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Sermon for August 18, 2024 – Proper 15

Welcome to this week’s episode, a special rerun from our Speaking of Life archive. We hope you find its timeless message as meaningful today as it was when it was first shared.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 3038 | The Comfort and Connection of Bread
Michelle Fleming

During the early days of the pandemic last year, one surprising trend was the number of people who turned to breadmaking—to the point that yeast and flour were in short supply. Some news organizations asked people why they chose breadmaking, and some responded that since they were working from home, not only did they now have the time, but it was also something they always wanted to try. Others said it gave them a sense of control in a seemingly out-of-control situation.

For some people, breaking bread during the pandemic was a way to comfort themselves and others. Research documents how breadmaking offers stress relief and a means of self-expression, and when the final product is shared, it becomes a way to connect with others, even at a distance. Some say that making bread connects them to past generations, and they bake to honor the memory of grandmothers and great-grandmothers who also faced challenges.

Bread has also played an important part in Christianity. Most are familiar with the symbols of the wine and the bread and their connection with Jesus, but Jesus introduced himself as the bread of life before he instituted the Lord’s Supper. Let’s look at what Jesus said in John 6.

 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
John 6:51, 53-58 (ESV)

This was a hard saying for some, who initially did not understand the
down-to-earth metaphor Jesus was giving helping us understand our need for him for a sustained life. Just like our need for food and drink to live physically, we need Jesus to live spiritually and in relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. In the same way we consume food, making it part of our body and bones, so we must take and consume Jesus. By “making a meal” of Jesus, we join him in our pathway through the world, knowing we are always in him, just as he is in us. We recognize that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we can live joyously even in the most difficult circumstances. Consuming “living bread” brings us comfort by reminding us of our connection with God and other human beings.

Bread and breadmaking comfort, nourish, and connect us, and Jesus knew this when he said he was the “living bread.” Human activities like breadmaking remind us of our need for a nourishing connection with God and each other.

May you take in the “living bread” and live fully alive, knowing Jesus is always with you.

I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.

For Reference:




Psalm 111:1-10 · 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 · Ephesians 5:15-20 · John 6:51-58

This week’s theme is wisdom and understanding come from the Lord. In our call to worship Psalm, the psalmist declares that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that those who practice it have good understanding. In 1 Kings, God answers Solomon’s desire to have an understanding mind and to be able to govern with wisdom. In Ephesians, Paul admonishes the church to be wise in understanding how they should conduct their lives in this world. And in the book of John, Jesus alludes to the fact that the wisest thing a person can do is to understand that their lives are to be found in him — in eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

The Wisdom of Life Well Lived

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NIV)

A proud young man once approached Socrates, the fourth century philosopher, and asked him for wisdom. Socrates, recognizing the young man’s arrogance, led him to the sea and took him chest-deep into the water. Then he asked him, “What did you say you wanted?” “Wisdom, O great Socrates,” said the young man.

Socrates pushed him under the water and held him there for a few seconds. When he let him up, he asked him again, “What do you want?” “Wisdom,” the young man replied.

Socrates pushed him under the water again, this time holding him down for a little longer. When he let him up, he asked him once more, “What do you want?” “Air!” the young man gasped. “I need air!”

Socrates then said to him, “When you want wisdom as much as you just wanted air, then you will find it.”1

The young man in the story was probably looking for a nice quick solution to acquiring wisdom. He did not imagine that wisdom may not come to him as easily as he thought. He learned that he would find wisdom when it became vital to his survival.

In our pericope today, Paul is challenging the Ephesian church to live lives that are wise and not foolish. He will address what a foolish life may look like as well as point towards what a wise, Spirit-led life can and should be — a life well lived.

Let us read our scripture today with the intention and seriousness of acquiring the Spirit-filled life of wisdom that comes from God.

Read, or have someone read, Ephesians 5:15-20.

Throughout the letter to the Ephesians, Paul had been admonishing the believers to live out their lives according to their new identities in Christ. It is one of the key lessons of Ephesians; the foundation for moral living is understanding what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. If you have read the entire letter up until this point it would be impossible to miss this fact.

In chapter 5, Paul continues with this theme and takes it to another level. Much of Paul’s audience came out of the pagan Greek culture. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions that while the Jews sought a sign, the Greeks seek after wisdom. On their list of values, wisdom would have been at the top of that list.

Paul makes an appeal here to their sensibilities. He posits the idea that not living the lives we were meant to live in Christ was an act of foolishness. And that anyone who seeks to be wise would alter their behaviors accordingly.

Speaking of Greek, verse 15 says, “Being very careful, then, how you live …” The Greek renders this idea as keeping your eyes peeled, to be alert, so that you can live carefully (wisely).

Our pericope today may not be popular to some. Criticizing or denouncing the morals of the world can make the church seem polarized against society. The world often has a hard time not seeing the church as hostile and judgmental towards them already.

As a church, we are to find ways to build bridges to our communities and not barricades. We should be very sensitive to how we might be making it difficult for our neighbors to see the love of Christ. But we also must not allow the ever-changing winds of our cultures to determine what our beliefs and practices should be. Otherwise, we are sacrificing the truth at the expense of accommodation. Can we deny that living a Spirit-directed life may look very different from a life that is constantly being seduced by all things seductive and shiny?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

The Message Bible paraphrases verse 16 as saying that these are desperate times! What is being indicated here is that we are to be on mission, and there is so much for us to do. The opportunities abound for us to be of service to this world. In fact, the idea here is one of “buying back” our time. It’s like stumbling onto a bargain that we just can’t pass up.2

The way that we are to live is to be carried out with wisdom, knowing that our time is short. As disciples of Christ, we submit to the one who leads us to live out our faith with wisdom.

In our lives and in our churches, let us keep our eyes open to what is happening around us in our world. To be innocent as doves but wise as serpents, as the Bible says. Let us not put obstacles in the world’s path to seeing Christ. But let us also be joyful witnesses to others of how a wise, Spirit-led life can be.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:17-18 NIV)

This is a good time to reflect and even ask, what is God’s will? What does he desire? And how are we to participate in that? These are important questions to consider when we look at the state of the world around us. God’s will is for our lives to reflect back to the world the same love that we have received from the Father. We are to make good use of our opportunities for the sake of others.

It’s interesting how Paul singles out drunkenness as one particular behavior that was foolish to exhibit as a believer. Why did he do that? There had to be a lot of poor behaviors that the Ephesian church could have been exhibiting, so why was drunkenness singled out?

One possible reason for this is that it provided a contrast that would have been easily understood by the Ephesians. When someone is drunk, they are under the influence of a substance to the point that their behaviors become altered. Their perception changes, and they do and say things that they probably wouldn’t have done or said without being under the influence of alcohol.

The contrast to this is being filled with the Spirit. In a Spirit-directed life, we are under the influence of God. In Christ, our perception of things has completely changed. We are not the same people who we once were. We now do and say things that reflect the love of Christ, and we stop doing those things are not reflective of embracing the love of Christ.

Drunkenness is a counterfeit. It gives the illusion of joy and peace but leads to all sorts of bad behavior and negative consequences. Contrast that with being under the Spirit’s influence where we exhibit true peace and joy. And if that weren’t good enough news, there is no hangover in the Spirit.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV)

Paul had previously spelled out what wrongful, foolish living looks like. Now he switches it up with a positive example of what a wise, Spirit-led life should exhibit. Those who live wisely are filled with joy that overflows into song. When we live under the Spirit’s direction, we are able to sing, and make music from our hearts. Even our speech, the way that we speak to one another, should sound as pleasing as music to our ears.

When we live wisely, we are led towards gratitude. We are able to thank God for all good things and recognize him as our constant source of blessing. We aren’t accomplishing anything by our own will or resources, rather, his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3).

Mitch Albom wrote the bestseller, Tuesdays With Morrie. The book is a series of discussions that Mitch had with his old university professor. Morrie Schwartz, who is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. In one of his discussions, Morrie turns to Mitch and says, Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

We have died to the lives that we once had prior to Christ. Now, we have the opportunity to really live. A wisely lived life awaits us. A life that is of utmost importance where our time can be spent recognizing the opportunities in front of us to show how beautiful and fulfilling Christ’s life is. It is a life that others need to see. It is a life where our time can be spent recognizing the opportunities in front of us to show how beautiful and fulfilling Christ’s life is.

We leave behind foolish ways that don’t have their place in our lives. We sacrifice certain behaviors that hold no redeeming value as they can lead only to foolishness.  Our lives are to exhibit the wisdom of a loving Savior. One who has redeemed us of that former way of life.

Finally, we celebrate this life together with fellow believers. So much so that it flows into worship and gratitude. And as we lift each other up in the body, the church starts to resemble a musical celebration that catches the attention of a world that is dying to witness true joy and peace. Let us exhibit the wisdom of a life well lived.

  1. Wisdom – Air to a Drowning Man | Cam Taylor
  2. Commentary on Ephesians 5:15-20 – Working Preacher from Luther Seminary
  3. Mitch Albom: “Tuesday’s With Morrie” An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson (Doubleday 1997)

John MacMurray—Year B Proper 15

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Ephesians 5:15–20

August 17, 2024
Proper 15 in Ordinary Time

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Program Transcript

John MacMurray—Year B Propers 15

Anthony: All right. Our third passage of the month is Ephesians 5:15-20. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 15 and Ordinary Time, which is August 18. And it reads,

Be careful, then, how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to one another, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

So, John, what does it mean to make the most of the time since these days are evil? Help us understand.

John: I’m not sure I can, but I’ll give it a shot.

Anthony: Sure.

 John: What I can tell you — I’m better at telling you what it doesn’t mean, what I used to think it meant. We used to use this text as a proof text, as you just mentioned, for why we should be out telling everybody about Jesus all day long because time’s running out. People need to know, blah, blah, blah, whatever.

It’s nowhere in the context of anything that’s being talked about here, but what is in the context, what Paul has been saying, in fact, what he started this with was, “I beg you, live a life in a manner that’s worthy of the calling that you’ve been called with.”

What does it mean to make the most of the time? It means to live that way. In a manner that’s worthy. Don’t waste your time. Can you drink wine? Yeah. But don’t waste it by getting drunk. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Make the most of your time because the opportunity to live a life of love is now.

It’s not next year. It’s not next month. It’s not when you die and blah blah go to heaven. It’s now, because we bear witness to this fact and on top of all of it, if we haven’t gotten this yet from the passages we’ve already read, if you’re a pragmatist, this is actually the way it works. If you can waste the opportunities and then you’re going to blame God — and I’ve done that and I’ve had friends do that. And what ends up happening is bitterness starts to sink in and get a hold of us.

These are all the things that he’s been talking about. So, I think the will — let me put it this way, Anthony. Again, I’ll try and make it more concise. He says, understanding what the will of the Lord is, we know what that is. He already told us that a couple paragraphs earlier. The wisdom comes in actually living this way. Instead of wasting my time and choosing to live a different way. And if for no other reason you can say to your pragmatist friend, it actually works There’s better reasons than that.

Obviously. I think that’s my shot at it. Yours,

Anthony: I think you’ve said it. And I like what you just said, you can get to the most basic pragmatic level, and hey, we’ve got to start somewhere. But this is the life, again going back to what you said, this is who God is; he’s not wasting time. He wastes beauty on us, but he’s not wasting time. He’s the lord of it.

He’s redeeming it, and man, we want to get in on what he’s doing! John, for me, this walk with the Lord is often really just growing in my awareness by the Spirit, of what he’s doing and just hitching my ride to him. And it looks like this. It looks like this, and by the way, he says sing psalms and hymns.

So, are you ready to sing live for us for our listening audience? No

John: No. Not going to happen.

Anthony: Come on, John.

John: That would not minister grace to you.

Anthony: Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • How do we keep our eyes open and discern what is considered wise living?
  • How can we build bridges to our communities while staying true to Christ?
  • What do you think God’s will is for us concerning how we are to spend our time?
  • How can our churches resemble more of a celebration as we meet together?

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