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Sometimes Presentation Is Everything
Dr. Fred Morgan
August 10, 2015
A reading from Ephesians
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,* as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.* Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us* and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
When Cathy & I were first married, I learned there would always be color on the plate of our evening meal. Even today, regardless of the main dish, there is always something green, orange, yellow or red. When I asked why? She answered that presentation of the meal enhances the taste, and indicates there is nutrition on the plate. Sometimes presentation is everything.
Realtors are quick to advise that a home “shows” better when it’s staged. That can mean: removing most of the family pictures, uncluttering closets and bookshelves, having lamps turned on, soft music playing in the background, fresh flowers on tables, and the lingering aroma of cinnamon bread in the kitchen. It’s essential that your home has good curb appeal with trees & shrubs trimmed, lawn moved, sidewalk edged and swept. The total ambiance inside and out of the home is important to the eyes and nose of prospective buyers because presentation is everything.
In shopping malls the smell of baked cookies sometimes are injected into the ventilation system so customers are lured toward the food court. The smell of fresh popcorn always does that for me when I walk into a movie theater. Chefs at Eddie V’s, Sullivan’s and even Chili’s focus on “presentation” of the meal as much the preparation of the entrees. The food must be more than delicious; it must also be attractively displayed because presentation is everything.
So when Paul writes to the Ephesians and to us, he points towards the challenge that form & function are both important. As every church community presents God to the world, it is important that disciples’ demonstrate love as Christ loved, and welcome others as Christ so welcomes us.
In our world, we live house to house, apartment to apartment, townhouse to townhouse, room to room, and cubical to cubical. We drive fender to fender. We work elbow to elbow.
Living up close has its challenges. We love and frustrate the very people with whom we are the closest. 70% of the people admitted to ERs on Saturday night are victim of either domestic abuse or violence among friends. We compete with one another for honors and recognition, power and prestige. Often in families the son competes with father, daughter with mother, sibling with sibling.
Martin Luther, the German Reformer of the 16th century, referred to the Letter to the Ephesians as a “domestic bulletin board,” listing the obligations of members living in Christian communities of faith. The list is meant to help us as we cope with ethical challenges to put away falsehood, put away anger, put away stealing, put away gossip, put away vindictiveness and retribution.
Once there was a boy with anger management issues. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the backyard fence. The first day, the boy hammered 37 nails into the fence. Over the next several days, the number of nails gradually decreased as he began to control his anger. Several weeks later the day finally came when he didn’t lose his temper at all. The boy had learned that it was easier to hold his temper than to drive nails into the fence. Proudly, he reported his success to his father.
Then to his surprise, his father suggested that his son now pull out one nail each day for the day he was able to manager his anger. A few months later, the day finally came when he was able to tell his father that all the nails had been pulled out of the fence.
The father and son walked out to the fence. The father praised his son saying, you have done well, but look at the holes left in the fence. It will never be the same. When you do things in anger, they leave scars just like these. Regardless of how many times you say you are sorry, little wounds are still there.
As a community of faith rooted in the resurrected body of Christ, we cannot hold forth to the world images of noisy rudeness, elbowing self-conceit, bitterness, or anger. It is essential to proclaim the graceful mood of Christ.
With the arrival of Rev. Bruce Lancaster — our Transition Pastor — next month, we begin a journey of review and renewal. Of the 5 essential tasks during this transition period, we will come to terms with our congregational history. A history that is rich, going back to the end of the 19th century. Also, we will discover something of what it means to be University Presbyterian Church on the west side of the University of Texas residential community. All of which will be looking toward 2025 and the next chapter of UPC’s ministry.
Already, steps are being taken with developing a pictorial directory of the community of saints that are today UPC. In addition, an oral history is being gathered from among the members telling their stories of what UPC has meant in the past and who we are in the present. And the courtyard task force has been working diligently to discover the balance between offering hospitality to those who are in need in our midst, as well as welcoming with open arms any and all who would join us in our Christian journey here at UPC. Presentation is everything, especially in communicating the importance of breathing in the Spirit of God on Sunday and breathing out the grace of Christ Monday thru Saturday. Presentation is everything as the UPC community seeks to be empowered by God’s spirit, to follow Jesus Christ and represent the reign of the kingdom of God in the world through worship and service.
Presentation is everything. How you and I present ourselves as a disciple of Jesus Christ does matter.
Let us pray – Bread of heaven, feed us. Word of truth, teach us. Author of life, fit us for eternity amid our days on this earth, that our deeds may honor you. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen