Preacher: Akesa Fakava
Message: "Be Unconstrained"
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
It is truly a joy to be with you this morning and I am so grateful to have been able to participate virtually in your journey this past 15 months and cheering your emerging and returning to in-person worship, but also blessed to have learned through the amazing work you intentionally took on during these past 15 months.
For over 25 years now, Jeffrey Arnett, who is a Professor of the Department of Psychology at Clark University, is known as the originator of the term and theory he calls, “emerging adulthood” which he describes as the phase between adolescence and young adulthood.
In his many interviews what he found amongst this group of people was a common theme of perceived “feeling in between.”
Of notable interest is his assertion that this trend resulted in the U.S. from social and economic changes and seeks to urge others to continue to explore the way of life and paths of progress for emerging adults.
In reading what he identifies as the five features of emerging adults piqued my curiosity during this period that we find ourselves emerging from the complete shut-down of our daily lives that include daily activities and practices as a result of a global pandemic and re-evaluating what life was pre-COVID on our way to what we desire most: post-COVID. The five features of emerging adults as described by Arnett are:
Feeling in between, and
I’m not going to do an in-depth review of each of the steps as it relates to the age groups Arnett studies; however, I would like to draw some parallel for our own evaluation over our journey of the last 15 months and our going forward.
Looking at last year when the world around each of us came to a stop from our normal activities, we found ourselves in a very unstable time for varying reasons especially the social unrest and needed personal and social evaluation following the death of George Floyd and so many others that encouraged you to do some self-focused work. I must say how grateful I was to be part of Epworth’s extended family that allowed me to take part in your journey of learning and self-awareness with the desire of understanding to make a change for myself and share what I learn with others.
We arrive in this moment where I feel we are in that liminal space of “in between.” You’ve been emerging over this last month as you returned to worship in the sanctuary.
While we are emerging, all of us are in different stages of comfort. Some excited to be in community and yet some of us are struggling trying to re-gain comfort of feeling safe to be in community again as much as we yearn for community because we were made to be with others where we find friendship and support for each other and our neighbors.
Doesn’t help with that uncertainty to be in community when we hear the COVID cases rise and the announcement from health officials that went into effect this past Tuesday, August 3, where seven Bay Area counties issued new health orders requiring indoor masking. Regardless of vaccination status, with limited exceptions that include preaching, all must wear face coverings in all indoor public settings, gatherings, and workplaces.
In this morning’s scripture from the letter of Paul to the people of Ephesus, the scriptures we heard read from Ephesians 4:25-5:2 was the Apostle Paul speaking to the people who were new to the Christian faith providing words of encouragement and guidelines for their new life as a people, like us, who chose to follow in the way of Jesus.
There’s a boldness in Paul’s approach of directness to the people of Ephesus; we know that Paul is passionate and doesn’t mince words. However, there is also a deep relationship with the Ephesians because Paul spent 3 years with this community in Ephesus and knows them, loves them and has helped them develop and grow in their faith.
As a result of spending time with them, he cares for them deeply and wants to nurture their journey of faith. But at the same time, Paul knows the challenges of daily living when there is uncertainty or challenges arise which can make people anxious, fearful, distrustful, and bad behaviors can get out of hand if not addressed. So we hear of the guidelines that Paul is giving the Ephesians the reminders to help them live and more importantly grow together.
Earlier in verses 14-15 of Chapter 4, he tells them “We will no longer be babies in the faith. We won’t be like ships tossed around by the waves. We won’t be blown here and there by every new teaching. We won’t be blown around by cleverness and tricks. This is important because certain people use their teachings to hide their personal agendas and ideas. BUT 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love. So we will grow up in every way to become the body of Christ where Christ is the head of the body. For me that means, that the love that Jesus modeled and invites us to live into is the goal of daily living.
Key is verse 15 and the reminder that some of us may be good in speaking or addressing the truth, but we may neglect to be loving. And some of us are good at being loving in our speaking, but we struggle with addressing things truthfully or directly when the truth is hard to deliver. What Paul is reminding us is to do both: speak the truth but do so in a loving manner. It is a “both and” instead of just the easy option of doing just one where it can be devastating or coated with so much sugar that the right message is not received.
With that backdrop, we hear Paul’s guidelines for being together in a community that cares for each other means we are honest with each other and extend grace for the other.
While I am sure this is not the case for the Epworth family here, the Apostle Paul acknowledges that being in community will mean there are times that we are in disagreement with one another. Paul is saying that when that happens, the care and love we have for each other helps us to not hold on to that anger, irritation or frustration. The words from verse 26 acknowledges that it is ok and healthy to feel and acknowledge anger, but do not “let the sun go down on your anger.” The reminder that prolonged anger causes harm to ourselves, those we care for, those around us, and those we want to be with. Paul further says in verse 31-32, “put away from you all the bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” and forgiven me.
Paul was reminding people that it is important to acknowledge our feelings but not to let those feelings guide our actions. Then he speaks directly to how we can get past those feelings of anger, irritation or frustration with care for each other.
We understand the meaning of the words “to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another but it is a process of intentional work and is not mastered immediately. That process of refining or what some may refer to as purification; making a change.
Reminds me of the purification process for gold; something so beautiful. While there are a range of scientific and technological ways gold can be purified, refining ore in a rock as a result of mining for gold goes through a process known as trial by fire at a refinery where it is re-liquified in a super-hot furnace that eventually leads to the separation of the gold from impurities and other metal traces.
Paul’s words to us this morning is the same as it was for the Ephesians, where in Chapter 5, verses 1 and 2 we are invited to be full of love for others and live in love as Christ loved us.
It is not always easy, but we can acknowledge the anger, irritation, pain and frustration and still choose to lead with love.
When we are able to do that, we are able to do things that we had not considered possible because we are motivated by love. That is what I have experienced and come to know about you my Epworth family. The way you care about each other and care beyond your doors. That is a gift to be able to put aside our feelings to come together as a group for a common good.
Coming back to Professor Arnett’s five features of emerging adults which are:
Feeling in between, and
I want to close with looking at the last feature: possibilities. Over the last 15 months, you’ve done the heart work of self-focus and understanding ourselves and the other more. I believe it is in the possibilities is where we are in this moment. The opportunity to draw the circle even wider. To be unbounded by the limitations of the past. You, God’s beloved Epworth community have continued to change your thought process by not being constrained by what is “lacking” and instead lean into your faith to make space in time, your talents and resources to journey with others.
You dreamed space for the community and a building fund was developed and executed on; you dreamed an elevator to help with accessibility challenges and work is underway. You care for those that need accompaniment and you made space even if not all agreed but you did to help others. There’s fires raging and so harmful for all living creatures and people in Dixie and Greenville where our neighbors need help with prayers for all, as well as our emergency responders. They need prayers and support; please help.
In this time of possibilities when we are coming out albeit slowly from a global pandemic, my prayer and ask of you is to embrace the exciting opportunity to be unbound by the limitations or hesitations of the past. Dream a bigger dream and yes acknowledge the limitations, but then continue to do the refining work to move past them. Do not be constrained by the thoughts of the past but instead continue to focus on what is needed to achieve that vision.
Be bold in your faith journey and help others do the same! Be unbounded by the past. When the first reaction is “no, we can’t do that because….” do not be discouraged; be unconstrained by the thoughts of the past and challenge yourself to choose to continue to lean into God’s lure to dream a bigger dream for this community of faith’s impact because of your love for others. Don’t let the lessons of the last 15 months be wasted; embrace the possibilities where hopefulness reigns! You have the capacity, understanding, and ability to do so and please, please share your best practices with the rest of us! May God continue to bless you abundantly. Amen.
Order of Worship
The Community Gathers...
Rev. Jerry Asheim
Michael Martin, lay leader
Opening Music: "Lord, I Want to be a Christian "
Judy Kriege & Judy Cayot
To Hear the Word...
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
*Passing the Peace
You are invited to turn to the people around you and bow to each other as a sign of graceful greetings this day.
Anthem: "Where love is, there is God"
Annette Cayot, Gregg Richardson
Message: "Be Unconstrained"
To Respond and Renew Commitment...
*Hymn of Response: "Purify My Heart"
Worship & Song #3103
Prayers of the People:
Leader: God of love, People: Hear our prayers.
If you have a prayer request or are interested in longer-term spiritual accompaniment from a Stephen Minister, please email email@example.com, or send a text message with the word "Prayer" to: +1-510-588-5055.
The Prayer Jesus Taught (The Lord's Prayer)
Our Creator (Father/Mother), who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom (kin-dom) come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom (kin-dom), and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Offering Our Resources and our Energy
Give online at www.epworthberkeley.org/donate or, send a text message with the dollar amount you wish to give to +1-833-276-7680.
Offertory: "The blood will never lose its power"
Praise be to God, who breathes the breath of life. Praise to the Christ who sets us free. Praise the Spirit whose wind and fire give power to move and light to see. As it was before the world began, is here and now and evermore. Alleluia! Praise the three-in-one whom we worship and adore.
Prayer of Dedication
To Go Forth with Love and Compassion
*Closing Hymn: "Love Divine All Love's Excelling"
UM Hymnal #384
Postlude: "Now Thank We All Our God"
Rev. Jerry Asheim
Special Thanks to:
Preacher: Akesa Fakava
Participants: Rev. Jerry Asheim, Annette Cayot, Judy Cayot, Susan Jardin, Judy Kriege, Caroline Lee, Charles Lynch, Michael Martin, Gregg Richardson
Audio engineer: Paul Nasman
Podcast producer: Ethan Toven-Lindsey
Livestream producer: Merrie Bunt
Prayers ©2021 enfleshed. Hymns reprinted/streamed with permission under ONE LICENSE # A-733809, CCLI Copyright license # 20022935, & CCLI Streaming license # 20476749. All rights reserved.