Sermon: Community

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Preached on 22nd January 2017
by Revd Elaine Lindridge

The “Here Is the Church” finger-play that young children enjoy insists that the church is not a building but people.  Do it with me;

Here is the church

Here is the steeple

Open the doors

See all the people.

You CAN have a church

Without any steeple.

But you CAN'T have a church

Without any people.

Let’s be honest with one another. It’s often the people that cause the most problems isn’t it?

Media Clip – Pixar The Birds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzSxEvdgD0c

Ephesians ch 4 vs 1 - 16  Unity in the Body of Christ

1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
 he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

THEREFORE

When you read the word ‘therefore’ always remember to look to see what’s already been said. So drawing on all of this (ch 1-3 Paul has been unfolding the eternal purpose of God, through JC, who died for sinners, and was raised from death. He’s told us about how being church together should shape our lives. He’s talked about the new society being formed….so now he goes on to the new standards that are expected of it.

 ‘I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’

Prisoner in the Lord/for the Lord. Not a waste of time. Everything that we do should be in/for the Lord. Notice the double entendre – that is he’s both a prisoner of Christ and a prisoner for Christ….bound to Christ by bounds of love, and in custody (probably house arrest) because of his love.

Live a life worthy of the ‘Calling to which you are called’

It is easy to get confused about the dual nature of a call. It is worth underlining that being called and having a calling must be distinguished but never separated.

William Booth, Founder of S.A.

‘Not called!’ did you say?
'Not heard the call,' I think you should say.

So let’s move onto v.2!

V.2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

V.2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Paul summarizes 4 qualities we need to have in order to keep unity with each other

1. humility – need this particularly when we disagree….we may be wrong!

2. gentleness – particularly when others are in the wrong

3. patience – need this when try but can’t put things right

4. bearing with one another in love – acknowledgement here that unity isn’t easy and takes effort.

Look at every argument & disagreement. If both sides exercises these 4 great virtues….humility, gentleness, patience, love, would unity ever be lost?

It’s a bit like a grievance policy….if the first stage, humilty, isn’t enough then move onto stage 2 gentleness, stage 3 patience, stage 4 bearing with one another in love.

 

We do differ in our beliefs…..sometimes on quite important issues. But I ask…..are they as important as demonstrating the love of God to others so that they to might know that by grace they can be saved?

If we’re convinced that we’re right on a matter, and that a brother or sister is wrong, then what’s to stop us becoming judgmental & proud? Unity is often about us offering each other grace so that we don’t need to argue our point & debate our differences.

Not about church unity but about a united church.

Too often when we talk of unity today we start with structural issues…..particularly when we think of different denominations…. Or we talk about what we believe or don’t believe. Or we talk about our practice….our local church structures.. Here Paul reminds us that it’s love that brings unity.

(link with being adopted in ch.1. we are brothers & sisters, family, community)  v.3 bond of peace…are we literally bound to each other…..just as family members are.

The recipients of the letter should make "every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (4:3).

It takes effort

Here’s the reason why Paul spends this time stating how important unity is. Basically, the church should be one because God is one.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Unity not uniformity

Used to think we’d all agree. Not sure that’s what unity is. That’s what uniformity is.

I wonder if unity is about our focus rather than about our practice?

Our practice/methods may be different. Our structures/organisation may be different.

Our beliefs/interpretations may be different.

But so long as we all focus on Christ….then we can be united.

One of the 1st ministers I worked with, I was a lay worker he went on to become president of Methodist Conference. We came from different backgrounds and had different theologies and did things in different ways. But I always remember him saying that so long as we could stand side by side and both say ‘Jesus is Lord’ then we were ok. Spot on. Phil 2:11 perhaps the first creed ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

Word community – comm. Unity

Latin communitas from which we get ‘common’.

Paul reminds us that this community can be messy and difficult. This community is still, however, vital to our growth. We have different talents, beliefs, opinions, and ideas. Sometimes, we are going to clash with each other, and it might not be pretty. Part of living in community means embracing others just as they are and understanding that differences are part of what makes God’s community so rich.

Not yet Christians don’t care whether Christianity is right or wrong….they want to know if it works, if Christians are genuine.

(They’ll know we are Christians by our love)

The mark of church is still ‘ see how much they love one another.’ Have we belittled unity to just not disagreeing?

Paul talking to Gentiles & Jews. GENTILES & JEWS. If they could work out their differences then surely we can….can’t we?

Paul lays this foundation of us all being called and the importance of unity in order to explain how & why we might serve. From verse 11 onwards.

Might notice I’ve skipped over 8-10. Let me explain.

Commentaries tell me that v.8-10 has puzzled scholars greatly. What on earth does Paul mean here?

So I’m going to stand with those great scholars and say, v.8-10 has puzzled me greatly, what on earth does Paul mean here?

So, v.11.

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

The list of offices in verses 11-13 poses a theological problem for many interpreters. In these verses, the gifts given by Christ appear to be identified with various leaders, whose job it is to train all the saints. By contrast, the "gifts of the Spirit" of which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12 seem to be gifts that any believer may possess and use for the good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). For many readers, the related text in 1 Corinthians may be more appealing because the whole church shares equally in the gifts of God. Here, the gifts seem to belong exclusively to church leaders--or, more precisely, the gifts are the church leaders.

However, it is also possible to read these verses as a recognition that good leaders are necessary for the church's unity. Certain people are gifted in particular ways for the building up of the body.

In Greek pastor/teacher seems to be linked. We’ve traditionally referred to this as the 5 fold ministry….actually it might only be 4 fold ministry.

14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Paul calls for a grown up faith….I often want to tell people in the church to grow up too. Particularly when there’s petty squabbles that are reminiscent of siblings fighting & making excuses….he started it! She took my toy!

Working backwards I think Paul is basically saying in this chapter….grow up in the faith…God has given you what you need to grow & to be prepared for acts of service….but make sure you keep united….because that’s what God has called you to be and do.

commUNITY

 Community pictures photo community image_zpsiz7ij2kt.jpg

Following our period of reflection following this service, these are the pictures chosen by each group to represent how we would like our church family to be in the future.

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