Monday, May 26, 2008

Ephesians 2:19-22 "Home"

I had several people ask me to post yesterday's sermon. Since I did not post an introductory piece on Friday or Saturday, it seems a good way to get back to the task and purpose of the blog. So, here it is.....

Ephesians 2:19-22
The Message

I. Introduction
It is good to be home. I know that Chad, Paul, and Mack have brought you messages that have challenged and encouraged you, but I am glad to be back in my place among you. I need to tell you what a remarkable church family you are. The meals, the cards, the emails and the calls you have shared with me have proven to be a constant source of encouragement to me. Thank you. With your permission, today I will claim a stool and preach from a single spot rather than roaming the platform as is my tradition. It appears that I will need to give my hip and muscles a little longer to recover and strengthen.

“Home” is one of those words that conjures strong emotion and seems to have as many definitions as there are people to you ask.

The old English proverb recounts, “Home is where the heart is.”

Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz offered the well known line “There’s no place like home.”

Hagar the Horrible of the comic strips pronounces, “Home is where they love you, even when your feet smell bad.”

The great poet, Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Benjamin Franklin offered, “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”

Contemporary Pulitzer Prize winning writer John Ed Pearce contended, “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

And finally, one of my favorites is by a German poet from the last century, Christian Morgenstern, who waxed, “Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”

There is no doubt that home is more than brick and mortar, more than an address, it is about relationships. There is a passage I invite you to consider with me this morning that has something to say about “home.” It is found in the book of Ephesians, Chapter 2, verses 19 through 22. It paints a picture of what it means to be built together as a home for and with God. I believe that Eugene Peterson captures the heart of this passage in his interpretative translation, The Message. We have already heard from our children earlier in the service.

II. God Gathers Vs. 19a
The passage begins; 19 That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.

I do not think I fully appreciated the power of the symbol of the ‘home country” until I was a stranger in a stranger land. Our first days as missionaries in Thailand are not ones I will ever forget. The sights, the sounds, the language, and the food all let me know that I did not belong. That I was a stranger.

Do you remember your first holiday at your in-laws when you did not know exactly what was going on? Or may the first time you visited another country where English did not work? Or maybe it was that first week at college where everyone seemed different. You feel isolated – even lonely. You are clear that you just don’t fit. This is a feeling Paul knew the people of Ephesus had experienced. As a regional city they had seen strangers -people of diverse cultures and languages that wandered their streets. Paul knew the Jews that had come to Christ had lived their lives as wandering exiles. He also knew that Greek believers -many in the Ephesus church - had been reminded over and over that they were not Jewish. Divisions ruled the day and Paul was ready for them to let their divisions go.

I love how Biblical scholar John MacArthur sees this. He offers, “God’s kingdom is made up of the people from all time who have trusted in Him. There are no strangers, foreigners, or second-class citizens there (cf. Phil. 3:20). members of the household of God. Redeemed sinners not only become heavenly citizens but also members of God’s own family. The Father bestows on believers the same infinite love He gives His Son.”
[2] For Paul there are no green cards – everyone gets full citizenship. Everyone is equal. I think our temptation is to think that peoples place in church are based on what they can do or how much they can give. This is a myth that minimize so many. Hear me, You belong here! You belong not because of what you can do or what you can give, because God values us all and claims us all through our relationship in Christ.

III. God Fits Us Together
God is building a home. He's using us all — irrespective of how we got here — in what he is building. 20 He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone 21 that holds all the parts together.

One summer during college I work as a part of a construction team. One of the people I met that amazed was a gifted carpenter. It seemed he could take common pieces of wood, some nails, and a bit of glue and suddenly a spiral staircase or a handcrafted fireplace mantle would emerge. Paul claims this picture to describe what God is doing with us. God is fitting us together
We are parts and pieces gathered by the master carpenter – it does not matter how we got here, only that we got here. For some the story begins in the craddle roll of the church and carries them into leadership in this church today. Others had seasons away from God - difficult seasons of life and troubled times of faith. But regardless of how we got hear, God stands ready to include us- to fit us together as a part of his grand work.

Even more significant is the fact that we have been built on Christ
[3] We can ooh and aah over the great work of the grand architect Frank Lloyd Wright or Aldo Rossi – but the architect that is building us together is the architect of all of creation. The one who shaped the Grand Canyon, the Great Western Plains, and Niagara Falls and the great natural wonders of the world gets involved with us – shaping us, molding us together to become something special- something that God can and will use.

We hear that Jesus is the cornerstone – and then we are built brick by brick with Christ. The church rests on a single foundation in the sense that, as the “cornerstone” in ancient building methods had an importance as the stone used by the architect-builder to determine the “lie” of the whole building, so Jesus Christ is the pattern by which the church is being shaped by God. Its growth is set by its conformity to this original plan.
[4] God will claim you as one of the bricks for his work. You have great value in the eyes of God.

God began with the apostles and prophets – and now uses us just the same, brick by brick, stone by stone. You are an essential part of what God is building. You are the living stones, the public testimony of the work of Christ – but together our strength – our witness – our impact – is multiplied. It is Christ that joins us together

IV. God Lives in Our Midst
We see it taking shape day after day — a holy temple built by God, 22 all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. Our passage concludes with the unveiling of the blue prints – the picture of what God is building. We see it taking shape day after day — a holy temple built by God.

I love this room (referencing the grand sanctuary at FBC OKC). Every time I walk in here I am touched and called toward God. What impresses me is not the grand pipes of the organ or the stain glass windows. It is the fact that when I sit alone in this room I can look around and think about the people that find their place in each of the pews. I think about their life stories and and how each of them help shape my encounter with God.

I remember walking through some of the great cathedrals of Europe. They are impressive structures built for the glory of God, but this temple is something grander – all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home it is being built to become the very home of God. Bricks made of clay can not contain God – no matter how impressive the structure. God lives not in a place, but in the midst of his people.

The more traditional translation speaks of this temple being the “dwelling place of God.” “The term for ‘dwelling’ connotes a permanent home. God the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in His earthly sanctuary, the church.”
[5] God is at home – God lives in our midst! What I hope you hear is that Together we are a living temple where God is at home. Each one has a place. Each one plays a part. Each one – everyone matters! Drawing back to where we began, God is not fashioning a house of a vacation property, God is building us together to be home. God is building us together to be the kind of place where the way of God and the will of God is familiar- in fact, the norm.

If we believe this how might it change how we worship – how might it change how we live? Are we living our lives in a way where we believe God is at home in our midst? Are we encouraging each other and challenging each other to be living witnesses of God’s presence and power?

V. Conclusion
You belong to God. “For God so loved YOU that he gave his Son- and through His Son has made you one of His.
God will claim you as one of the bricks for his work. You have great value in the eyes of God.
Together we are a living temple where God is at home. If we believe that God lives in our midst it will change how we respond as individuals and as a family of faith.
God is ready to be at home in our lives. Are we ready for this kind of relationship with each other and with God? The plans have been drawn, the Master carpenter is at work. Are we ready to be built together for God?

[1] From a variety of websites and quotation books reviewed in the week leading up to the sermon.
[2]MacArthur, J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (Electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville, TN
[3]O'Brien, P. T. 1999. The letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament commentary . W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, Mich.
[4]Martin, R. P. 1991. Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching . John Knox Press: Atlanta
[5]MacArthur, J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (Electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville, TN

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