FIRST LESSON: 2 Kings 5:1-14
SECOND LESSON Ephesians 6:10-20
SERMON: “Christian Nutrition Facts”
There was a little boy who consistently fell out of bed at least once every night. No matter what his parents did, the boy could not sleep without rolling out of bed. One night, when an uncle came to visit, in the middle of the night, the usual thump and cry was heard. In the morning, the boy’s uncle teased him and asked him why he fell out so often. The little boy thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t know, Uncle, unless it is
that I stay too close to the place where I get in.”
Do some Christians do the same thing – stay too close to the place where we came in?
Most Christians have come to a place where they believe in all sincerity that we are sinners and that Jesus Christ took our punishment on the cross so that we might receive God’s forgiveness and be assured of eternal life. Many of us seem to remain right there, neither exercising our faith, nor doing much to encourage its growth. Oh, we may take our faith for a short walk now and then, especially in times of trouble, but how many of us have a regular physical exercise routine, with a limited, or non-existent spiritual exercise practice?
Remember learning about the four food groups? about our body’s minimum daily requirements? Nearly every package that contains any kind of ingestible substance posts on the side or back of the package the nutrition facts. They tell us how many calories per serving, how many fat grams and carbs, how much sodium is in this, whether or not the food includes any vitamins or minerals, and for each thing listed the percentage of our minimum daily requirement provided. If you’re nutrition conscious, you check those labels, and make sure you are getting at least the minimum daily requirement.
Today’s reading from the letter to the Christians in Ephesus gives us some things we might consider as minimum daily requirements for our spirituality.
The first – “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Pastor Steven Furtick writes, “One of the greatest critiques of the American Church today is it’s malnourished.
Some would even say it’s our most pressing problem. When most people voice this complaint, the focus is on the worship experience.
From people who leave these churches, you hear, “I wasn’t getting fed.”
Or, “I just want some deeper teaching. . . . Yes, American Christians are malnourished. . .Most American Christians aren’t malnourished because of what they’re getting fed on Sunday. They’re malnourished because they don’t feed themselves Monday through Saturday.”
Imagine you’ve been here on, say, Kick-Off Sunday and enjoyed one of the best pot-luck lunches after worship. You filled your plate, went back for seconds, and then hit the dessert table – a taste, oh let’s be honest, a slice of pie, a piece of cake and to top it off one of the most delicious brownie’s you’ve ever had. Is there anyone who would not eat again until the next Sunday’s coffee hour? Your body needs nourishment every day. So does your soul.
How do we do that? We start with regular worship and communal rituals. Consider the Sacrament we share today. I encourage you to meditate on the Lord’s Supper, not as a funeral or memorial to Jesus, not as an expression of personal worthiness (perhaps defined as I have nothing against my neighbor, nor does my neighbor have anything against me). Think of it today as spiritual nourishment for the community of faith. Jesus said, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Some of us would never participate in communion if we had to feel that we were “good enough” first.
What if it is necessary first to participate in the meal, so that then you will grow in the faith that God loves you so much that he sent his only Son, that having faith in him you will not perish but have everlasting life.
We need communal ritual, worship. Christians grow best like grapes – in clusters. What if each one who chooses not to participate lessens the experience for others? Don’t ask yourself “Do I need worship or the sacraments?” Ask instead “Do worship and the sacraments need me? Does
the community need me?”
Some things we eat to nourish our bodies, we only need once in a while, or a few times per week. Other things need to be ingested every day. Prayer is something we need every single day, not just as a shopping list to request things from God, but a two-way conversation in which we find some quiet time to listen for what God is saying to us. Let me tell you about a woman who found herself seated next to a long-winded, boring dinner companion. Each time she tried to say something, she could manage only a slight sound before the man broke in and continued to make it a one-sided conversation. Finally, the woman’s husband, seated across the table, leaned over and whispered to her, “What is that strange sound you’ve been making?” She answered, “It’s a word – trying to get in edgewise.” Can God get a word in edgewise when you pray?
Next on the nutrition list is mission. No matter how ‘busy’ our lives become, our spiritual energy and health will suffer if it is hoarded, and not shared in service. This is the priesthood of all believers: being ministers of the gospel to others. Jesus sent his disciples out with the commission to “go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” You don’t have to knock on your neighbors’ doors and ask them threatening questions like “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” and then spout everything you know about theology and the Bible. All you have to do is be a friend, send them a card, bring them some chicken soup and muffins when they are sick, invite them to come and see for themselves.
Another nutritional need for Christians is a daily dose of the Word of God. In the English translation, today’s passage from Ephesians begins, “Be strong in the Lord.” It carries with it an active sense, implying a “shape up” or “get strong” admonition. The Greek, however is definitely in the passive form, carrying the sense of “be strengthened.” Strength is something that comes as a gift from God. We can give thanks that our spiritual strength is not dependent on our own abilities, our own insights, our own wisdom. Christians have a record of God’s continuing activity in the world.
George Barna wrote The State of the Church having conducted a survey of self-identified Christians and here’s what he found about their knowledge of the Bible. These are Christians.
• 48% could not name the four Gospels. ( I am less concerned about whether you can name them than I am about whether you know the message they contain.
• 52% cannot identify more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples. Some of us aren’t great at memorizing a list of 12 names. Do you know what Andrew did? why the choice of Matthew was outrageous? why Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs?)
• 60% of American Christians can’t name even five of the 10 Commandments. (Can you?)
• 61% of American Christians think the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
• 71% of American Christians think “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. (It’s not.)
Barna said, "Americans revere the Bible, but by and large they don’t know what it says. And because they don’t know it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."
Think back to the lady who could hardly get a word in edgewise. You can let God take part in a two-way conversation by reading and meditating on God’s word.
I know you care about the nutritional requirements for your physical body. How about your spiritual health?
Are you a full participant in worship and sacraments with the community of faith? Does it matter to you that anyone missing lessens the experience for the rest of the body?
Do you talk with God through prayer every day? Is it a one-way or a two-way conversation?
Do you let the evidence of your faith flow out through mission to those you encounter?
Do you get a daily dose of God’s word to strengthen you?