If you are continuing the reading of Ephesians this week (with Ephesians 5:15-20 – though it is interesting to see that the lectionary misses out sections on avoiding immorality and on the mutual submission of husband and wife!), Paul has some practical wisdom. We need it, because now as then there are plenty of ways to get life wrong. You know that – don’t worry about the details, and don’t waste time pointing at the people who have made a mess of things. Get it right, and then you can offer encouragement; live wisely, using your opportunities, and you will be an advertisement, and be in a secure place to offer help and support.
It’s not just a question of keeping out of trouble. What does God want you to do? Sometimes that involves patience, and waiting which is difficult. Often it involves being of service – something undervalued. Always it involves obedience; and that is never easy. Life as a Christian is not just up to you; it is for God to direct you to where you may be useful.
So we need to be filled, not with the latest alcopop, but with God’s spirit. There is some similarity – remember how the onlookers on the day of Pentecost said the Spirit-filled disciples were drunk? They were confident, joyful, unafraid – and sober. I suspect that many of those who cannot party without large quantities of alcohol are actually looking for the freedom and joy which comes from another Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to Christians – but not in bottles, and not automatically. We need to ask, and be ready to receive him, and to go on doing that.
Verses 19,20 remind us that early Christian worship involved the Psalms of the Old Testament, and the hymns and songs of the New Testament and later. And why? So that
- the congregation was instructed
- God was praised (and heard to be, by overhearers)
- and life lived with thankfulness to God.
Are we doing that? It will be good to return to singing together again in Church soon – but remember you need to sing (loud enough to be heard, soft enough to hear), and to sing gladly and confidently. But even without song, how are we to live as Christians?
- Wisely, in times when it is easy to go wrong;
- Looking for what God is calling us to do, relying on the Spirit’s power and guidance,
- and with thanksgiving, in music, and in daily life – living it as we sing it, with a bit of energy and some confidence, even when we have to work at both.