There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4,5
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 Church is Holy. What does this mean for us? The Latin word for Holy is Sanctus. Think of the word Sanctuary. That is a place apart from the world. The Church is apart from the world. The Church does not and should not be relevant to secular worldly ethics. Just because society rejects traditional ethics and morality does not mean the Church must change with society. To do so would be the rejection of Holy Scripture as the basis for our faith.
The Church is Catholic. The word Catholic is a Greek word that means Universal. St. Ignatius of Antioch was the first to use the word “Catholic” in his letter to the Smyrneans. He was referring to the whole church, as in universal.
He wrote: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
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. 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. There is a document in our narthex that shows the lineage of our Bishop.
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 to the Holy Table.
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.