Sunday’s sermon: Waking Up: Those First Delicate Moments

Text used – Ephesians 2:1-10



  • I want to introduce you to a book this morning. (A shocker from me, I know.) It’s a book that was part of my first round of doctorate readings, and it’s one of those books that just grabs a hold of you. It’s one of those books that, as I was reading it, I felt like I could have underlined just about every paragraph on every page. It’s one of those books that is perspective-shifting.
    • Book: Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren[1] → [READ THE BACK] “Come and discover the holiness of your every day.” After the upheaval of our “every day”s, the unexpected tedium of working from home and schooling from home and shopping from home and everything from home, and the general uncertainty and unrest in the world right now, it struck me as a very, very good time for us to attempt to open our eyes to the ways God is working in even most ordinary, banal moments of our days. Because I think we could all use some flashes and glimpses of God right now, right?
      • Especially important because I think we often struggle to find God in the “normal” moments – in our regular, day-to-day, often automatic routines → I mean, it’s easy for us to find God in the mountaintop moments – those moments that have us soaring on joy and excitement and awe. Likewise, it’s easy for us to turn to God in the darkest valley moments – those moments when we are overwhelmed by fear and pain and grief.
        • Warren addresses this: Alfred Hitchcock said movies are “life with the dull bits cut out.” Car chases and first kisses, interesting plot lines and good conversations. We don’t want to watch our lead character going on a walk, stuck in traffic, or brushing his teeth – at least not for long, and not without a good soundtrack. We tend to want a Christian life with the dull bits cut out. Yet God made us to spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?[2] → So this summer, we’re going to wind our way through this book, examining some of those most boring, ordinary elements of our daily routines in the hopes of finding God and worshiping God not in spite of those moments, but earnestly and wholeheartedly through those moments.
  • Start today with something as simple as WAKING UP
    • Warren’s description of “waking up”: I wake slowly, Even when the day demands I rally quickly – when my kids leap on top of me with sharp elbows or my alarm blares – I lie still for the first few seconds of the day, stunned, orienting, thoughts dulled. Then comes, slowly, the dawning of plans to make and goals for the day. But in those first delicate seconds, the bleary-eyed pause of waking, before the tasks begin, before I get on my game, I’m greeted again with the truth of who I am in my most basic self.[3] → Throughout her first chapter, Warren links those “first delicate seconds” after waking up to grace and the newness of baptism.
      • Baptism, in a way, is a waking up
        • Warren speaks of Jesus’ baptism as related in the gospels → (as far as we know) Jesus had a perfectly ordinary life up to that moment (growing up with his parents and his siblings, running and playing with the other kids in Nazareth, learning the carpentry trade from Joseph, eating and sleeping and skinning his knee and worshiping at the Temple and the local synagogue with his community) → à Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove with God’s proclamation of claiming Jesus as God’s own Son → Jesus’ birth into his ministry → From that point on, even as the water from the Jordan continued to drip from Jesus’ hair and beard and run in rivers off his soaking robes, his life was different. Everything was different.
        • Baptism for us may not be quite as dramatic an event, but through the waters of baptism and the grace of God, we are still named and claimed by the power of the Holy Spirit
          • From our Book of Order: Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God’s redeeming grace offered to all people. Baptism is at once God’s gift of grace, God’s means of grace, and God’s call to respond to that grace. Through Baptism, Jesus Christ calls us to repentance, faithfulness, and discipleship. Through Baptism, the Holy Spirit gives the Church its identity and commissions the Church for service in the world.[4] → Just like we claim and reclaim our identity after those first delicate seconds of waking every morning, so God’s grace through baptism claims and reclaims us each and every day.
  • This is where our Scripture reading for this morning comes in.
    • Context for the letter to the church at Ephesus[5]
      • One of those books that, while it was attributed to Paul for a long time, scholars now agree probably wasn’t actually written by Paul → many elements of Paul’s writing (word choice, sentence structure, overall format of the letter itself, etc.) don’t match up BUT that doesn’t make it any less important → it’s still a letter attesting to meaningful and significant elements of our faith
      • Because of the way in which Ephesians was written, Biblical scholars have also found it difficult to glean a lot of specific social or historical context. Basically, we don’t actually know much of anything about the Christian community to whom this letter was written: what kind of trials they were facing, what their strengths as a community might have been, or even whether they had an already-established relationship with Paul, any of his helpers/disciples, or any of the other disciples who were spreading the gospel message at the same time as Paul.
      • What we do know about Ephesus itself[6]
        • Ancient port city
        • Location: modern-day Turkey (ruins visible and well-preserved but no longer a city in and of itself)
        • Once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the Mediterranean region
        • Surprisingly, much of the history of this important city is unrecorded
        • But we do know that Ephesus was a center of worship for the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt and the wilderness. Significant portions of the Temple of Artemis still draw thousands of tourists every year today.
    • So it is into this jumbled context that these words that we read this morning were written and preached – text: At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. … However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace![7] → In those first moments after waking up – those “first delicate seconds,” as Warren calls them – we have the bliss of a completely blank slate. These are the moments before you remember the pains and disappointments of yesterday. These are the moments before the “not yet done”s of yesterday and the “to do”s of today rush in on you. These are the moments before you have to think about where you need to go and who you need to be today. These are the moments when we are barely even conscious. And yet even in this most hazy, undefinable, nebulous moment, God is already loving us, lifting us, claiming us with profound and very real grace.
      • Warren: Before we begin the liturgies of our day – the cooking, sitting in traffic, emailing, accomplishing, working, resting – we begin beloved. My works and worship don’t earn a thing. … We wake not to vague or general mercy from a far-off God. God, in delight and wisdom, has made, named, and blessed this average day.[8] → These moments of first waking in the mercy and love of God is crucial because it is in these moments – when we haven’t had the time or wherewithal to even roll over, let alone get up or do anything worthwhile – it is in these moments that God’s unconditional love and unearned grace have already greeted us and enfolded us. Not because of something we’ve done … because we haven’t done anything yet! But because God is God, and God loves us.
      • Text: You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.[9] → Sounds like a pretty beautiful way to wake up, doesn’t it? Waking to the gift of God’s salvation. Waking to the mercy of a God who created you for good things. Waking to a grace as warm and comforting as the blanket that still covers you. All thanks to a God who is there the second you open your eyes. Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2016.

[2] Warren, 21-22.

[3] Warren, 15.

[4] “Theology of Baptism” in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – Part II: Book of Order 2019-2021. (Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly, 2019), W-3.0402.

[5] Pheme Perkins. “The Letter to the Ephesians: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 11. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000), 351-365.


[7] Eph 2:1-2a, 4-5.

[8] Warren, 20, 21.

[9] Eph 2:8-10 (emphasis added).