By Pastor Mark Jeske
In our culture people often enjoy mocking and whipping insults at each other. Some comedians, such as Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield, made careers out of their ability to insult other people. I will confess that one of my vices is that I’ve become a moderate collector of classic insults, and I’d like to share a few of my favorites.
The absolute master of repartee in the English language was none other than British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As far as I’m concerned, he was the unsurpassed king of personal abuse. He had a longrunning feud with a member of parliament who disagreed with him on political issues most of the time. She could barely stand Churchill; once she said, “Winston, if I were your husband, I would put arsenic in your tea.” And he said, “Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it!”
Churchill was kind of a party guy, and late in the evening he would often be rather full of good cheer, shall we say. Bessie Braddock came up to him once and said, “Winston, you’re drunk!” And he said, “I know, and you’re ugly. And tomorrow morning I’ll be sober and you’ll still be ugly.”
We like to mock each other, especially for being stupid. Not long ago a revival of the Three Stooges came out. The English language as expressed by the stooges is rich in words to tell someone else that they aren’t very bright: “You’re an idiot.” “You’re a moron.” “You numbskull.” “Knucklehead!” There must be a hundred juicy words to make someone else feel ignorant.
As much as it stings to have someone else mock you for being an idiot, what stings me personally is when I say it to myself: “You are such an idiot. Why did you do that? Why did you say that?” You can’t undo deeds, and you can’t suck words back into your mouth any more easily than you can get a whole bunch of toothpaste packed back into the tube.
Now I don’t know if you’re in the mood for a scolding, but St. Paul in today’s Bible story has some gentle words of encouragement not to be unwise.
Our story is from Ephesians chapter 5. Paul was probably the founder of this congregation at Ephesus. It became such an important place that his colleague, the apostle John, served there as the bishop and overseer of all the Christian work in the western part of Asia Minor, or Turkey. And Ephesus was his base, at least until he was exiled. So this was a very important congregation; it sent its emissaries and built networks all around the interior, but the believers looked to the big city for guidance and direction. So the words that Paul wrote to them would have an impact.
Our story begins at verse 15 where Paul shakes the Ephesians a little bit and gives them a bit of a wakeup call. “Be very careful, then,” he says, “how you live— not as unwise but as wise” (verse 15). If he was Moe from the Three Stooges, he would kind of slap the Ephesians and us around a little bit and say, “Hey, wise up! Don’t be idiots.” But Paul doesn’t mean that in a disrespectful way. Remember that he himself acted like the biggest fool on the face of the earth and could remember with shame how badly he himself needed a Savior. But he wanted the people to continue focusing their brains on managing the process of their lives so that by just drifting along they wouldn’t have it stolen or taken from them. “Be careful how you live. Don’t be stupid; don’t be knuckleheads; don’t be chowderheads; don’t be morons. Be wise!” Think—how is your life organized?
Think—what is your value system? Think— where did you come from? Think—what does it mean that you’re a Christian? Think—what does your baptism mean, that the water and Word that was splashed on your body has put the seal of God on you like a logo? Through your baptism you’ve got the logo of the Spirit on you; you bear that sign. Think of who you are!
“[Make] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (verse 16). And they’re going to get even more evil. Paul himself probably did not die a natural death. And although Paul didn’t know it, he could have predicted that almost three centuries of persecution were going to follow his execution.
“Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (verse 17). Don’t let your life be driven by your appetites. Don’t try to get what you want by manipulating and controlling other people. Make this the first thing you do as CEO of your life: “understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ask God, “Lord, you’ve redefined me, what’s my mission statement in life to be? What business am I in?” Every CEO must answer that question clearly. Organizations in which the mission is unclear and nobody knows what they are supposed to be doing generally screw everything up, waste resources, and eventually go out of business. So ask God, “What is your will?” A little earlier in verse 10 Paul said it in another beautiful way: “Find out what pleases the Lord.”
And Paul goes on to tell us the Lord’s will. He says to be filled, but “do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (verse 18). Wine, in other places in the Bible, is described as something that can make your heart glad. Paul advised Timothy to have a little bit for his stomach’s sake, and he said a little bit of wine is good for your health. But don’t be drunk with it, because not only does it break down the critical thinking ability that he’s just been urging, but then your life leads to debauchery.
Now pay attention to the beautiful compact reference to the Trinity—which, I hasten to add—is a word not found in the Bible. Does that disappoint you, that we would make such a big deal out of a word that’s not biblical? Well, it’s not biblical in that the word itself does not occur in the Bible; it was coined. But it was coined “tri” and “unity,” three and one. You smoosh those together and you get triune, or tri-unity, trinity. It’s shorthand for something that Scripture clearly describes.
The Trinity is a mystery; it’s beyond our understanding. Then again, so are a lot of things. Gravity is beyond our understanding. Why do your feet stick to the ground? Why do things fall down instead of up? You could say, “Well, because of the law of gravity.”
What government passed that law, might I inquire? Who says things fall down instead of fall up? You can describe it, you can use words, but you have no idea. You merely acknowledge a beautiful mystery, a most helpful mystery. It’s one of the forces that holds things together. It’s an extension of God’s will.
Trinity is indeed a made-up word, but there are actually quite a number of words that are helpful in our Christian life that were coined. For instance, a holy thing in the Latin language is a sacramentum. Christians long ago coined the word sacrament to refer to a sacred or holy action that brings the gospel and brings the forgiveness of sins to people. Is that word in the Bible? No. Are the concepts in the Bible? Yes.
Here are three beautiful concepts about the Trinity. First, “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (verses 18,19). Fill up your emptiness inside with something positive. Filling yourself with alcohol will give the illusion of your problems going away, but it’s only that, an illusion, and creates a dependency if you do it repeatedly where then it becomes your enslaver instead of something to bring you joy. Don’t be filled with alcohol; be filled with the Spirit. And since you have been filled up by the Spirit, let it out and help fill other people as well. Music has always been a wonderful vehicle, like a car, in which the gospel can ride.
Second, “Always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything” (verse 20). If you take something good in your life and trace it backward— where did it come from?— the lines always lead to your Father in heaven. Not only has he created you and loved you enough to design the brilliant miracle on two legs that is you; not only did he sacrifice his dearest treasure, his Son, in order to win you back; but he is crazy in love with you—and loves to give you things. And everything good in your life can be attributed directly to the kind heart of God your Father.
Say thank you! Identify him as the Giver of all good gifts. Turn backward, turn upward to heaven, as you say thank you for everything good in your life. Even your hardships are allowed, or sent, in order to draw out the gifts that have been placed in you and to make you better, more effective, and more valuable as a fighter for your heavenly Father. Thank him.
Time of Grace is an international Christian outreach media ministry with the mission to share the gospel through the most effective technology available. Its centerpiece, a weekly 30-minute television program, is broadcast on over 125 over-the-air stations and 6 cable and satellite networks, including the American Forces Network (AFN), that reach across the country and around the world. (For a complete broadcast schedule, visit timeofgrace.org/waystowatch.) Pastor Mark Jeske delivers Bible-based messages that provide the real hope and truth of God’s Word in down-toearth “straight talk.” The ministry’s mobile-compatible website also offers programs via streaming video and audio podcasts, as well as study guides, daily devotions, a prayer wall, and other resources. In addition to television, Time of Grace actively uses the Internet, e-communication, social media, and print publications to do outreach. For more information call 800.661.3311.
St. Marcus Sunday worship schedule each week:
8:00 a.m. Worship
10:30 a.m. Worship
2:00 p.m. Gospel Worship of Hope
5:30 p.m. Sunday Night Worship
St. Marcus Lutheran Church
2215 North Palmer Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212