In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
There was once a king of Israel called Hezakiah, who was offered a second chance.
Hezekiah was ill and had reached the point of death.
Jerusalem was also under siege by the Assyrian army and faced destruction
It was at this time that a prophet named Isaiah came to Hezakiah and said:
Thus says the Lord, set your house in order, for you surely shall die.
I must say Im not impressed by this Prophets bedside manner!
After the prophet spoke to him, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall.
He grieved for himself and prayed.
He asked God to remember the times he had been faithful
To remember the good things he had done.
He wept bitterly.
He did not want to die
He did not want Jerusalem to be destroyed.
Then the prophet returned to Hezakiah with a new message from God
"I have heard your prayers and seen your tears. I will add 15 years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria and defend this city."
After his recovery Hezakiah reflected
Some good will have to come out of this experience.
Gods given me another fifteen years!
He has forgiven me!
I want to live my life better than I have
So Hezakiah went on to change his life and his people followed his example.
Centuries later, shortly after Jesus died on the cross, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the new Christians of the church at Ephesus, asking them to change their lives.
Ephesus was a beautiful ancient city with an open theatre, Roman baths, a hospital, plumbing and a grand library that was three stories high with columns at the front.
But there was a lot of immorality and this worried Paul.
For example, a man told me this story. "The men would tell their wives they were going to the library and when they got there they would go down into the basement into a tunnel that went under one of main streets to the whorehouse on the other side of the street. Then they would go back the library the same way they came and go home."
It could be true. On the path outside a building opposite the library is a picture of a lady, with prices carved into the stone footpath.
The Romans also liked to sit on rows of open toilets carved into stone on the rooftops of their homes and watch dancing women and drink and feast.
There was also a lot of violence, people stole from each other, slandered each other, lied and behaved in ways that degraded them.
Some of the people of Ephesus had become Christians, but they struggled to live as Gods people.
Paul had a lot to worry about.
So Pauls letter calls on them to act with love towards each other and put aside behaviour that was destructive and divided the community.
Paul begins by saying: Be angry
Being angry is normal
We all get angry.
But dont sin, by allowing the anger to fester.
Make up before the end of the day and forgive one another.
Behave in a way that fosters unity and peacemaking within the community.
The letter to Ephesians has a message for all churches.
To put Christ at the heart of the community
For all members to encourage each other
To live in love
To be open to the Holy Spirit
To engage in life giving behaviour
It is possible to change.
Sometimes things happen to us in life that force us to take stock of our lives and want to live them better.
That offer us a chance to come closer to God and embrace the way of life in Christ, Paul invited the Ephesians to embrace.
Being intentionally kind and loving towards each other and people in the wider community, is a challenge.
But in a world torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we the church have a vocation to be living signs of love that can bridge divisions and heal wounds.
We can only achieve this by turning and turning again to Christ and by following him and his example.
Hezakiah was offered a second chance and he took it and went on to live a better life in God ways and his people followed his example.
His story offers a message for all leaders, for everyone.
In the letter to the Ephesians Paul challenged the people to change and live a life in a more loving way that fostered unity and peace within the Christian community. He believed in people in the church at Ephesus.
We need to do Christs will and live like this too.
Loving God, help us to be visible signs of your unconditional love in the world, in Jesus name we ask this. Amen.