“Don’t get drunk”…“be filled with the Spirit”

Posted Nov 28, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Ephesians 5:15-21

15 So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. 16 Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. 17 Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. 18 Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19 speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 20 always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.

Reflection Questions

In the ancient world, as today, some people tried to numb themselves against life’s pains by drinking too much wine (as well, of course, as other substance-based and behavioral escape mechanisms). To Christians in the city of Ephesus, Paul wrote that psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and always giving thanks to God were a better way.

  • Jesus told the Samaritan woman he met at Jacob’s Well that the living water he would give her would be “a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life” (John 4:14). That same sense of bubbling, overflowing gratitude and life filled today’s reading. When have you most clearly sensed the joy, meaning and acceptance that God gives bubbling within you? In what ways have you been best able to express your thanks for God’s gift?
  • The Message paraphrased Paul’s counsel in verses 18-19 with these words: “Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs!” Can gratitude to God be “intoxicating,” even habit-forming? Have you ever been in that condition, and if so, what was the experience like? What are some of the life benefits of having a “gratitude habit”?

Prayer

Lord God, thank you for the times when you did great things for me and for your people. Help me to live trusting that, sooner or later, you always act to lift us up and bring us joy. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

“Don’t get drunk on wine” (v. 18). It’s a bit shocking that Paul has to warn Christians about getting drunk. I tend to forget that people in all times of history have tried to distract themselves from life’s pain. Drunkenness can dull the disappointments of life, distract from the sharp edges of relationships, and numb us from the inflammatory news cycle. 

But it is not only wine that we use to numb and distract. There are many “drugs of choice”—gossip, work, social media or even sports—we use when life overwhelms or when we no longer know how to relax. 

It can be a relief to binge on news or gossip about others’ lives as a way to avoid facing our own. We may self-medicate with over-work or over-commitment, too numb to feel so that we cannot be “filled with Spirit” in the present moment. 

Of course, we need times of rest and recreation. Sometimes binge-watching a few episodes of a favorite show gives me the break I need. But other times, it dulls me into sleep-walking through my own life. 

How can we tell whether our choices are more like “getting drunk” or being “filled with the Spirit?” I have to pay attention to the fruit it cultivates in my life. I try to ask myself, Does this lead me to “speak to each other with psalms” and to “make music to the Lord in my heart?  

What is your “drug of choice?” Work? Gossip? Wine? What keeps you distracted from what God might be up to in your life? What refreshes you and re-connects you to gratitude and praise? May we all cultivate the fruit that brings Life!

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