Choose the Heights

By David Baumann

A Reading from Ephesians 5:1-20

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be associated with them. 8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light — 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Meditation

One of C. S. Lewis’s essays that is a favorite for many is “Man or Rabbit,” which he delivered to an audience of college students in about 1946. In the essay, he contrasts those who want to “get by” with God by just being nice, and those who are committed to total conversion. In the essay, Lewis wrote, “We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear…. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out.” While not to be applied to actual rabbits (!), the point of the essay is probably one that most Christians would agree with. And yet, actually living it out is something most shy away from, for truly following the call to holiness is difficult and painful — at least at first. It is about being stripped of all that is not our actual selves in Christ but is stuck to us and disguises us. The “rabbit” in us must be removed if we are not actually rabbits!

Paul’s friendly urging from yesterday’s lesson picks up speed in today’s. It begins warmly: “Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us,” but quickly becomes mightily uncomfortable: “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, coarse joking.” He calls such things “idolatry” and describes them as “foolish” and “shameful.” Such behaviors and their cousins easily sneak into the lives of even the most faithful, and are easily excused. But Paul does not compromise. He calls such things “deeds of darkness,” and orders us to “live as children of light.” He even sums it all up by describing the following of proper behavior as waking from the dead. He also describes the heights: “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks.” We are called to choose, to desire, and to commit to those heights of holiness.

Lewis’s essay continues, “And then surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.”

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield; he retired last year. He has published nonfiction, science fiction,  and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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