12th Sunday after Pentecost – August 16, 2015
Pastor Don Ninmer Ephesians 4:25-5:4
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice.” (Ephesians 5:1)
All of you senior citizens may remember that when you were growing up bread was an important part of your diet. You probably ate bread three times a day. You may have had donuts, coffee cake or toast for breakfast. You may have had dinner rolls for the noon meal with your roast beef. You may have had a summer sausage or liver sausage sandwich for supper. Perhaps you even ate a sandwich before you went to bed.
It seems like bread in one form or another has been part of peoples’ diets since the world began. Adam was told by the Lord: “You will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” When I read that I think of my mother and grandmother, with sweat dripping down, standing by the wood cook stove in the middle of summer baking bread.
It seems to me that bread has been a part of peoples’ diets since the world began. In the sweat of their brows they raised grain. They ground it up on large stones to make flour. They took the flour and baked bread. Even today there are many people whose very survival depends upon the ability to bake bread.
Is it any wonder then that when God inspired the Holy Scriptures He frequently used bread to teach a lesson? We see it in our Old Testament lesson. The prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life from wicked Queen Jezebel. “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. Notice what happened: All at once an angel touched him and said, Get up and eat. He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water...So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
Did you see it? – bread? Then listen to the words of Jesus in our Gospel lesson: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry...I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. When we come to faith in Jesus, we consume Him. He becomes part of us. Isn’t it interesting that when the Lord gave the Lord’s Supper He used bread. We then actually do receive Christ, the Bread of Life, into our bodies.
In the epistle lesson for today, from the epistle to the Hebrews, the inspired writer tells the people that they were dieting too much. It has nothing to do with roast beef or ice cream. They were dieting too much in that they were not consuming or digesting the Word of God. The writer said: We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.
Parents say the same thing to kids on occasion: What is so hard to understand about, NO? The writer to Hebrews goes on to say: In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. He is saying
what Prof. Schuman said to us many years ago at NWC – repetitio mater studiorum est. Repetition is the mother of study.
The writer to the Hebrews said, it looks like I am going to have to repeat this again. You did not seem to get it. You are not receiving or digesting God’s Word. The word of encouragement that he gives is: Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. He is telling them, you need to grow up. You need to digest and follow the Bread of Life, Jesus and His Word.
That is the same message that Paul brings to the Ephesians in our text and in most of chapters four and five. In Chapter 4:14 he says the same thing that the writer to the Hebrews says: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men.
We are told this about Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church
In other words Paul was saying to them: Listen to the bread of life that God has given. Learn about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. Then you will grow in faith and that faith will be evident in your life to the other members of the congregation and to the people among whom you live. So he says: Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The people at Jesus’ time were not interesting in imitating Jesus. In fact their desire was to put Him to death, because they rejected the Bread of Life. Elijah ate the bread provided by God and went on to serve Him. The recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews were just beginning to learn the basics of Scripture. That is what Paul wanted for the Ephesians.
You might want to read through this section of Ephesians as you communicate with your family. In it Paul gives a list of things that we should do as we try to imitate Christ. We know that we will never reach perfection, but as we eat the bread of life and see the example of Christ who is the Bread of Life, we grow in faith and are better able to do the things mentioned there.
Here is are some of the things that Paul mentions: Put off falsehood...speak truthfully...in your anger do not sin...do not let the sun do down while you are still angry...he who has been stealing must steal no longer...do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth...do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander...among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God’s people.
Be imitators of God. This shows us that we still have a long way to go in our sanctification.
We must ask for God’s forgiveness. We must faithfully consume the bread that God has given, His Holy Word.