Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:15-20 (NRSV)
I wonder, when was the last time that you felt as though you were standing on holy ground? When you felt held in the arms of God and surrounded by the sacred? Now, you may have felt that way at a candlelit Christmas Eve service, or at the communion table, or the day your child was baptized. You see, in the church, we try to help people experience holy ground and sacred moments.
But the truth is you can experience the presence of God just about anywhere: in your car or in your garden, in line at the grocery store or at the beach, or in your living room. And you can experience God when the sun is shining or in the midst of rain and sleet and snow. The problem is not where you are, or what the weather is, or even who you are with; the problem is usually your focus.
On a daily basis, our schedules get busy and our priorities get off-kilter. Now, this may sound a little crazy to you, but when I start feeling that happen in my life, I always dream of what it would be like to live in a religious community. Imagine? Like being a monk or a nun? And all week long, being surrounded by other monks and nuns? That would make it much easier to focus on our faith, wouldn’t it?
But then I think about Jesus, and that is where the rubber hits the road for me. Jesus doesn’t call us to live in sheltered communities. Jesus calls us to make good choices and to not simply talk about our faith, but to live it out in the midst of the world around us. Just like the disciples, we are called to go out and live our lives sharing the good news and teaching by our own example.
In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul says, “Be wise, making the most of your time.” If we are supposed to be wise, does that mean that we have to know all the answers? Or that people should look to us because we do it the right way? Of course not!
Now again you may think that this sounds a little silly, but I like to think of it as the “bug principle.” You all know what happens at night if you open a window or door with a light on inside, right? Moths and mosquitoes and bugs of all kinds come flying towards the light, don’t they? Well, people are a lot like bugs in that they are drawn to the light too. When we go out into the world, trying our best to be wise, and making the most of our time, we go out with a positive attitude and a helpful heart. And even though we are not perfect and we don’t have all the answers, we bring the light of Christ with us, and others are drawn to follow that light. Now, they won’t necessarily know why, but they’ll long for that positive energy and that sense of humility and kindness that you bring. And that is just the way that Jesus encouraged his disciples, and he still encourages us today to carry the light to all ends of the earth!
The problem is, how do we keep the light of Christ burning in us when we pull out of the church parking lot and someone cuts us off?. Or when we stop at the grocery store for a quick gallon of milk and the woman in front of us has to count out all of her pennies, and then searches her pockets for the last ten cents while her baby is crying in the carriage? Or when all the free time that we thought we had gets filled up by the unexpected needs of others?
Well, my friends, the important thing for us to remember in each one of these situations is that we are in charge of our own lives. It is up to us to decide how to respond to the people and to the problems around us. and the truth is the more grounded we are in our faith, the easier the unexpected bumps along the road become.
Looking through the eyes of faith, maybe we say a quick prayer for the person who cut us off so that they will make it safely to their destination. Maybe, instead of being frustrated by the woman in the line in front of us, we realize that money is really tight for her, and we hand her a few dollars to help her pay her bill. And maybe, when our free time gets filled up by the needs of others, we take a minute to thank God for working through us in order to help a neighbor.
Folks, staying grounded in our faith like that takes work. It’s not always easy because every day, we are bombarded by what the world tells us when sometimes it’s only an hour a week that we are reminded about our faith. And as you know, what the world tells us and what our faith tells us are many times two very different things. The world tells us to strive for success, to collect as many things and as much money as we can, to worry about ourselves, and to always put on a good show. Just think about the examples of success that are given by our culture. On television, we see glitzy and glamorous movie stars and famous athletes who have it all, most of whom deep down inside are not very happy. Then, when we think about examples of people of faith, we think of people like Mother Teresa, who gave up all that she owned and devoted her life to serving the poor and the sick, or even the disciples, who left their families and their possessions to follow Jesus.
How are we supposed to balance what our faith teaches us and what the world around us teaches? How can we be successful in this world and true to our faith? Friends, I don’t promise to have all the answers for you, but there is one thing that I have learned during the last year and a half. And that is, don’t worry about someday, but be present in the moment you are in, opening your heart to the presence of God as you truly appreciate the holy ground that you are standing on. Because friends, when we worry about what we don’t have, we can’t appreciate what we do have. Again, the answer comes from staying centered in our faith, inviting God into every situation, and making choices based on our faith and what our heart tells us rather than following the crowd and being swayed by the beliefs and opinions of others.
Even in the church, where it seems like the easiest place to stay focused on our faith, we need to remember to invite God in, into our worship and into our meetings, into our planning, into our fundraising, and into our fellowship. Because the more we engage our faith and learn to experience the sacred moments and the holy ground around us, the more connected we are to God and the more grounded we are in our faith.
Friends, the truth is I want you to live life to the fullest! I want you to be filled with passion and energy and excitement. And I truly believe that that happens when you finally learn that the ground under your feet is always holy and that there are glimpses of grace all around you! Because when you begin to realize that, you don’t struggle and want for the things that you don’t have because you’re too busy being overjoyed by the gifts that are all around you!
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, stay grounded in your faith. Remember what is important. Invite God into the things that you do each day, and don’t dwell on what you wish you had. Instead, stand firm on the holy ground beneath your feet making the most of your time as you marvel at the gifts that God has placed all around and within you.