Unity Amidst Diversity
Sunday, October 9, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Ephesians 4:1-7; 11-16
This past month we have been soaking up the good news in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We have been reminded that we have been chosen as God’s own children. We have been redeemed, blessed, and given an inheritance. God has torn down barriers and diving walls and has come to dwell within us. God holy spirit power within us is so strong we cannot even imagine all that God is able to accomplish when we trust him. Not only that – God encourages us to sink our roots into God’s love for us that so deep and wide and high that we will never come to the end of it.
Today we come to a pivot point in Paul’s letter. The first three chapters have highlighted the mind-blowing things God has done for us in Christ Jesus. But now Paul turns the spotlight on what God wants to accomplish THROUGH us. You and me.
Given all God’s incredible blessings – how do WE now live?
Paul encourages us – pleads with us – to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Yes. You heard that correctly. You have a calling. Not only are you chosen and blessed. You are gifted and you are called. God has called you to play a critical part in the ongoing ministry of Christ here on earth.
Verse 7 tells us that God has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. We are united into One Body – with Jesus Christ as our head.
According to Verse 16 – Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
You have been chosen; you have been redeemed. You have been gifted. You have been given the Holy Spirit to reside with power in you. And you have been called to use your gifts to build up the body in love.
We have a tendency, in our day and age, to think that it is the job of the clergy and church staff to do ministry. Right? I mean, that’s what we pay them for. The rest of us do our part by showing up on Sunday for worship.
But that model reminds me of a football game. On the field are 11 players desperately in need of rest, while the stands are full of spectators in desperate need of exercise.
Listen again to verses 11 and 12 – this is from the New Living Translation:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (New Living Translation)
In other words, the leaders that Christ has given to the church are not meant to do the ministry while everyone else watches. No. Their part is to equip God’s people for ministry. You, people of God, you are the ministers.
The gifts given for ministry are many and diverse. The New Testament also lists gifts of serving, healing, mercy, discernment, counsel, administration, leadership, teaching, faith, wisdom, encouragement. Add to that God’s gifts of nurture, creativity, music, and the arts.
Now, you may think, yah, but what I have to offer is insignificant or of little value… Trust me, it is not insignificant. At. All. You are needed. You are valuable. And, you are called.
Together, we are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. There is no plan B that I know of. We are the hands and feet of Jesus; we are the body of Christ on earth today.
This all is rather daunting, but the good news is that we don’t have to do this ministry alone. We are in it together with Christ is our head.
But the hard news is that – well – we are in this together. God’s vision is of each member doing their part, and everything working together in love.
The problem is people can be difficult. After all, we come from varied backgrounds, have different perspectives, and do not always agree. An active church of diverse and gifted people is bound to encounter times of conflict. The issue Paul addresses here is not whether we will have our differences, but HOW we treat one another in times of struggle. Will we walk in a manner worthy of our calling? Paul implores us to be humble and gentle, and to be patient with each other – making allowance for each other’s faults. We are asked to make every effort to be united in the Spirit and to bind ourselves together in peace.
For the is one body, one spirit and one hope. 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
Unity amidst diversity. It is beautiful. It is God’s vision for us. But it is easier said than done.
Have you ever played parachute games at school or camp? I was told about a parachute game that was played by a group from Augustana at the orphanage in Tanzania. – This is how it goes. Everyone holds onto a huge parachute and moves out farther and farther out until it is taut like a drum, forming a huge circle. Then someone with a large cross gets underneath the center of the parachute and pushes up higher, and higher and higher. What happens? As the cross is lifted, everyone is drawn closer and closer together. Like an umbrella closing. The center draws them in.
I love that image! As Jesus is lifted up at our center, as we focus on Christ as the head of this body, as our main thing. We will be brought together in unity.
The truth is – we all are works-in-progress, with blind spots and rough edges that need smoothing. But it is not our job to change other people. God is the one who transforms hearts/minds. Not us. Our job is to speak truth in love growing up in every way into Christ who is our head.
So then, let us walk with humility and patience toward one another, with our eyes focused on Jesus that we might be bound together in peace as one body. And as each one of us steps into our calling – there is no simply telling what things God will do through us. More than we can think or even dream of according to the power of the holy spirit that resides within us. Imagine that.
Thanks be to God.