Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 15)

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

How time flies!

How often don’t we say or hear it said,
“There aren’t enough days in the week.” 
“August already – soon it will be Christmas!” 
“I don’t have the time!”
Maybe we should take the ad seriously that promises that Pine O Cleen “adds time to your day”.

Time getting away from us is a real problem for most of us.  It’s like being on some uncontrollable ride at the Ekka (Brisbane Show).  Time keeps moving on; we are always in a hurry and we never accomplish what we set out to do. 

Has it always been like this?  Here is a poem that’s been around a long time but makes a great start to my sermon today.  It’s about great grandma.

Great grandma on a winter’s day,
milked the cows and fed them hay,
fed the pigs, saddled the mule,
and got the children off to school.
Swept the kitchen, made the bed,
baked a dozen loaves of bread,
split some firewood and lugged it in,
enough to fill the kitchen bin.
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil
stewed some apples she thought would spoil
churned the butter, baked a cake,
then exclaimed, “For mercy sake,
the calves have all got out of the pen”
went out and chased them in again.
Gathered the eggs and locked the stable
back to the house and set the table,
cooked a supper that was delicious,
afterwards washed up all the dishes,
then opened the organ and began to play
“When you come to the end of a perfect day!”

What a marvel great grandma must have been!  And we can add to that the 6 bonnie daughters and seven brawny sons she brought into the world and raised.  Somehow in those mythical “good old days” the people worked hard but there was always time for other things like singing around the piano, family picnics, going to church and chatting forever after the service about the weather, too much rain or not enough, the crops, the pigs and the cows. 

Great grandma and grandpa didn’t have fast cars, planes, buses or trains.  There weren’t any microwaves, Mixmasters, electric irons, freezers, dishwashers or automatic washing machines.  Great grandmas eyes would have popped out of her head at the sight of disposable nappies – nappies in her day were cleaned, boiled, washed, dried, folded, used and then they went through the cycle again the next day.  Great grandma had never heard of frozen pizzas, Kentucky Fried, and instant cake mixes. In her day a lot of hard work went into providing food for the family – things like butter, cheese, sausages, meat, bread and pie crusts – all made in her own kitchen.    

There is no doubt about it – the lives of great grandpa and grandma were busy and full and from the stories I’ve heard the menfolk spent long days working on farms and in factories and the women of the do-it-yourself generation were busy but in spite of their hectic lives there was one day that all this stopped.  One day was set aside for God and the family – Sunday. 

Off to church and catching up with relatives and friends in the churchyard afterwards.  Home to mum’s special roast dinner where the family and relatives sat down to a meal that lasted half the afternoon – lots of talking and the kids getting up to all kinds of tricks while the adults were relaxing. 

Today we have all the gadgetry and instant products at our fingertips that are promoted as time saving devices but do we have more time on our hands than great grandma?  That’s a stupid question, really, because we all say that in spite of the things we have today that great grandma didn't have, we don’t have more time, in fact, we are time poor.  We complain more than ever before that we don’t have enough time.  If we could we would blame time for being so inconsiderate and not slowing to allow us to catch up.

But there is nothing wrong with time. Time doesn’t really fly.  The clock ticks away at the same speed every day, day in and day out.  The days of the week, the years pass by at the same speed as they have since the dawn of time.  But isn’t it strange how we have the perception that time travels faster than when we were younger?  This is a phenomenon of getting older.  As a child we thought that our birthdays would never come.  It seemed that the days passed ever so slowly.  Now those of us who are older wonder where the past year has gone, or perhaps the last 30 years.

The fault doesn’t lie with time itself.  We do have the time.  It’s the way we use time.  We have allowed the things in our lives to gobble up so much of our time.  We lose time paying for these things, repairing, trading-in, keeping these things, playing with these things, or going to these things, driving our children to these things, being entertained by these things.  You see, there is nothing wrong with any of these things. It’s the way we use the things in our lives.  We allow them to devour our time and leave us with little time to do what really matters.

Just as God gave great grandma the time she needed to do all that was required for her family, so too he gives us the time we need to do everything that is important.  He gives us the time to enjoy ourselves.  God gives us time to work, to worship, to pray, to spend with our families, to serve and help others.  As the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (3:1).  God gives us adequate time to do everything that is important.  When we haven’t got time for the important things, then you can be sure that we haven’t managed our time very well.

Paul says in our text today as he writes to the Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Paul is encouraging his readers to be wise, that is, to know how to make good choices by listening to the Holy Spirit and living as God's chosen and holy people. 

“Be wise”, he says. “Don’t be like those who don’t know any better.  Make the most of the time you have”.  I believe the words Paul uses here are borrowed from the market place.  They literally mean to snap up all the bargains that are available.  Time is a priceless commodity. 
Snap it up because it is only offered once;
it comes at a bargain price from God;
it is worthwhile investing in this commodity now because the offer will pass and will not be offered again;
it is offered just for a moment and then it is gone.
So snap it up now.  Those who are able to do this, Paul calls “wise”.  He doesn’t mean wise in the sense that they are very clever and have intellectual achievements with letters after their names.  Rather to be wise is to know God and to steer away from all that displeases him.  The wise person in this case is the one who “makes the most of every opportunity”. 

Paul then adds to this the phrase, “Because the days are evil”.  There are many things that entice people to use their time unwisely.  Time is not to be used for selfish and evil purposes. 
Every time we sin we are using time unwisely. 
Every time we slander, gossip, fight, are abusive, unkind, impatient we are not using our time wisely. 
Every time we manage to squeeze God and other people out of our busy lives we are being unwise. 

God provides us with time and opportunities to serve the people in our families, the church, in fact, anyone who needs us, and yet we see time to be used only to serve ourselves. 
God provides us with the opportunities to show love, to be kind, understanding, helpful and yet we fill that time with unkindness, lack of understanding, selfishness and a spirit of unco-operation. 
The Holy Spirit gives us the time and opportunities to be God's people to make a difference in the lives of the people around us and instead we let evil win the day. 

This poem provides us with a focus on the way we miss out on the important things and let the opportunities that we have been given slip away.

There are fathers
waiting until other obligations
are less demanding
to become acquainted with their sons…
There are mothers who…
sincerely intend to be more attentive
to their daughters…
There are husbands and wives
who are going to be more understanding…
but time does not draw people closer…
When in the world
are we going to begin to live
as if we understood that this is life?
This is our time, our day … and it is passing.
What are we waiting for?

(What Are We Waiting For? By Richard L. Evans)

It's easy to see that we have unwisely used the time God has given us.  We have failed to snap up the bargain offered to us.  We have been frantic and frenzied – that’s not what God intended for us. In spite of the urgings of the Holy Spirit to be wise and know what is God's way in preference to the ways of the world, we foolishly don’t snap up the time that God has given us to use for his glory and for blessing of ourselves and others.

That’s why he sent us a Saviour.  That’s why Jesus died on a cross.  That’s why he adopted us into his family through our baptism.  That’s why he feeds us his body and blood and assures us again and again that we are forgiven, that all of the things we done to waste time are forgiven.  God forgives all of this, even those wasted hours that we don’t even feel bad about.  All of our misspent hours were nailed with Jesus on the cross.

As his forgiven people we are challenged to use our time wisely caring for our bodies through recreation and leisure time, spending time with our families, making the most of our working hours, spending time with God reading his Word, worshipping, and praying.  That’s the challenge.  Be very careful, then, how you live ... making the most of every opportunity. 

May God help us snap up the bargain he offers us every day - the bargain of time - and use it wisely.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
19th August 2012

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