Recognizing Christ in Others July 21, 2019

Ephesians 4:1-6,15-16 Rev. Donald W. Hackett, D.Min.         

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children

Which part of our bodies is important?  

  • The head, the foot, the arm, or the stomach?  We need them all! 
  • They all have their purpose and work wonderfully together. 
  • The Bible tells us that we are all part of Christ’s body.  
  • We are each important to God to do the work God wants his people to do.  

Which part are you?  A helping hand, a tender heart, a problem solving head?

Let’s pray:  Thank you God that you made us to fit together to do good work.  Help us as we help others. In Christ we pray.  Amen. 

Introduction

Main Point of this sermon is this: move from singular to plural pronouns.

After Rila and I were married I had a problem.  I still thought like a single man.  If someone called and asked me if I wanted to do something, I would say, “Sure, Let’s do it”.  Afterwards I would talk to Rila about it.  Do you see what I did.  I decided before consulting with my spouse.  Sometimes in this learning phase of our marriage I had to go back and say, “Hey, I spoke without checking with Rila and it turns out I am not available for the event.”  Humble pie.  I needed to learn how to think and speak as a married man.  

My life was now deeply linked to Rila’s and so we need to process decisions together.  I went from “I can do that” to “That’s a great idea.  Let me talk to Rila and get back to you.”  I learned to move from the singular pronoun “I” to the wonderful plural pronoun of “we”. Yes, I have a life that is mine, but I have joyfully surrendered to a life that is ours. We function differently and independently, but our hearts, minds, and purposes are united in love. And it is very good!

In our text today from Ephesians 4, Paul is showing us how and why it is important for us, the body of Christ, to move from “I” to “we”. This is a letter that went out to all the churches at that time.  It is a principle the church relearns with each new day.  Let’s read this passage in your bulletin together.

Scripture   Ephesians 4:1-6,15-16

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all,who is over all and through all and in all.

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 

He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

The Word of Our Lord.  Thanks be to God!

How to live in the “We”

There is so much here for us to consider, let’s walk through this passage line by line.

1. Our Calling

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 

Who is a prisoner and why? Paul is writing this letter from house arrest in Rome.  He has been taken into captivity and is awaiting trial.  He is a prisoner of Rome.  The deeper reality is that Paul is a prisoner for Jesus Christ.  Years before on a mission to arrest and persecute Christians, Paul (then called Saul) encountered the risen Jesus face to face. It was real. Paul was blinded by piercing light and knocked off this donkey.  In Acts 9 it says: 

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

From then on, Saul (soon be Paul) served Jesus Christ.  He gave his heart, plans, and life over to Jesus to use.  He became a willing prisoner of God’s love and grace.  God used Paul to spread the message Jesus Christ throughout the known world. He would die for his faith. He would die a free man in Christ.

What is our calling? Like Paul, we have given our lives and purposes to Jesus Christ.  We do not call the shots, God does.  In Christ we have been grafted into the family of God and we are sons and daughters of the Almighty Lord.  We are not lost and empty.  We are found and filled with God’s generous and creative love. Our calling is to live into our new life of bold love.  

Look at the passage we read earlier in Romans 15:

God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. 

Our calling to become fully mature, fruitful, blossoming children of God who reflect the joy and character of Jesus the Son.  Look in the mirror today and say, “Thank you God for making me. Help Jesus grow in me more today.”

2. Our Practice

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

How does this life of Jesus develop in us?  One key way is by our living our life in community with others. Other people shape us. I was talking to some parents this week and we all agreed that our children have played a big role in our becoming like Jesus.  We thought we were patient and kind before children came along.  That got tested and stretched in our daily ups and downs, and sometimes long days with our children.  Children and community can shape us if we let them.  

Our practice in this community is to hang in there with each other.  We celebrate together when times are good and support each other  when times get tough.  There are people we get along with easily.  There are others that are hard to be with.  We ask God to give us humility and gentleness as we interact with each other. We partner with the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom so we can make peace and serve each other.  Creating and maintaining a healthy faith community is hard, daily work.  By God’s grace we keep at it.

One tool I came across was an audio workshop on how to deal with angry people. This is not an easy thing to do.  The more angry a person becomes the less they are able to think clearly.  When you and I angry, we can do and say things we later regret.  How can we help each other in this area?  Some of the ideas I heard and have added to:  1) stay calm; 2) take a breath and say a prayer; 3) let the person vent; 4) listen to what they are saying; 4) ask questions to understand; 5) talk slowly and softly; 6) move to the key issue and possible solutions; and 7) don’t avoid but follow up with the person. We hang in there with each other.  Sometimes we need to take a break, cool off, and come back at another time. We keep trying.

Here are some resources to check out:

3. Our Spiritual Reality

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

What unites us is God.  God has pulled together is wide array of people and personalities. What is beautiful about God’s kingdom is that all can enter.  In the church you are with people who may not be like you.  Outside of church, many of us would not be connected.  We would not be on facebook or on our Christmas card list. We are invited to be in community with God the Father, Son, and Spirit. That is how we are able to stay together.  God links us.  Our hope in Jesus connects us.  Our faith in God’s love and grace binds us.  We are one body.  Paul is encouraging us to function as such.

4. Our Spiritual Journey

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Christ is at work…in me, in you, in man in line at Rutter’s, in the girl eating ice cream at Summer’s, in the neighbor you see cutting grass, in the relative who calls you late at night.  Quietly pray for the people you encounter each day.  Ask God to work in their lives so they can grow in God.  Ask God to help you love the people in your life. Ask God to use all these people to shape you so you will be robust in love…just like Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray: Thank you, Lord, for the people you put in our lives to shape us.  Help us see you at work in each one of them.  In Christ, Amen.