Series: The Tie That Binds
October 28, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
In the 90’s I was working for myself as a Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics. I was an “at-home” mom taking care of Calvin and Claire, my two older children. This home-based business allowed me the flexibility to be a homemaker, and also a business woman.
I loved working for myself and watching women’s lives as they transformed not only from the cosmetics but by their own opportunity to start a business to help with their family’s budgets.
I found the opportunity when I was at a low point in my life. I needed to change jobs and wanted desperately to be at home with my children and at the same time was searching for a beauty consultant, so I could get my much-needed cosmetics. I had had adult acne for years and this product was the only one that cleared my skin up. My consultant had stopped selling and I didn’t know how to find someone else to purchase from. This was really before the internet was popular. What’s a girl to do??
My neighbor at the Mental Health campus where JJ and I worked as group home parents, stopped me one day to tell me she had started selling Mary Kay. I grabbed her by the arms and reeled off my order – I needed cleanser, toner and moisturizer! Stat!!
After she told me what she was doing to make a little extra money, I decided I would become a consultant too, that way I would never have to worry about getting my own product again and it was the “job” I needed to be able to quit my full time job but still make a little extra money for the family.
Although I had never worked in sales before, it turned out I was pretty good at it. In the first year as a beauty consultant I grew a team of consultants and became a director and earned my first “free” car. Yes, taxes, license and payment compliments of Mary Kay. Life was good. I was moving up their “ladder of success,” and felt this was my calling. Everything fell into place, almost as if God had planned it! Ya think??
There was no doubt in my mind that I was exactly where God had planted me. He had filled me up, poured the Holy Spirit into me and I was sharing it with others. Then in 1999 everything changed. My business began failing I became angry, frustrated and worked even harder to meet my goals. Nothing worked. Why was this happening? No matter what I did, the results were the same: failure. Everything I had built up was being taken away, the anger could have destroyed me, except I knew enough to speak with my pastor, to get some guidance, to seek the help I couldn’t give myself.
Eventually I was able to see that God was calling me to change careers, to take what I had learned in my first career as a behavioral therapist and my second in sales and become a minister, working for God. The relief I felt with that discovery was almost instantaneous.
I realized that I had been working against God, and God won! Imagine that!
God had poured into me love and guidance and was perfectly preparing me for my next assignment. Although it took a while, eventually I was open to God’s presence and answering his call, and I felt peace for the first time in a very long time. That peace, you know the kind, that surpasses all understanding.
When I couldn’t follow through answering the call to ministry at that time, God showed great compassion, and unmeasurable amounts of kindness and love. See that’s what God models for us, compassion, love, kindness. These are the “rules” for a new life that Paul speaks about in our scripture this morning.
Paul starts by telling us to speak the truth, to our neighbors, to our spouses, to everyone in all things. I had a friend tell me yesterday that she had caught her husband in a lie. His response was that he tells the truth in the big things. Wow! Not sure that is a good strategy, what do you think?
We are to speak the truth, always! I don’t know if you know this, but the truth always comes to the surface. If you are practicing deceit, know that you will be revealed at some point in time. The house of cards that is created when we lie will come tumbling down at some point and it is best to avoid it all together. If you find yourself this morning, caught in this situation, trust also that God will forgive you, God can and will redeem you; you can repent and make yourself clean in God’s eyes.
Then Paul says we are not to be angry, we are not to “let the sun go down on our anger.” I’m not sure that being angry is the problem, it’s what we do with that anger that’s a problem, or a sin as Paul points out. Being angry can be a help to us. Righteous anger over injustice compels us to action. Anger over inequalities can “motivate us to fix things, to present His Good News as a balm to a broken world. Righteous anger compels us to right wrongs and to address injustices in the world.”
When we become angry because immigrant children are separated from their families we can do something about it. When we become angry because people are being taken advantage of at payday loan centers, we can help to make a change. When we become angry at the dishonesty in public discourse we can do something about it.
But anger, directed at others to create harm is wrong, that is the anger Paul is speaking of. When we get angry we can lose control, right? Yell, scream, say hurtful and awful things. Anyone ever do that? Not any of us, right? We’re good Christians who don’t do those things, but we do! We are forgiven sinners, that’s what we are, but we all have likely become angry and said or done things we regret.
Years ago, I remember being so angry at JJ one night that I threw our TV remote across the room. I wasn’t throwing it at him, I was just angry and that seemed like a good outlet for the anger. That was the first and only time I ever threw something in anger. And while it was strangely satisfying for that nanosecond it was in the air, when it broke on the floor I knew that I had lost it. I had let my anger get the best of me.
When we allow anger to simmer, to fester, or to boil we risk losing control. When we don’t deal with problems honestly and with grace and kindness, we become at risk for sin, by opening a door that lets evil take our anger and turn it into something ungodly.
Yesterday morning, a gunman opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman yelled anti-Jewish words as he shot, wounded and killed worshippers and police who had responded. When anger turns to bitterness, it can then turn to hate, and heinous acts perpetrated on others are often the result. We saw it also this week with the bombs that were sent to political figures that the bomber disagreed with. Anger, stoked and fed, led to this man to threaten the lives of people he disagreed with.
This is not what God calls us to do or be. We must receive the love God has for us, freely accepting the Holy Spirit, poured out in great measure, filling us to over flowing so that we can combat the anger, bitterness and hatred that is in the world.
Paul says we are to not allow any evil to come out of our mouths. Gossip, slander, untruths, none of this is ok. We are followers of Jesus Christ and he models for us the manner in which we are to treat one another. We are to build up, affirm, show kindness toward everyone. Not just our favorite people, but to everyone, even those who say hurtful and angry things to us. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
We have received a precious gift of God, through Jesus Christ; we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit who is our advocate, our guide, the source of our peace, if only we will commit to living the life God has called us to live. Are we allowing ourselves to be filled with the Spirit? Are we receiving the grace and love Christ pours into us?
Once filled up are we able to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community, in our church, in our family? Are we building up or tearing down? Do we strive to be so full of the Spirit through our own faith practices that we can be there for others, nourishing them with the love of God?
Are we ripping or mending? What we pour into the lives of others either builds us up and binds us together. If we aren’t pouring kindness it is the same as if we are ripping one another apart. Jesus is God’s love poured out for us. Poured into us to nourish us, encourage us, to lead and guide us so that we can share his love in the world.
We open ourselves to Christ’s presence and answer the call to be his compassion poured out in the world, we create ties that bind us to one another, bind us together in love.
At the end of each row there is a piece of red fabric. You’ll notice that there are small tears along one edge. I invite you to tear off a piece of the fabric and in the act of tearing off the piece, I invite you to release all that weights you down. Allow this tearing apart to be the act that brings us together, lay your burdens down, let Christ pick them up.
After you’ve torn the strip off, acknowledged your brokenness, bring the pieces up and place them on the altar. Once received we will pray over them, inviting God to cleanse our souls and unite us in His love.
 https://jeffersonvillepresbyterian.org/sermon-reflections-ephesians-425-32/ Accessed October 26, 2018