“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
“We are One in the Spirit. We are One in the Lord.”
Sound familiar? Maybe my sermon today will help us to hear these words by Peter Scholtzes in a new light when we later sing our Song for Moving On.
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
(Ephesians 4:1-7, NRSV)
We find in these verses three key concepts: Unity; Oneness; and Diversity.
We all have each evolved our own personal understandings of what “Unity” is. But if we are to reach out to people, we must continually reassure them that Unity is not uniformity:
- Unity is not everyone looking the same like clones (my flock of sheep);
- Unity is not everyone acting like pod-people (church council meetings);
- Unity is not everyone thinking the same thoughts like robots.
JFK once said: “The Unity of freedom has never depended on the uniformity of opinions.”
Infinity – universes – galaxies – stars…
“One” is one vessel, one assemblage, one concretion, one machine, one body. E Pluribus unum.
“Diverse” people are given a great “diversity” of gifts. (Concrete)
Before I retired a couple of years ago, I worked as a Conservationist. To evaluate significance of an area, or to measure the success of a restoration project, we looked at biological diversity as a measure of the health of the floral community and the faunal habitat.
Monoculture. NPR: “We are homogenizing the planet.”
Diversity can apply to things, but also to ideas, and politics, and religion.
Malcolm Forbes called Diversity: “The art of thinking independently together.”
Richard Twist wrote in his book One Church Many Tribes: “You can’t have Unity without Diversity.”
Let’s pause for a moment so that we can do some soul-searching together:
- Do I truly believe that Diversity in my neighborhood is good?
- Do I actually believe that Diversity in our society is good?
- Do I really believe that Diversity in politics is good?
- Do I sincerely believe that Diversity in these pews is good?
- How do my actions reveal my beliefs?
God; the great I AM who refers to themself as “we”; who is Three while at the same time being One; who encompasses everything everywhere; and in whose limitlessly diverse image we were made – how does such a God help us to achieve this seemingly contradictory state of Unity through Diversity?
Thank you for asking! Let’s continue reading Ephesians…
11. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
Gifts of Communication?
Apostles = Greek for “Messengers”;
Prophets = Broadcasters of God’s Will for Societies and Nations;
Evangelists = Journalists for the Good News of God’s Grace (beware #FakeNews!);
Pastors and teachers = Poets and storytellers who reveal to us the Truths we cannot see.
12. to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Why would God give us such powerful gifts?
1. To give each of us all we need to communicate with our neighbors – to describe how the news that God is in our land has transformed our lives;
2. To give each congregation the mix of gifts that they need to communicate lovingly with each other, and with the world, in such a way as to guard human dignity and save human pride.
13. until 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.
Verse 13 starts a discussion about growing up, about becoming more and more spiritually mature through the transformative power of God’s ongoing grace:
- The Lost are found by prevenient grace;
- The Found are rescued by justifying grace; and
- The Saved are gradually being perfected by sanctifying grace.
To be Sanctified is to become set-aside and made holy as we mature beyond being mere observing Christians and are metamorphosed into functioning Christians. “We will walk with each other. We will walk hand in hand.”
14 and 15. We 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. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Paul continues his drum beat of telling us to GROW UP, to grow in every direction:
- To spread wide our roots…
- To send down deep roots…
16. from 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.
How do we measure the success of a congregation? Giving? Membership? Butts in the pews? I propose the following criteria:
- Do we work with each other, do we work side by side?
- Do we build each other up or tear each other down in the parking lot?
- Do they know we are Christians by our Love?
Why do I think Pastor Paul focuses so much attention on Communication (both inwardly and outwardly) as the ligament that holds the Body together? I am so glad you asked! Let me ask you a question in response: Can a marriage be enduringly sustained if there is poor Communication?
Here are some “Simple Keys to Effective Communication” from Psychology Today:
- Be present and make eye contact;
- Use a clear and simple message that is consistent with your actions;
- Be open, honest, and direct;
- Encourage feedback; and
As Robert Muller noted (not Robert Mueller): “What the world needs most is openness: Open hearts; Open doors; Open eyes; Open minds; Open ears; Open souls.” Sound familiar anyone?
Let me leave you thinking about some final words from the Apostle Paul:
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful!”
(photography by tiwago)