B.C.P. Trinity 17 Ephesians 4:1-6
Eph:4:1: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3: Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in 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 you all.
In the earlier Chapters of Ephesians Paul has outlined the grace, or undeserved favour, that God has shown humankind in Jesus. Jesus died for sinners and was raised from death to life. Jesus' followers have died to themselves and have been raised from death to life. That life involves living in a right relationship with God, and it involves living within the body of Christ, the church. All Christians are called to be united in the church. The local church, the world-wide church, and the invisible church, made up of every true believer who has ever lived.
We shall ask three questions about unity.
How are we united ? Who are we united with ? Why should we be united ?
Tonto and the Lone Ranger were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden both sides were filled with Native American Indian warriors on horses, dressed for battle. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, "What are we going to do?" Tonto replied, "What you mean 'we,' Whiteman?"
How are we united ?
Verse 4 says, There is one body, and one Spirit.
Christians are united by the Holy Spirit who lives within every believer. When we turn from our sins to follow Jesus we are not left on our own. No, God helps us to live for him and to minister for him by the power of His Spirit.
It is almost as if the Holy Spirit acts like the nerves in the body. Communicating with the head and the other parts of the body so everything, or everyone, works together for the good of the body.
This is linked to the theme of oneness and unity that is found in this passage. 5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
However, this does not mean that our unity will be easy and that we will not have to make an effort. Verses two and three show us this. We will have to suppress our human nature in wanting to exalt ourselves above others and to retaliate rather than to forgive. 2: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3: Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Who are we united with ?
A number of years ago my nephew, Thomas put his finger into a garden shredder. It cut off the end of his finger. Once one part of the body is separated for long from the rest of the body it dies. The end of a severed finger would not start moving around, pushing itself around, seeking what was left of the finger it had just left. To keep alive every part of the body has to remain connected to the rest of the body and also the head.
A Christian cannot live the way God intends if he/she is cut off from the rest of the body. That is why fellowship is so important. Fellowship is not about chatting to someone over a cup of tea, important though that is. It is about sharing. The Greek word means sharing something in common. This is not like people who have a common interest like snail racing or bungee jumping. It is about a much deeper sharing. A sharing of our very being because we are all united in Christ and have his Spirit in our lives.
Our church's web site is visited by people from all over the world; America, Australia, Singapore, and many other places. But, as Christians we are ultimately united not by computers, or phone lines, but by God's Spirit.
All around the world today Christians are worshipping the same God through the same Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Why should we be united ?
25 years ago I was paralysed after a motorcycle accident. This was because of a breakdown in communication between my brain and my limbs. Once this was restored I had to work at building up my muscles on my left side that had started to waste away because of inactivity. I used to go for long walks and for physiotherapy at the hospital, and was soon discharged. My body, working together, built itself up to become what it was supposed to be, slim, fit, and fast. Mind you, that was a long time ago !
The purpose of a body is to keep living and growing. Each part of the body plays a vital part in it's function. Members of the body supply one another and receive from one another in a way which is life enhancing. So the eye tells the brain that there is a lamppost ahead. The brain tells the legs to stop, and so the nose is not injured. We are stronger and better if we work together.
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. "These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organised like that?"
Go into the world to serve God and our neighbours.
May we know that we are united with God. May it become a reality in our lives.
May we know that we are united with the church. May it become a reality in our relationships.
May we know that we are one with all Christians. May it become a reality in our attitudes.
And so may the blessing of the one God, who has called us by one faith into one hope, inspire us, encourage us, and give us joy and love,
this week and forever. Amen.