“Walk with Purpose”
Pentecost 12, August 15, 2021
Children Walking in the Light
Text: Ephesians 5:6–21
If you’re a teacher, maybe you know this. Educators have done studies on how kids spend their days at school—how many minutes are spent reading at their desks, how many minutes sharpening their pencils, how many minutes are spent going to the restroom or the drinking fountain (bubbler). They have figured this stuff down to the minute. There is one activity we might not expect: “walking with no purpose.” That’s right: “walking with no purpose.” Studies have found that in a normal day, a very normal child will spend a certain number of minutes simply walking from here to there for no good reason. I think that is curious, and interesting.
We are children of God, and our lives as Christians are often described as a walk, as St. Paul does in our text today, our Epistle from Ephesians 5. Are we walking with no purpose? I hope not. If our walk has a purpose, it’s because of what Jesus has made us as God’s children. Paul encourages us in our text to Walk as Children of Light—We should all Walk/Live with a Purpose.
The fact is it’s not just schoolchildren who walk with no purpose. People of all ages, who do not know God or who have rejected God, spend their lives walking through life not knowing what it’s really all about. In our text, Paul calls this darkness. “For at one time,” Paul says, “you were darkness” (v 8a). Darkness means no God.
We live in a dark world filled with sin and filled with the effects of sin. For as many ways as people have tried to redefine it, excuse it, redecorate, or hide it, the fact is sin is at the bottom of what makes life and relationships difficult, painful, and worrisome sometimes.
Such purposeless walking began, of course, with that original sin/deception, when the devil talked Adam and Eve into eating of the tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from. The devil convinced them they would be like God. Instead, they just learned what sin was, and soon found themselves walking out of the garden with no purpose.
So that we might know the truth about sin, God gave His Law. The Ten Commandments reveal that because of sin we worship idols, counting other things as more important than the one true God. Because of sin, we use God’s name only to condemn others or justify ourselves. Because of sin, we ignore God’s Word and forget to worship Him. Because of sin, our relationships with others—mother and father, wife and husband, enemies and friends, co-workers and strangers—all these are disrupted or damaged.
And none of these actions serves any meaningful purpose. Is there any sin that you have done that you can look back on and say, “Man, I sure am glad I did that!” Paul says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (v 11). “Unfruitful works.” No purpose. And v 18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” These things are the sorts of things we do naturally, they are common, but they do not accomplish anything.
That is the way of the world out there. We are told, by popular music, by TV, by movies, in school, to do whatever you can get away with, that there is no point to life, just get pleasure where you can. An internet Hollywood columnist who I follow wrote that the meaning to life is just to reproduce. All there is to life is to just “be.” Knowing this, why does it surprise us when we see people misbehaving, from the guy on I-35 who road raged another vehicle into the concrete barrier, to any mass shooting? What should we expect when our culture says we are all here by accident? What should we expect when our culture says that life has no meaning?
That is what our culture is telling us. And when it comes to what we discuss here? To them, this is all is just a fairy tale. We need to be on guard against what they are selling. It is so easy to let their philosophy sneak into our thoughts. We cannot let them guide our thinking. Our chief source of wisdom should not be what’s out there.
Let me give you an example of earthly wisdom. Some years ago there was a story going around about a guy named Charlie Stink. Charlie Stink was always being told by his friends and co-workers that he should change his name. He finally succumbed to their pestering and went to court to change his name. The next day he went to work and they asked him what his new name was. “He replied, Well, now my name is George Stink, but for the life of me I can’t see what difference it’s going to make!”
Have you seen what passes for wisdom out there? Have you heard what so many politicians, actors, and so-called experts are saying that we just hear this stuff and go: “What?” We should not be looking out there for wisdom. We need to find our Wisdom in God’s Word.
Now some Good News. Because we were slaves to sin and unable to free ourselves, God in His mercy decided to save us. His mercy shines like a beacon of light, of hope. Right off the bat, He promised to Adam and Eve a Savior from sin (Gen 3:15). This light of salvation burned as hope in God’s people through the centuries until that light God sent hung over Bethlehem on Christmas, when “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14).
Jesus said of His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). By our Baptism into Jesus Christ, He lives in us, His light is in here. That is why Paul is able to say in our text, “Now you are light in the Lord . . . as children of light” (v 8).
Suddenly, we see things in a whole new way. We see God for who He really is: not distant, not way up in heaven, not uninterested in our lives, but here, present, eager to have a relationship with each one of us. That’s what Jesus lets us see in His light. God is not angry and keeping score on how well we keep His Commandments, but forgiving, not counting our sins against us, because Jesus took them upon Himself on the cross. That’s what we see as children of light.
All that is to say that as children of light, we now have a purpose. Yes, we walk with purpose. “Walk as children of light,” Paul says. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (vv 8b, 15–16). We are told that it was St. Augustine who said, “A Christian ought to be an Alleluia from head to toe.” So our walking in the light propels us to joyful worship and, as Paul says, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv 19–20). People should see we are Christians, right away, by what we say, by what we do. They should see it in our selflessness, our politeness, our being nice/kind. We should be light in the darkness.
We end with this: Ken Klass, when he was with the Lutheran Hour, told us how General Electric dug up a time capsule at its Nela Park (Ohio) facility. (This was about ten years ago.) When the 100-year-old time capsule was opened, this is what was inside: There was a copy of a newspaper, The Plain Dealer. There was a photograph of five, very proud and dignified-looking men: General Electric’s board of directors at that time. There were also five incandescent light bulbs.
One of the bulbs was full of water; one of the bulbs had condensation on the inside, but three of the bulbs looked pretty good. Taking a risk, the folks at the time capsule’s opening took one of the bulbs and screwed it in. There was rejoicing all around. The bulb still did what it had been designed to do: it gave light.
As you think of that little light bulb, try to imagine all the changes the world has seen since it was buried 110 years ago. Humanity has seen two world wars, a dust bowl and a global depression, the rise and fall of empires, a bunch of advancements in technology and medicine, men on the moon, and now a global pandemic.
Yes, some things have changed in those years, and some things have not. The guys who built those bulbs are gone. The folks who celebrated when the time capsule was placed are gone. Even those five wealthy, well-dressed men on GE’s board of directors are gone. Some things don’t change.
This is why you and I should rejoice that the Lord’s Light is still doing His job. Almost 2,000 years ago the body of Jesus of Nazareth was placed into a grave, a time capsule, of sorts. By human law, He should have stayed there. But He didn’t. Three days after His burial, Jesus came out of that time capsule and showed to all that He is the Light of the world.
Because of Jesus we were freed from darkness. Because of Him we were moved into the light. Because of Him the dark grave has lost its hold on us, and eternal, forever life is ours. In Jesus, God’s light shines into our darkness.
Let it shine, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let it shine. That’s our purpose, that’s why we’re here.
In the Name of Jesus.