Monday, August 3, 2009

Leaving no room for the Devil. Ephesians 4:26

Dear Friends Grace and Peace from God Our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

I write this week back fresh from the 125th anniversary of my internship congregation. I was there as “Vicar John” from August 1997 to August 1998. The trip to Saint James took a little more than 30 minutes this time; but the memories from 10 years or so ago have been refreshed for me today. It was good to see some old friends and hear stories from the church where I came as a student and left better prepared to be a pastor. I say thanks be to God for all that.

As I reminisce I'm also pondering Paul's admonition to, “leave no room for the devil.” Augustana's a very different church today than when I came as a seminary student. A few years after I left there was deep conflict. Many left who were once deeply committed to that as their church. Attendance fell by more than half. A few 20 somethings (who now live other towns) were there, but one of the young man's parents wouldn't come. It was tough to watch, for him, for me and probably for others who remembered the people who weren't there to celebrate.

Paul's words in Ephesians 4:27 are particularly haunting today, “...and make no room for the Devil.” Our old enemy rejoices when one Christian attacks another. Do we Lutherans remember why we sing, “Our old satanic foe has sworn to work us woe” as part of a Mighty Fortress. If we will listen, Paul is boldly telling us the real power of the enemy to split and divide us. God's power is greater than the enemies; but we are often the Devil's unwitting accomplices in conflict.

The enemy uses and manipulates us in all kinds of places (not just the church) to try and pull down the good. He knows our old weaknesses: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. In church conflict he uses our anger and pride against us every time he can. If one party feels they have been lied to or mistreated the devil cans use that anger. It's critical to note that Paul warns against falsehood and calls for truth speaking; but he also asked the church to, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Ephesians 4:26)

Paul's challenge to Christians who are taking up sides against one another is real.

and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)

The old enemy wants us divided; but the Lord of Hosts needs us united. We often mistakenly seek out ways to make others “just like us” assuming that uniformity is unity; and God instead makes us one in the Spirit, in the sacraments, and in his love. For that Amazing Grace I give thanks.

No comments: