“The God Who” Series
April 10 and 11, 2021
“The God Who Lives in Homes and at Work”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Two weeks ago I was listening to Jim Mullane, our custodian and building maintenance guy, putting together a chair that was ordered for our Administrative Assistant, Kathie Harvey. I heard sighs and “Where does this go?” and “What idiot designed this?” and a few other comments and suggestions which I won’t repeat. You see, the chair came in a box – it is cheaper that way – and he got to assemble it.
But there was a problem. They didn’t send instructions. But even if they had sent them I’m not sure if they would have helped. The parts of that chair were made in Vietnam and Jim’s Vietnamese is a little rough right now. He thanked God for YouTube that day.
We need an instruction book for life. There are so many things that puzzle us. “What should I do now?” “How should I react to what they said?” “That didn’t go right, what should I do next?” It would be nice if a manual could give us some guidance.
I think that can be especially true concerning how to live as Christian people. Sometimes it is very hard to connect our faith to our living. We trust in Jesus for our forgiveness and new life. We know that we are His not by what we have done but only by what Jesus has done for us. We have faith that Jesus is the one who makes everything right for us in our relationship with God. But there are times that what we say on Sunday doesn’t make it all the way to Monday. It is like we are two different people. “This is the religious John.” “But this is the regular John who has to go to work, raise kids, be a friend to others, try to not get his wife too frustrated and so on.” Is that how it is? We are people who have faith in Jesus but we can’t ever quite make that connection to how that makes any difference in everyday living. Where are the darn instructions?
For 10 Sundays I have been preaching through Ephesians in this series I have titled, “The God Who…” We took a break for the last two Sunday’s – Palm Sunday and Easter – but we are back at it this Sunday and we’ll conclude the series next Sunday. Today in our verses from Ephesians 6 we will talk about the God who lives in homes and at work. In this sermon I want to connect a resurrected Jesus with what goes on in our homes and at our work.
There are four positions or vocations that are addressed in these 9 verses. Children. Fathers, and I’ve expanded it to include both parents. Slaves – and for our application – workers. And finally, masters – bosses.
Let’s start with children. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” And then he quotes the fourth commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” (Ephesians 6:1-2a) It sounds dictatorial and strong handed, but listen to all it means. Literally, the word means, “a subordination of the ear” – meaning “listen”. We have trouble when someone doesn’t listen. We think, “I should just save my breath”, or “I think what I say just goes in one ear and out the other.” I know that some husbands are guilty of that. I know some kids are guilty of that. I know that I am guilty of that.
When it tells children “Obey your parents”, it has to do with listening, taking their words in, showing respect to what they say. One commentator said that that word, “submitting your ear” means “trusting” or “believing.” Now that carries a much more positive view of this relationship between parents and children. The parent is trustworthy and the child has a respect for what is spoken. Now, many of us, in our role as parent or child have a long way to go in this, but this is where God wants our families to be.
Verse 4 of the reading says this, “Father’s do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” In Colossians, which in some ways is the twin of the book of Ephesians, Paul uses these words, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (3:21) Embitter – remove their heart and joy.
A few weeks ago when I was saying good-bye to my dad on the phone he said, “John, we’re proud of you.” Wow. When is the last time you told your kid, or anyone that you know, “I’m proud of you”? Do it. If the only word that your kid hears is “No”, “You’re doing that wrong”, or if you use cruel or vulgar words to them, or about them, you have to stop and ask for their forgiveness. “Do not embitter your children.” “Do not exasperate your children.” Don’t tear them down. Build them up. Love them.
Do you see how much God wants to live in our homes? He directs children to listen, respect and trust their parents. He calls for fathers, and for parents, to be the encouragers and champions of those God has given them – given you. In the book of James the general direction for us is, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
God has a heart for our home and He also has a heart for what we do for our employment. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5) He was writing to actual slaves. 1/3 of those living in Italy and Greece were in the bondage of slavery. They were property of some owner and had little freedom. The word “doulos” – used here – can mean slave or servant. For my application I want to understand this directive for people who work for others, who serve others – for you and I in our employment. God wants us to connect our faith with our everyday living – our employment.
In Ephesians Paul directs us, “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” (Ephesians 6:6-7) What attitude do you have about your work, or did you have about your work? As God’s child we are called to see work not simply as a way to earn a paycheck but an opportunity to serve God and others and to do it “wholeheartedly”. Colossians adds these words, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Isn’t it good that you can just be a Christian wherever you are? If you are with your family or you are at work you are the same person on Monday as you are on Sunday. God lives in our home and at our work. And if you are the boss of others you have even a greater obligation. “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:9) If you are in charge of others know that there is One who is in charge of you and He looks at all people with no separation or partiality. And you shouldn’t either.
I’m looking back at my sermon to this point and I think it has all been law!! 1,335 words of law. Kids – Listen, trust, obey!! Fathers, parents – Do better!! Workers – No loafing!! Bosses – get humble!! Rules. Commands. Law.
Where is the gospel in this text? Where is the good news? If you wanted to get bad news and get depressed you could have stayed home and watched the Colorado Rockies. There is no word of forgiveness in this reading. There is no word that says that if you believe in Jesus you are heading toward glory.
But if you look closely the great news of Jesus and His love, the promise of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life is there. These words are written to believers. One writer said that this section is what the image of God looks like. Jesus has held all four of these callings. He has been the trusting, listening, obedient child; the encouraging parent; the servant to all people, and of course; a master, the Lord. His whole life was to show us the very image of God – how God gave a new beginning to us, forgiveness and hope as we live out our life.
As we see His image in all those callings, He, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, changes our image. He changes us. Just as we have a good God who loves to live in our home and at our work, He does His work so we will also love to live in our home and love to serve Him and others through our work.
Jesus lives in our homes and at our work. That’s good news. Amen!!