We've arrived at the midpoint of our summer series on Ephesians. The first week we heard that God calls and predestines us according to his eternal plan. President Lincoln summed it up with these famous words: "As was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'".
God's plan, as we saw in the second week, involves breaking down the wall of enmity between Jew and Greek. That competition sometimes led to name calling and even violence. Only Jesus can break down the wall of enmity. The early Christians took the best from both Hebrew revelation and Greek rational philosophy.
Last week we entered into the specifics of how God wants us to live: Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received - with patience bearing with one another. We saw the example of Sister Barbara with her symbols - the turtle and the sunflower. As that flower turns toward the sun so we strive to turn toward God: Of you my heart has spoken, seek his face. Doing that enables us to move forward steadily like a turtle - but only if a person is willing to stick out his neck.
This ties right in with our theme today: Put away the old self - and put on the new self. Or as we used to say, "Put away the old man." This does not mean send gramps to a nursing home - or get a young pastor (although that might be nice). The problem is the young can be old in St. Paul's sense.
Someone - maybe a little cynical - observes this about Millennials: We can learn a lot from them, but they themselves have nothing to learn.* Well, that's extreme. The point is that a person becomes old when he has nothing to learn.
Not all young people feel that way. A book that has gain popularity among young people, especially young men, is Dr. Jordan Peterson's Twelve Rules for Life. I like rule number 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't. That means to ask questions and listen. It seems few people do that today. We've gotten old.
It wasn't that way with Jesus. The Gospel shows Jesus in constant dialogue. He asks questions and fields questions. He proposes puzzles: "My father gives you true bread from heaven." And the people say, "Give us this bread always." Jesus responds next week. In order to hear his answer you have to become a new man. You will need some curiosity.
Paul says put away your old self - corrupted by deceitful desires. The ruler of this world constantly deceives. He invented fake news. Fake news works best if it contains an element of truth. For example, beer is good. The devil says, well, if one beer is good, two are better and best of all is a six-pack! The evil one says: A couple more drinks, a more powerful drug, a new porn site, one more shopping trip - and you'll have peace, no more anxiety. The devil promises peace and delivers misery.
Jesus calls for sacrifice and in the end gives real peace: Take up your cross - that burden, that backpack God has placed in your path. That's what Sister Barbara did when she made permanent vows at age 19, then repeated them annually for 65 years.
Take up your backpack, whatever it is. Put on the new self - created in God's way of righteousness: not self-righteousness, but right relations with God, with his creation, with others. As Paul will say succinctly: Live in love as Christ loves us.
Today's message is simple: Put away the old self corrupted by deceitful desires and put on the new self created in God's way in righteousness.
*This is nothing new. As Mark Twain said, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years." Today the time span has increased: When I was ten...but when I got to be thirty-five. Now it takes twenty-five years for the old man to learn something. Be patient. :)