Action!Fr. Barnabas Powell
I love action movies, but I confess, sometimes, my ability to suspend my disbelief and go along with some outlandish scene is pretty near impossible. Usually, the idea that something like this could really happen is just too remote even for my imagination.
Sometimes we Christians fall into the same trap about our lives. Yeah, we know what the scripture says about how we should live: love God and your neighbor, forgive those who hurt you, and even love your enemies; but, come on, are we “really” expected to do this? I mean “really.”
To be sure, one of the most missing ingredients in many of the sermons we hear today is the “how” part. The preacher tells us what we “should” do and how we “should” act, but where’s the “how” in all this religious rhetoric? Hey, you may even convince me that this is how I “should” live, but if you don’t give me “how” all you do is frustrate me and leave me with no choice but to assume this religion stuff is just not really part of my everyday life. And then our faith starts that eternally debilitating habit of being merely habit or, worse yet, just nostalgia. And that kind of faith will never be strong enough to pass on to the next generation.
In our Epistle Lesson today St. Paul writes the Ephesians about “how” to live the actions of the faith in real life. And he uses action words to instruct his Ephesian parish on how to reorder their priorities and actions to reflect their new life in Christ. Plus, he adds the key ingredient of a post-Pentecost world that makes all this new life possible,
Look at Ephesians 5:8-19. St. Paul uses words like “Walk” and “Awake” and “Be Filled.” These action words presuppose purpose, attention, and cooperation. These words assume a people who are focused on activating their spiritual journey with the invigorating power of doing rather than mere observing. There was a book I read early on in my own spiritual journey called “Worship is a Verb” that drove this point home for me.
But what of that post-Pentecost ingredient St. Paul mentions that makes all this action of walking and being awake and being filled possible? It is found in verse 18. St. Paul writes “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” Because our Lord Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit on HIs Church at Pentecost, now we, too, can be “filled with the Spirit.” And this filling of the Spirit drives out the easy addictions to self-centered living that is the absolute opposite of this purpose-filled and focused spiritual life where higher values and deeper purpose govern our choices and behaviors. What makes this action-filled, purposeful, life possible? The grace of His Spirit abiding in us and enlivening and empowering us to be what we could never be without HIm.
Today, is your post-Pentecost Christian life empowered to activate these actions in your everyday life? Are you able to “walk” and be “awake” and keep on being “filled” with this dynamic life of higher purpose and deeper change? You can be. The glorious truth of the Feast of Pentecost is the good news that God didn’t just drop on our heads a huge list of impossible achievements. He gave us the vision of our truest selves and then gave us the power to become that higher vision through His love and grace. Today, all you need to be who you really are, is given to you in the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling and guiding in the timeless wisdom of His Church.
So, are you ready? Then “Action!”