4th Sunday in Lent – B LSB #’s 651, 783, 698
Text – Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance so that in those good works we might conduct our lives.
CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS
The school shooting in Parkland, FL was tragic news just some weeks ago. Back in the year 2000, the tragic news was from Uganda where killing in the name of a religious cult was going on. They’d found 924 bodies but hadn’t investigated a 5th site because they didn’t have the resources to handle the work if they found more.
It was a story about religion gone bad, & it seemed all the more bizarre when we realized that it happened because of the Millennium. In this country there’d been hype for years about the possible end of the world, as 1999 became 2000. Newspapers reported that security was being stepped up, especially in Israel, the supposed site of the Biblical Armageddon.
But then, the momentous day came & went with seemingly nothing happening. To add to the let down, the whole Y2K thing turned out to be a non-event as well. But 3 months later the news said that something terrible did happen after all.
Yet, it wasn’t a mysterious or supernatural event. It was the normal result of human sin. The cult leaders had been promising the end of the world, & the trusting followers had been giving the leaders all their possessions. When the world didn’t end, apparently some of those disciples thought there should be a money back guarantee. That thought cost them their lives.
From our vantage point, the whole event seems incomprehensible. We wonder how people can get sucked in so far that mass murder could occur on such a scale. Maybe part of our lack of understanding comes from a subconscious concern that it might somehow happen to us. In some respects, it’s probably a case where we’d rather be ignorant, because to understand it
is more than we really want to know. We don’t like to get close to that sort of horror. However, what’s at the root of it all isn’t that difficult to understand. It stems from every person’s basic desire to be accepted, to belong, to have a place where you fit in.
Philosophy has long dealt with the issue of the meaning of life. People want to have some idea of why they’re here. What’s their purpose in life? What’s the meaning of my life? All social organizations exist to meet that basic need. Gangs & cults, churches & families, for good or for evil, give meaning to life.
They provide reasons for living, but not all of those reasons are the truth, & certainly not all of them are from God. What reasons do you have for living? What brings you a sense of purpose or worth? What gives value to your days here on earth?
Many people are very uncomfortable with those questions, because how you answer them reveals a lot about you; often more than you want others to know; often, more than we ourselves want to know. Yet all of us want our lives to mean something. We need purpose.
In St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, his 2nd chapter is written about purpose. The people of that city were very concerned about purpose & meaning, but they were searching for it in the wrong places. Superstition, magic & special powers were the focal point of their day. Good luck charms & idols provided a thriving business for merchants.
The Ephesians were looking for answers, purpose & meaning, but they were looking in places that lacked the truth. Their magic did not point to Jesus Christ as the Way & the Truth & the Life. Likewise, the people in Uganda were no doubt searching for answers to the meaning of their days. The answer they found was not a beneficial one.
Their leader had claimed to be seeing visions of the Virgin Mary, but those visions didn’t point to Jesus Christ; therefore they were from the devil. The result, over 900 people being murdered, is also from the devil. God’s purpose for us is clearly stated in Ephesians 2:10. For we are God’s workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance so that in those good works we might conduct our lives.
That’s where God’s children find meaning & purpose. We find it in a life of service to others. We find it in caring for, supporting & encouraging one another, as we conduct our lives according to God’s will. And it doesn’t cost anything, because God promises that He, & not us, has already prepared those good works in advance. They’re ready to go.
All God asks is that you not walk away from them, but rather, walk in them instead. Conduct your lives in the very good works, which God has planned for you to do. Don’t go chasing off after the latest thrills & fads of the day, & examine everything, to see if it is of Christ, or of some other spirit. Will you be serving God, or something else?
God’s kingdom is where we fit in. It is where we belong, giving meaning & purpose to our days. Especially, it gives meaning to our lives when we are struggling or suffering.
That’s where false religions fail the test. The leaders of the cult in Uganda wouldn’t tolerate giving back the possessions they had gained. They wouldn’t tolerate disobedience on the part of their disciples. Rather, when the followers demanded their possessions back, the leaders had everyone killed.
Our leader, our Lord, allowed Himself to be killed in our place. He bore the humiliation & pain of our failures that we might be saved. Through the death of Christ, we have been brought back to life, rather than being killed. In baptism we’ve been connected to Christ’s life, & His holiness.
While we were dead in our sins, when there was no spiritual life, God created it out of nothing. This spiritual life stands in bright contrast to the former way of life. Earlier in Ephesians 2, Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses & sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world...” The sermon text, however, places us in Christ, rather than in sin. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
We don’t live our lives like we used to. There is hope, there is joy, & there is meaning where there should be none, because the Holy Spirit has created them out of nothing. Though our lives may be dreary & boring by the world’s standards, we have true life, & not the living death that the rest of the world experiences.
Their lives may appear full on the outside, but on the inside they are hollow & hopeless, because they have no meaning. They’re simply chasing after the wind, from one fad to another. Nothing satisfies & nothing gives purpose. There’s no substance & no life. They do have to earn everything they get, by hook or by crook. And if they fail, there’s nothing to fall back on.
The truth is they live in a very unforgiving & narrow world, because they exist in a world without love. They can never let down their guard, because no one is backing them up. That’s the beauty of being in Christ & living in the good works He created in advance for us to do. Someone is looking out for us, because God is guiding us & preparing us to do so.
In the same manner, we are allowed the privilege of helping others along the road to eternal life. What can you do in this world that has a more lasting effect than help someone grow in their faith? Your sinful nature will come up with all kinds of excuses, but in Christ, you don’t have to listen to your sinful nature. It is by grace that you’ve been saved. It is a gift from God.
When children receive gifts at Christmas, their joy is not diminished because they had nothing to do with making them or earning them. They enjoy them for what they are. And as we mature, we enjoy gifts because of the love they represent. God’s love for us is far beyond that expressed by any other treasured gift you may have received. God has created you in His Son. You have been given eternal life. You have already, in a very real sense, been raised from the dead. You & I have been raised from the spiritual death in which we lived, where we always had to look out for number one. Now we’re able to relax, to let down our guard, & to rest in the love that our heavenly Father has demonstrated.
The Creator of all the world has given us the eyesight of faith, & with that we are enabled to look to the future with hope, with meaning & with purpose. We look forward to opportunities to be life-giving blessings to people who’re hurting & in need of God’s love.
The horror of the killings in Uganda has long been forgotten along with the hysteria surrounding Y2K, & the shooting in Parkland, FL will be forgotten one day as well. But our Father in heaven will never forget His children.
We have no need to be afraid of failure. There’s no reason to feel inadequate. There’s no lack of purpose in our lives. Feeling inadequate & being afraid are the work of the devil. But we are God’s workmanship, as His Word declares us to be, created in our Savior Christ Jesus in order to do good works, & so we shall, for God’s Word does not fail. Amen.
Take my life & let it be consecrated Lord to Thee. Take my moments & my days let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my voice & let me sing always only for my King; take my lips & let them be filled with messages from Thee. Amen. LSB 783:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet