SERMON: Sit, Walk, and Stand – the 3 postures of the Christian (Ephesians)
The Lord be with you.
Today we are deviating from the church calendar in order to begin the Epiphany season. Epiphany is tomorrow, January 6. It is the time of the church year when we mark how Jesus brought light to our dark world, revealing God’s love and shalom through his life and ministry.
In Epiphany we remember how the Gentile magi came from the east, recognizing by the light of a star that a new King had been born. We also remember Jesus’ baptism, his teaching, and his works of healing and redemption. We conclude Epiphany by celebrating Jesus’ transfiguration, when he took his disciples up the mountain and revealed his divine glory.
Epiphany is also a time when I like to do a special series of messages from the Bible. Last year, we had sermons about Christian worship — why we worship like we do and how the various elements of worship work together to help us come before God to receive his grace and mercy in Christ afresh each Sunday.
This year, I would like for us to become more familiar with one of the New Testament letters. It’s called Ephesians, and the Apostle Paul wrote it to Christians in the city of Ephesus. According to the Book of Acts, Paul founded the church there. His protegé Timothy became the city’s first bishop. Later, the Apostle John served as a pastor there. Ephesus is one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. The city is located in modern day Turkey, then known as Asia Minor. Today it is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the world, and you can see the remnants of the one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — the Temple of Artemis (or Diana). In the days of the apostles, Ephesus was a major city in the Roman empire.
Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians from prison. It doesn’t seem to have been prompted by any particular situations or problems in the church. Paul wrote the Christians there to encourage them, to teach them, to reinforce the blessings they had in Christ, and to challenge them to show forth the light that Christ gave them to the dark world around them. It contains some of the most breathtakingly beautiful theology in the New Testament, as Paul celebrates God’s magnificent grace and God’s plan to reconcile and restore all creation to himself.
This morning, I would like to introduce this letter by using a simple template I learned long ago from a little devotional book I read on Ephesians. This template suggests that there are three postures talked about in Paul’s letter that help us understand what it means to belong to Jesus Christ and to live as a Christian in the world.
The first posture is to SIT. Ephesians 2:20 says that “God…raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all.
But then in chapter 2, Paul says something remarkable. He writes “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Not only is Jesus seated at God’s right hand, but there is a sense in which we are right there with him. In baptism, we died and then God raised us up and now we participate in everything Jesus has done for us in salvation. What belongs to Jesus belongs to us because we have been united with him by grace through faith.
The author of that little book about Ephesians said that the first thing we need to do as believers in Jesus is to learn to sit. By that he meant we need to learn to rest in all that Christ has done for us. This life is all about his grace. This life is all about what God has done for us in Jesus, not what we have done to find our way or earn our way to God. So the first posture we take as Christians is to sit, to rest in love and reconciling work of Christ. We find our identity in being the beloved people of God in Christ and this grounds everything we do.
The second posture. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul writes “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” First we sit, we rest in the Lord. Then we learn to WALK. This is the second position we take as believers in Jesus.
We start with grace but then arise and we walk, which is a metaphor for how we live our lives in the church — with our Christian family, and in the world — among our neighbors. As our baptism teaches us once again, we die to sin and are raised to walk in newness of life.
The life of a believer is a life through which we move. It is an active life, a life that is does not sit still. We walk with Christ! Grace leads to acts of gratitude. Faith flows forth in good works of love for others. When we rest in Christ by sitting with him and drawing upon all the blessings of our salvation, we gain energy to get up and go out to give our lives for the life of the world.
In walking, we walk with Jesus. We walk with each other. We walk with our neighbors. We walk in love. We walk in kindness. As we walk the Lord leads us in paths of justice and peace. As Jesus did, so we too walk among all kinds of people and learn to relate to them in ways that will bless and enrich our lives together with God’s shalom.
There is one more posture the Christian takes, according to Ephesians. First we sit, then we learn to walk, then finally we STAND. In Ephesians 6, we read “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. …Take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that, as we live in this world, we will encounter powers of sin, evil, corruption, and death that will attempt to thwart us in our Christian lives. They will try to steal our rest in Christ and they will try to divert us from walking with Christ. That, Ephesians says, is when we will need to take a stand. That is when we will need to try and withstand, to resist, to oppose that which threatens shalom in our lives and in our world. This too is a part of our baptismal pledge, when we renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God.
So, this is Ephesians. We SIT — we rest in Christ. We WALK — we live out our faith in the world. We STAND — we oppose and resist the forces of chaos that foster brokenness, injustice, and conflict in our lives and relationships. I look forward to taking an Epiphany journey with you through this wonderful epistle.
May the word of Christ dwell in us with all wisdom. Amen.