Messages, Meditations, and Musings on the Life of Faith by Rev. Dr. Scott E. Olson, Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Mankato, MN

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pentecost 7B (Lectionary 15) Sermon: "Come and Be Fed ... with Purpose"

Pentecost 7B (Lect. 15)
“Come and Be Fed … with Purpose”
July 15, 2012
Ephesians 1.3-14

Think for a moment: what is the first question a child learns to ask? It’s simple, one-word, three-letter question. Furthermore, once this first question is learned, it is asked more and more. That’s right, it’s “Why?” If you think some more, you will realize that we never grow out of that question, do we? Some philosophers might call this the great existential question, having to do with the meaning of our existence. The fact that we can even ask this question separates us from all other living creatures. In fact, this question is so important that scientists, who claim their realm is “what” and not “why,” can’t help but let sneak in to their work, too.

This question, “Why?” is at the heart of the passage from Ephesians. We are in a new letter for our second reading, one we are taking a closer look at today and next Sunday as we finish the first half of our “Come and Be Fed” sermon series this summer. The consensus is that, although it is titled “Ephesians,” this letter was actually a circular letter, directed not at any particular church but rather circulated around to various churches. It’s kind of the chain letter or “repost this” communication of the day. So, unlike other letters, such as Corinthians, the letter doesn’t address issues to specific churches. However, Ephesians still has its points to make, and today’s text introduces us to some of them.

Using the grand, exalted, and poetic language of worship, Ephesians asserts God’s providence in and through all things. It invites us to step back and see that all things, in heaven and earth, are a part of God’s plan. From the very foundations of the universe, God has imbued all creation with a purpose. God did not just slap this together and set it going; creation is heading somewhere. What is even more remarkable is that God has created us for a special role, having chosen “us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” being “destined us for adoption as his children.”

The importance of meaning and purpose in our lives cannot be understated; it literally keeps us going. Having a purpose in life, the sense that we are a part of something larger than ourselves is huge. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning, our feet hitting the floor, and ready for the day. During WWII, the USS Indianapolis was sunk and because of a number of snafus, the Navy didn’t know about it. Sailors were in the water for days in shark-infested waters. Occasionally, a sailor would give himself up to sharks. When asked to comment about this phenomenon, one person observed, “Those guys that gave themselves up, they didn’t have a future.” Having a sense of purpose means believing that we have a future. It’s what kept people alive in Nazi camps during that same time.

This need for meaning and purpose is so important it is recognized outside of Christianity, too. I subscribe via email to some leadership blogs and just this week, on the same day, were two having to do with purpose. The first was a quote by Samuel Goldwyn: “If I were in this business only for the business, I wouldn’t be in this business.” Then this by Dan Rockwell: “If you don’t know why you are here, how will you know what to do? Life without purpose has no dignity, no direction, and no enduring passion.” More to the point for us as religious people, there’s the quote from the Dalai Lama that appears on our bulletin: “Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Jesus has said much the same thing.

What makes the church different, however, is that we believe God has a purpose. That purpose is for all of creation to be gathered into God’s self, to know that God loves everything. For that purpose, God has called you and me to participate in the mission to love and bless the world. That calling is not just here, but extends also well outside the walls of this church. Just this last week, I visited with several members of Grace who were packing meals at Kids Against Hunger. I saw Joyce Nelson’s picture on the wall at Pathstone Living, immortalized forever, but representing all who give their time and love there. I had the privilege of hanging out with some folk who had just come from volunteering at the Echo Food Shelf. I could go on.

God not only has a purpose and a plan, but also makes that known to us. This past year and a half we’ve been discerning that will and we have determined that God is calling us to serve families of all ages in ways that we haven’t up until now. So, we are putting together Wednesday evening programming to serve people. We’ll start with an evening meal; have a short worship service with an interactive message and Holy Communion; and close with Christian education/faith formation for all ages. Furthermore, we will be asking all of our teams to adjust their programming to this sense of purpose and to seek ways to foster intergenerational experiences.

There’s a lot of excitement being generated in this renewed sense of purpose. Why? Not just “because,” but also because that is what God is calling us to do, and that is where true life is to be found. What purpose or purposes has God given for you? Come and be fed, Amen.

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