Sermon on Ephesians 4:1-16
Unity in Diversity: Unity in the Body of Christ
February 16, 2020
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until 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. 14We 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. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from 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.
I mentioned last week that the Reformed Church in America may be dividing because many believe that we cannot live together with varying thoughts on inclusion and affirmation of Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered, Bisexual and Queer plus persons.
This story is really not my story to tell but I’ll tell it anyway – it took place last summer at general synod in the mid-west. Sunday mornings were reserved of course for worship so all the delegates at general synod were encouraged to attend any number of churches in the area. That Sunday a pastor friend of mine who was a board member of room for all and the president of room for all Marilyn Paarlberg attended one such church. And as they were going in one of their main opponents of full inclusivity of LGBTQ+ persons walked up to them and said these words to them.
He said, I want to apologize to you for our behavior. Whenever you spoke n the floor you spoke with love and humility. You spoke with calm assurance, you never used harmful and derogatory language. You were nothing but gracious. While we who are against LGBTQ inclusivity used damning language, hateful speech and incriminating words all with anger and hatred in our words and voice. You always remained calm and mature.
Trisha and Marilyn were literally speechless, acknowledged their brother in Christ with nods and smiles, quietly walked into the church, took their seats and just broke down and wept and wept and wept on each other’s shoulders.
What I loved about the Reformed Church in America is that we all didn’t have to agree, that there was room for all, room for opposing thoughts and a variety of expressions, that we could worship side by side, come to a common table, sit with Jesus, wrestle with right and wrong, in nonjudgmental and non-condemning ways.
Look, even in our passage today it says, 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until 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.
Jesus knew we would disagree on all matters of faith and practice. When he prayed for unity, he didn’t pray for homogony, like homogenized milk hyper blended that throughout proteins and fats were forever combined. No, we can be like the milk we used to get form our cows. The whole milk on the bottom, the cream on top, and when you lifted the bottle to your mouth to take a drink the cream and the milk would blend together, and it would taste amazing and feel so good going down.
Jesus had to pray that prayer. Because he knew that it is human nature to scapegoat, divide and conquer. But the true church is the church that doesn’t necessarily look like homogenized milk, but still tastes good.
The thief, speaking of the devil,comes to steal, kill an destroy.
Peter says Satan roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour.
In this case the ones being devoured aren’t the proponents and antagonists but those on the sidelines, struggling to believe. If divisions accomplish anything, they accomplish keeping people outside the church outside the church. Who wants to become part of that?
I look at these tensions and these factions in the church as Satan’s way of dividing the church but even more there is really one main goal Satan has, right. And it is this, to discredit God. If people conclude that our faith is invalid because of our divisions then Satan accomplishes his goal. I don’t think the RCA and the Methodists an the Presbyterians consciously even comprehend what they are doing and that is this – they are assisting Satan to win and accomplish his goals – to rob God of God’s glory.
There is a lot at stake in our unity – that in our diversity we always remember that 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace.
Lord Jesus, head of the church, chief cornerstone, the church built together upon the apostles and prophets, I have no idea how to create unity among your church except through the words you taught us, that we love one another.
Lord Jesus, you taught us to pray for unity, and so we pray that your Holy Spirit would be ever in the midst of the deliberations of your church, among the RCA, Methodists, Presbyterians and that we would truly love one another and in so doing show the world that you are real and that you are love and that all things are possible in you.
Begin with us – the whole church and world are too much for us, but we can love one another and begin right here. Lord Jesus, you promised unity, and we ask that we would be the ones to trust that your words are true. In your name and for your Fathers renown and glory we pray! Amen!