We were nearly there. Salzburg, Austria was the destination. I was 14 years of age and on a school trip by train having a wonderful time. We headed through Germany and pulled into the station at Munich ready for the final leg. Not one for listening to instructions I along with a small group of students remained at the back of the train, only for that carriage to become the front in Munich. So as the other students set off in one direction we also followed for a short time but unbeknown to us there had been another engine connected to our carriage and some extra carriages added behind us and very soon we veered off into Switzerland. We didn’t realise it until we got off the train in its final destination of Zurich. The train journey to Zurich was lovely. The six students had a great time. We were laughing and looking out of the window and thoroughly enjoying our journey going in the wrong direction. Even when we got off the train and seeing the sign of Zurich because our geography was rubbish we didn’t think it wasn’t Austria. There had been no ticket inspector, no guidance along the way, just us with our joy and freedom totally unaware that we were heading in the wrong direction. The story does have a happy ending!
The Apostle Paul after a glorious exuberant burst of praise in chapter 1, now brings us crashing to the floor, only to build a new crescendo again of the beautiful work of Christ.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Ephesians 2:1-3
It’s like Paul is reminding us of where our position was prior to meeting Jesus.
We followed a way.
All of us, not just the Gentiles, but the Jews also. All of us, not just those first generation followers, but those born into the Christian faith. All of us were dead, helpless and oblivious in the following of a way which was heading in the wrong direction. We may not have been miserable and in pain but we were heading towards it and we may have given such misery and pain to others along the way.
We lived for this world.
This present age is dead compared to the age to come. It seems a long time ago when we were deeply concerned about our oceans and plastic; the disintegration of the family; poverty and foodbanks; morals; it isn’t and these problems are still in this world as we contend with covid-19 and address racism and discrimination again because we failed to root it out.
We had someone at work in us.
There was a boundary that should not have been crossed (transgression) and a mark that should not have been missed (sin) but we all have done it. Do you know the uncomfortable feeling of walking into a room and the atmosphere was toxic? You could taste it. The corruption from governments, through the media moguls and even to abusive pulpits is stained by the ruler of the kingdom of the air, Satan. A corrupted spirit at work behind people corrupting them to be even more corrupt is our greatest enemy that leaves us helpless and dead.
Now for the important point. Paul says two important words: “you were”.
He is reminding them of what they were and not what they are now. So we need to call out loud and clear and begin in the Church because we are guilty of hypocrisy if we do not.
THIS IS NOT THE WAY. You may be enjoying yourself. But you can feel good and be going in the wrong direction. LOVE GOD LOVE OTHERS. Anything else is not the way.
THIS IS NOT THE WORLD TO COME. Why should we be concerned about how we live and we treat others? Why should we break up the foundations of our lives and the Church? Why should we deconstruct? Why should we root out all prejudice for example? It is because none of this is in the new world to come. We should live as citizens of the new world in this present one.
THIS IS NOT THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Speaking the truth, if not done in love, is the work of a different spirit and of course so is withholding the truth to benefit. A leader recently said, “How would I describe this Church? Toxic!” I was speechless. How can a church be poisonous? Maybe some churches should not congregate post-lockdown. Everyone seems to be talking about viewing figures of our brilliant church online programmes. It has its place for sure. But let’s focus on the viewer who spotlights our lives and not our programmes.
But this isnt now. Is it?
This is what we once were.
I Was Helpless.