal
for the day of redemption.”

Well – Julia –
that’s the best I can do.

It’s been years and years
since I’ve talked about Satan.

As a footnote –
when I went home from dinner last night
to write this homily –
I had no electricity –
from the storm –
and thus,
no computer.

The silly thought ran through my head –
“the devil prowls tonight.”

I decided to take the dogs
and go to the NUOM office
to write my homily –
where I knew I had power.

But the dogs were spooked.

Max kept hearing things –
and whimpering –
and trying to get in my lap.

And then I started hearing things –
and I got spooked.

I printed out my homily –
put the dogs in the car –
and headed home –
to a night of prayer and penance.

There would be no grieving of the Holy Spirit –
last night.

Amen.

Posted August 14, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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