August 15, 2021 “Becoming or Behaving” Rev. Patrick Mecham
Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58
I once heard a teacher describing the kids in his class. He said that some of the kids looked at him while he talked, nodded their heads when he made a point, chuckled when he said something funny, raised their hands when they wanted to speak—basically making his day easier. And then there were others—kids who didn’t seem to listen to him, who never seemed to understand “classroom etiquette,” interrupted his lesson with questions that didn’t seem to relate to the subject at hand, basically making his day more challenging.
His further observations about these two types of students were very interesting. He said that the “cooperative” kids were sometimes only pretending to be paying attention! And, quite frequently, the kids who didn’t seem to be focusing at all were actually taking in a good deal more than he had imagined, and their questions often led to interesting discoveries! His conclusion was that it was impossible to know how much a student was learning based strictly on their behaviors.
One might come to the same conclusion when observing a church: There are plenty of folks who (judging from their behaviors) understand the teachings of Christianity and are living lives in line with what God has planned for them. Some of these folks might be just pretending—acting—keeping up an image of right living but knowing that there are things about themselves that are deeply-flawed (and kept hidden).
Well, our Epistle reading for today presents a clear picture of the ideal life for followers of Christ: Living wisely; making the most of the time; being filled with the Spirit; singing; giving thanks at all times and for everything. And Jesus, in our Gospel reading, says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
How does all this work for you, for me? Let’s take a look!
Behavior and Being
One of my favorite philosophers is Snoopy from the comic strip Peanuts. One day, Snoopy was ruminating on a question: Which is more important—to BE or to DO? (This is very high philosophy, by the way.) To Be or to DO? Which is more important? Snoopy finally decides on Do, Be, Doobie-do!
One thing we must make clear is this: What you DO is not WHO YOU ARE! Have you noticed that, quite often, the first thing we ask a new acquaintance is, “What do you DO?” What we really want is to know what kind of person we are talking to, more of who they are and less of what they do.
Tony Campolo shares an interesting way of answering the question, “What do you do?” He overheard his wife meeting a new person, responding to that question. She could have said, “I am a stay-at-home mom.” But what she said was, “I am socializing two homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition so that they might actively engage in a revolution which ushers in the Kingdom of God.” Wow!
When we look closely at our actions, we discover that actions have consequences. There’s an ironic line from a song that says, “My Maserati does 185. I lost my license, now I don’t drive.” Actions have consequences.
Example: Today’s youth have had to learn the hard way that things that get posted to the internet stay around for years and years. Any future employer or possible future spouse can look up all that information and see what you said, and what pictures you posted. Actions have consequences!
As Jesus says, “You will be known by your fruits.” Lord, have mercy on me!
While we’re talking about our actions, I want to note that it is possible to ACT your way into a new way of BEING. This is because we are choosing beings as well as “feeling beings.” You and I can choose the attitude we wish to have. (Attitude is a choice.) And then we can ACT into that attitude. For example: If I have been insulted, I can choose to let go of the feelings of hurt and simply imagine how a person might act if their feelings were not hurt—and then simply act that way.
–We get to choose our attitude, then select our behaviors that match it.–
This is not being phony—it’s being a person who is becoming all that God has planned for us to be!
Being Genuine and Transparent
As we shift from the idea of “doing” to that of “being,” things get a little more murky. It’s one thing to describe desirable behaviors, and quite another to describe various states of being. Two words that I love are “genuine” and “transparent.”
When a person is genuine, it means that they are being truly themselves, not trying to fool anyone into thinking that they are something other than what they truly are. It’s refreshing to spend time with folks who are genuine, because they are not wasting a lot of energy trying to give you a good impression of themselves, and because they tend to be more non-judgmental and accepting of others.
When a person is transparent, it means that it is easy to see what is going on with them. If they are happy, you can see it. If they are distressed, you can tell. If they are concerned, they show it. It’s life-giving to spend time with people who are transparent, because you don’t have to work hard to know them—they are “an open book.” They, also, tend to be more non-judgmental and accepting of others.
Becoming All God Planned
I once heard someone say that we are not so much “human beings” as we are “human becomings.” THAT’s what Paul means when he talks about “coming to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
Well, if we are “human becomings,” we will want to live into all that God has planned for us. Remember the word from the Lord given to us through the Prophet Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!”
In today’s reading from Ephesians, Paul’s long, convoluted sentence tells us: “Be careful, then, how you live, not as unwise” (this has nothing to do with intelligence) “but as wise” (wisdom is mostly about what we DO with what we know), “making the most of the time” (time meaning both the hours in the day and the TIMES in which we live—paying attention to what new thing God is doing in our times).
“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Foolish is our typical, self-guided mode of operation; whereas understanding God’s will means having a willingness to seek God’s way and live God’s will.)
“Be filled with the Spirit” (rather than substances); “singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts” (this is not about how musical you are, but about having a faith that sings, a faith that can be as contagious as a good song, a faith that gets passed along to others!
“Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything.” (This one will require an entire sermon some other time.)
I want to finish by applying all this to our church family, and how we can help each other. I’ll begin by referring to a tragedy that happened in New York: a young mother was driving home from a large family gathering, and she caused a terrible accident by going the wrong way on the freeway. It resulted in many deaths.
Apparently, no one in her large family even suspected that she was an alcoholic—never imagined that she had had too much to drink that night—or they would certainly NOT have loaded their precious children into her vehicle! This is a tragic story about someone who ACTED sober, one who covered her problem so successfully that she didn’t get the help she needed.
Church: You and I must be aware that the person beside us needs our prayers and our love. Without judgment or condemnation, you and I can participate together in the process of BECOMING–growing into the people God has designed us to be, living lives that will 1. be a blessing to others AND 2. bring glory to God!
Prayer: God, help us to be genuine with each other, transparent to each other, supportive and caring without judgment. Help us to grow into the family you want us to be, we ask in the name of Christ. Amen.