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Loss may prompt a review of the meaning of life, our place 
 
Dec. 16, 2012
Background Scripture: Romans 12:3-8
Devotional Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16

 In the motion picture “Alfie,” the theme song asks, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” The “it” is life; the meaning of human history. Is there a purpose to all this and, if there is, what is it?
Although written in the 17th century, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” puts it more eloquently:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I will admit, I do not hear anyone today expressing the mystery of existence with such artistry, but I see lots of people living as though it is true that we are no more than shadows, poor brief players, idiots full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.
Macbeth’s words are a response to the tragic death of his queen. And it is when we experience loss – loss of a child, a spouse, a job, a career, a physical attribute or facility – that we are likely to ask what this life is really all about.

The truth in love

This is the mystery the writer of Ephesians mentions on six specific occasions: 1:09, 3:03, 3:04, 3:09, 5:32 and 6:19, a mystery that is not meant to be hidden or rationed to an elite few, but revealed plainly to all who truly want to know.

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (4:18,19). It is a “mystery,” not of divine intention, but out of human blindness to it.
The writer of Ephesians reveals the mystery in different ways. For example: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (4:4-6).

The emphasis all through Ephesians is the “oneness” revealed and experienced in Jesus Christ: the oneness of God’s purpose, the oneness of His universe and the oneness of intended humankind. This oneness includes the unity of congregations, denominations and of all who bear the name of Christ. This is the plan of God and there is no need to ask if there is another. This is it.
As Ephesians chapters 1-3 lay out the mystery to which we are all called, chapters 4-6 spell out the practical ways to implement the mystery of God’s plan, so that it is no longer a “mystery” in the world: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3).

Frankly, does that sound like your congregation? Like your denomination? Like the community where you live? And, if not, why not?

Grow up!

Recently, I heard two friends arguing bitterly about, of all things, God’s will for the presidential election last month. It disturbed me to hear them so angry with one another.

Then, into the room walked another friend who, quickly catching the gist of what was going on, said angrily, “For Christ’s sake, grow up!”
I don’t know if he meant it as profanity or something more profound. But I recalled the challenge in Ephesians 4:14,15: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

The argument ended abruptly and silently.

Rabbi Hillel Silverman told of a new family that, some years ago, moved into a northern Minnesota village. Their religion was similar to that of the majority of villagers. Although there was no notable prejudice in that community, the new family nevertheless felt a wall separating them and their neighbors, who seemed cold, distant and suspicious.

At sunset late one afternoon, however, the family’s six-year-old child wandered away from their backyard. The parents searched frantically through an adjoining wheat field. It began to get colder. Suddenly, the neighbors – Protestant, Catholic and Jewish – began to appear to help in the hunt. But there seemed no trace of the little girl.

Finally, the town mayor said to all: “Before it’s too late, let us all join hands, let’s form an unbroken human line, a human chain, and we will sweep this wheat field before it is too late. We will go up and down until we find her.” Within 30 minutes they found her, half-frozen but alive.

The rabbi finished, saying, “I just cannot forget these words of the mayor: ‘Let’s all join hands before it is too late.’”
Followers of Christ in the USA: Is it too late?

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Rev. Althouse may write to him in care of this publication.
12/12/2012