Building Up the Body of Christ

July 29, 2018

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call,
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.

When I was at Camp Crucis a couple of weeks ago, Fr. Salt and I had the chore of teaching the K through 5th graders something about the Fruit of the Spirit. It was a challenge to say the least, but we always enjoy coming up with ways to approach the topic. We also sang with them a lot, which helps to reinforce the lessons.

One song we taught them this year was, “Father, I adore you.” This is in our hymnal, and it is a simple and lovely song. When I was talking to the kids about prayer, I showed them how they can pray while singing. The song can be sung as a round, too, and we tried this during our theme sessions with the kids.

When it is done well, singing in rounds can sound nice. But when it is not done well, it sounds rather chaotic! The song has three verses, so it can be done in three parts, but when you two people trying to lead it this way, it’s hard to make it sound good.

Let’s just say it sounded much better when we all sang it together!

In our lesson from the the letter to the Ephesians today we heard more about the unity of the church. Paul is making the point that working together, and singing together, builds up the Body of Christ.

Chapter 4 begins with St. Paul begging us to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.

It is sometimes hard to be this way with others. More often, people tend to be outspoken with their opinions, and sometimes think they must convince others that they are right, and do not do so in a peaceful way.

St. Paul is telling us to remember our unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace. To do that, Paul says, we must treat each other with all lowliness and meekness, with patience and forbearing one another in love.

Lowliness is the same has humility. Being humble means not putting oneself above another. Pride in oneself tends to sow discord. Humility means treating others as more important than ourselves. It is an essential quality to have to promote unity in the Church. Jesus modeled these qualities for us when he was teaching the disciples.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Patience and forbearance are the two other qualities that St. Paul mentions. These are essential in any relationship, and especially so in the Church. Those of us who are married know this especially well.

We all have unique personalities, and sometimes they clash when we are discussing issues that we care deeply about. When we have patience with one another we can increase our understanding of each other, and treat each other with the love and respect that we each deserve.

Our service of Baptism begins with words adapted from the verses I read at the beginning of this sermon, and go like this:

Celebrant: There is one Body and one Spirit:
People: There is one hope in God’s call to us.
Celebrant: One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People: One God and Father of all.

If you will recall when I said when I began this series of sermons on the letter to the Ephesians, the Church has four marks; It is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We say this in the Nicene Creed every Sunday.

The word Catholic is a Greek word that means Universal. When I think of the word “universe” I think of the stars and the planets, or the cosmos, another Greek word, by the way. The cosmos is made up of many parts. There are stars and planets organized into galaxies.

Did you know that at the center of our galaxy is a gigantic Black Hole that is four million times more massive than our sun? It’s magnetism is what holds the galaxy together.

The whole thing spins around the center, and flattens out toward the edges. Sometimes we can see the edges, which we call the Milky Way.

According to research by NASA, there are probably more than 3 trillion galaxies in the universe.
The point is that the universe is made up of many parts. And so it is with the Church. The Body of Christ, that is the Church is one, but it is made up of millions of people, each with unique gifts and personalities.

Verses 11 and 12 says, “And [Christ’s] gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”

The Church is Apostolic because Jesus commissioned the Apostles to go into the world and baptize and thus spread the Church. Our bishops are in the line of succession from the Apostles and the first Bishops.

My role in this is your pastor and teacher, and it is my job to equip you, the saints, for the work of ministry. You have a ministry as well, to care for others as Jesus has commanded us, and to tell your story of what Jesus has done for you in words, and in deeds.

There is plenty of work to do, and you do it with your time, your talent, and your treasure. We all have these in more or less quantities, and the Lord will use whatever you bring with you.

This is our ministry together in this world. We proclaim the Good News of Salvation through the Blood of Jesus, and we invite others to know him as we do.

Let us be about our Father’s business. Amen.