a priest's musings on the journey

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sermonette: Proper 12B - 31 July 2006

Ephesians 4:1-16

The writer of this Epistle began the letter with a hymn of praise, presumably taken from a baptismal rite, which offered thanksgiving for salvation wrought through Christ and the grace of Baptism, offered to everyone, Jew and Gentile. In chapter 4 he shifts from thanksgiving for the new life in Christ to an exhortation on how that life is to be lived. The writer calls the two factions in the Ephesian Church to abandon their old ways of living and knowing God, as Jew or Gentile, and to experience a new life as the new people of God in Christ. Together they are called to live a life worthy of their calling as the new people of God. This worthy life is one rooted in love, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance, and the outcome of this way of living is unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace. As long as the new people of God let go of arrogance, impatience, hostility and ego-struggles with others in the community, there will be unity. However, unity is threatened as long as the members of the various factions continue to live life as they knew it before they were incorporated into the new community of Gods people in Christ, and as long as they live lives unworthy of their calling.

For the writer of this Epistle, unity is the result of our common identity in Christ, received at Baptism, and a relationship nurtured by love and flowing out of the shared life in the Spirit. The people of God are called to embrace, celebrate, and maintain this gift of unity because our conversion and shared identity in Christ flows from the same source: There is One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism, through which all are incorporated into Christ. We are One Body, embraced, sustained and empowered by One Spirit, driven by One hope- to be the reconciled and reconciling Body of Christ in the world.

If we are divided, we cease to bear witness to the all embracing love of Christ, drawing all of creation into the life of the Spirit. Thus, unity is paramount to the ministry of reconciliation. But, unity does not mean that we are all alike. The One Father has bound us together as brothers and sisters, who share a common identity and purpose, but who remain differentiated by a diversity of gifts and functions. The One Spirit holds us together in a unity that celebrates our diversity. Each is gifted to bear witness to the Love which calls all to be a part of this new community of the people of God in Christ. These gifts and their use are rooted in love. Love embraces us to be a part of this community; That same love transforms us and equips us to share in the work of God in the world.

Love also enables the body of Christ to grow and mature as it exercises its various gifts to bear witness to Christ; Love strengthens our unity as together the different members learn what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world. As the living, working body matures, it expands, filling all things and drawing all into its life in God. Maturity is marked by a radical inclusion of every person whom Christ has reconciled into the one body. It is marked by a solid foundation of shared faith in the Lordship of Christ, its head, and a shared commitment to the core values taught by Christ and summed up by the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbor. Conversely, immaturity is marked by the inability to hold onto the core values of love, gentleness, humility and forbearance. The immature are blown about by every wind of doctrine. They listen to the divisive arguments of the proud and arrogant, who do not work to maintain unity, who are not interested in living into the new community of the people of God in Christ, who do not promote the growth of the Body by nurturing it with love, and who lead the immature astray with their sectarian gospel of exclusion.

The One Spirit has gifted us all so that together we nurture one another, so that we can all grow into the full stature of Christ and become firm in our identity as members of Christs Body, called to live as Christ in the world, reconciling all of creation to God. The love which called us, incorporated us, and united us together, continues to nurture us and keep us together, as long as we share the life of love with one another. The threat of schism can only occur when love is lost or ignored and selfish, prideful, arrogant deceivers attempt to divide us and divert our attention from our call to the ministry of love and reconciliation.

peace rob+
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:06 AM


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