“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.”
Ephesians 2 is by far my favorite passage of scripture of all time. Ephesians 2:10 was my senior verse in high school and I continue to chew on and ponder both the depravity God saved me from and the good works he has prepared for me. As we process this passage, we must wrap our minds around the depths of our prior condition and the glory of our salvation by grace. Have you ever experienced intense danger you were unaware of until after it had passed? I remember in 2004 when the path of four hurricanes crossed central Florida, I was staying at a friend’s house while Hurricane Charlie passed over Lakeland. I was a 15 year old sophomore in High School and had been through several hurricanes and I was unconcerned for my safety because hurricanes meant we got to miss school and watch a little bit of rain outside while we slept in and watched TV. Hurricane Charlie was not the same boring hurricane I had experienced before, but I was not fully aware of its destruction until after it was over. The morning after the storm, we walked outside to discover four or five massive oak trees had fallen like dominos a few feet from the house we peacefully slept in the night before. We drove around the neighborhood and saw more and more fallen trees and debris scattered around Lakeland. Some homes had not been as fortunate and were severely damaged by trees pushed over onto roofs and cars. Trees continued to fall for days after the storm because of root damage. Like the hurricane, some of us have been spared from the externally brutal consequences of our sin. Some of us may have experienced the depths of our depravity before God saved us, but we have been kept from the ultimate end of life apart from Christ. In this passage, Paul takes his readers from the depths of despair in their former life “deserving of wrath” and points them to the riches they are given in Christ. Until we truly understand our former condition apart from Christ as complete death and incoherence, we cannot grasp the wealth of life we have in our redemption. We were all like me at 15, asleep while the world around us was wrecked by the fall.
God in his rich mercy did not leave us in this perilous position. He called us out of our death and into abundant life in the grace of Jesus Christ. I am so glad we got to celebrate Michael’s ordination last night and share in his successful completion of this process. Just like Michael, when God called us it was not an ambiguous call. Michael is not just ordained to preach and teach and do whatever he wants wherever he sees fit, he was ordained with the purpose and trajectory of ministering to the people and culture of Good Shepherd. He was issued a call by our congregation and will continue to pursue that call in all avenues of his life here in Ocala. How many of us feel like we have an ambiguous call from God to wander around without direction or purpose? At times it may be tempting to see ourselves in this light, but like Ted said, God has already written the poem of our lives and we have a direct purpose in our time on earth. I was an English major in college so I love poem analogies, but we could be tempted to see our lives as abstract art that has no purpose or direction, but the English translation of workmanship or handiwork gives us another side to this expression. I remember constructing different items with my dad when I was little and later with my friends in college that brought great joy to my heart. At times, we partook in leisurely constructions for fun, like a large waterslide or a zip line, but with my dad we partook in more practical constructions like assembling furniture or repairing plumbing. In either case, we did not randomly put screws wherever we wanted or disregard instructions or the laws of physics. If we casually ignore wisdom and instructions, we put ourselves in harm’s way and set ourselves up for destruction more reflective of our lives apart from Christ. In all good work, there is a purpose and a direction to the actions we take and in the same way, God calls us to a purpose in our lives. I hope we can all, like Ted, discern this purpose in light of our limited time on earth and the value of what God has before us. Let’s go about our lives boasting in the finished work of Christ in our lives instead of unnecessary and undirected dedications to earthly pursuits. Let’s be a church who loves the work of God in our lives and seeks to carry out the work he has for us each day.