One in Christ
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
How many of you, after buying a brand-new car – a car of your dreams…say it is a shiny red convertible- would right away, the very first thing – go home and study the 400-page owner’s manual? Making sure you knew what every warning light meant, memorizing the preferred coolant and tire pressure?
Or, would you jump in and take that puppy out for a spin? Wahoo – top down, wind in your hair, accelerating up hills, hugging tight curves, singing along with the radio?
Yup, me too. There is something about the experience, the thrill, the joy of jumping in heading out… that can’t wait.
The author of Ephesians – the book we are preaching through this August, would agree.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are a joy ride. If you haven’t already. This afternoon, or tomorrow in your devotional time. Read through those chapters. It is a thrilling panoramic view of God’s faithfulness, grace, and reminds us how high, deep, long and wide God’s love for us is.
Today’s scripture passage is a hinge or the turning point in the book of Ephesians. If the first three chapters are a theological joy ride, the last half of the letter gets down to exhortations and specific instructions.
Paul starts by urging us to live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. He begs us to guard our unity in the Spirit and the bond of peace.
For 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…
The drama of division and contention was a big problem in the church at Ephesus. And guess what? It remains a huge challenge to this very day! How do we live a life worthy of our calling? And how do we live this Christian life together? In peace, and as one?
After all, we are different ages, come from different backgrounds and are at different places in our journey of faith. We have different convictions regarding politics and controversial issues such as guns, marriage, immigration, and whether to require COVID vaccines. It makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.
So how do we remain as ONE? How do we avoid factions and division with such a diversity of deeply held opinions and viewpoints?
Many of you know the phrase… Keep the main thing, the main thing. Around here you hear it a lot. Augustana is a church that keeps the main thing, the main thing.
And what is our main thing?
Our main thing is the Gospel of Jesus Christ –
And WHO is our main thing?
Jesus is very heart of who we are and what we are about.
You may also hear. We do not major in the minors.
In an earlier sermon I mentioned set theory. I think it is helpful and bears repeating.
Think of Augustana as a circle drawn on a white board. We could choose to be defined by our boundaries…who is inside the circle and who is out. In mathematics this is called a bound set. Everyone inside the circle has a common defining characteristic. For example, we decide we are a Latin hymnal church. Everyone in our church is totally supportive of singing in Latin. Now if you think Latin hymns are just WRONG – you don’t belong. Sorry. Outside the circle.
OR we can be defined by our center… Now, imagine a dot on the white board. In this set, called a centered set, all the members are moving toward the dot, or the center. The boundaries are a bit more porous… but it is the movement toward the center that is important…. not the boundaries.
At Augustana, our center, our focus is Jesus Christ. God is our reason for being. The Holy Spirit is one who draws us in. And Christ is the one who unites us. As far as our differences? Well, God is the one who transforms hearts/minds and even opinions. THAT is not our job.
Our job is to focus on Christ and what he has done for us. And when we do, we are brought together in unity.
We are diverse in many ways, but one in Christ.
And our diversity is to be celebrated. It makes us richer and stronger. Without it, we would not function very well. Scripture tells us that just as a human body needs a diversity of organs to function, so does the body of Jesus Christ. Each one of us has a gift to share and a purpose, a calling to fulfill. Each member is important, not just a few. In this passage, Paul writes…
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
Did you catch that? Pastors, evangelists, and teachers are equippers. And YOU are the ministers. Let me read it again. 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers – WHY? to equip the saints (that is YOU) for the work of ministry.
If you never thought you were called to ministry, consider yourself called now.
It is easy to assume that the staff of the church are the ones who are called to do ministry, and the members do their part by coming to worship on Sunday and giving offerings. That vision of the church reminds me of a football game. Twenty-two players are on the field are in desperate need of rest, while hundreds of spectators in the stands are in desperate need of exercise.
The truth is, YOU are a minister. A vital member of Christ’s body which is being knit together and built up in love. Crazy, isn’t it? If I stretch the football metaphor a bit…You might think of Sunday morning gatherings as halftime in the locker room. It is our chance to get taped up and encouraged. A time to be reminded of our gifts, our goal, and celebrate our main thing – Jesus Christ. Why? So we can be sent back out into the game of ministry – . – sharing God’s love and good news, blessing, and serving others in Jesus Name.
We are called. You are called. Let us seek to living a life worthy of that calling, as one body united in Christ Jesus and focused on our Main thing in all we do.