Let us pray: Dear Savior, work in all of us a spirit of peace and unity. Give us the ability to submerge our egos for the good of You and Your holy Church—our fellow brothers and sisters. For then our lives will truly be enlarged and enriched. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE HAVE ONENESS
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-16
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
We all know about herding sheep and cattle. But what about herding cats? I’m a dog person, so perhaps I shouldn’t talk about cats. Yet, I’m acquainted with a few of them. I like their mysterious ways and individualism. And because of that individualism, unlike dogs, they are pack animals. So, herding cats is kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
And yet, as a Pastor, one of my tasks is akin to herding cats.—That is, human beings are mysterious, secretive, and extremely individualistic, too. Some are extroverted and enjoy the company of others and find it energizing, while others are introverted and find it exhausting. But in the church we are to bring all together and point them on the pathway to a new life culminating in heaven.
Well, our lesson addresses this challenge. And St. Paul lays before both you and me the wonderful truth that:
GOD MAKES US ONE THROUGH THE WORK OF MANY
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
In a world that celebrates rugged individuality and where the watchword is: diversity, this is a breath of fresh air! One of the chief problems today is that people feel very alone. Although we’re surrounded by neighbors, have the phone at our fingertips, and mass media predominates, nonetheless, countless people feel alone and forgotten. Our impersonal society means that you know a lot of people but you’re close to very few. That, coupled with our natural selfishness breeds despair, frustration, and a certain amount of lashing out on our part—just to get attention.
But here Paul gives us a better way to live. As God’s people, we’re called directly by Him. Thus, we’re never alone. For the Spirit is always with us. And since the Spirit brings love and mercy to us, since He’s on intimate terms with us, we can put His power to good use by being: humble, gentle, patient with others, bearing with them in love. Doing so gives birth to oneness. It gives birth to an intimacy that cuts across time itself. Your fellow believers actually are your family. Your relationship with them will last forever. By keeping all of this in mind you and I can and should be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and patient with their shortcomings. After all, God is patient with ours, isn’t He? And when we live and act that way oneness is preserved, aloneless is but a distant memory, and God is glorified. For as our text points out: God is over all, and in all, and through all—so His people should be, too. His love knows no bounds.
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” You know that Christ suffered and died to save all souls. Some are lost because they reject it. That’s so sad. But you by accepted it by faith and as a result God has given each of you special talents to use, to enhance, so that true oneness in His kingdom may be preserved.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Apostles were those called directly by Christ to public work in His Church. Prophets were those called directly by God for the same purpose in the Old Testament times. Evangelists are those to whom God has given great ability to share salvation with others and touch their core being. Pastors are called by God to shepherd (gently herd!) His flock. Teachers are those chosen by God to convey Godly knowledge due to their special gifts. All these roles were designed by the Ultimate Designer to prepare you for a life of Godly service. A life outside your ego and your selfishness. A life in which you can be a part of a much greater whole—His Church, His Family. And note that unity in the faith is coupled with unity in knowledge of His Divine truths. And since we’re constantly learning new things about His ways, our unity is constantly growing. We’re becoming mature in Christ.
God Makes Us One Through The Work of Many. And the many is each of you. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so, too, this congregation and His Church at large. But this maturation process is a glorious one! And it leads to glorious results. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Just as Christians need Christ, so we need each other, as well. We need to see and talk and play with each other. We need to encourage each other. We need to speak the truth to each other, even when it hurts.—But to always do it in love. God’s Church is the one place you can come, put your hurts and sins aside, and receive a sense of belonging. That’s because you belong to Him. He paid for your soul. Aloneless at church?—May it never be! So, use your Godly gifts to make sure it doesn’t happen! Amen