18 November 2018 Calling and Gifts Martin Baker
This is the third of our 4 week series looking at the letterto the Ephesians
These early Christians in the midst of a complex environmentare encouraged to fulfil this calling on their lives.
To be people who live lives of thanksgiving.
To see as their witness a commitment to overcoming division
And this week there is this strong affirmation of beingcalled and being equipped. Everyone with gifts and skills, building togetherthis body of Christ. Being Christ presence in their diverse communities.
Ephesians 4:1-8, 11- 16
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead alife worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humilityand gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making everyeffort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is onebody and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above alland through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to themeasure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it is said, "When he ascended onhigh he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people." 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, someevangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work ofministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to theunity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to themeasure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossedto and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, bytheir craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, wemust grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whomthe whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it isequipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth inbuilding itself up in love.
Let us pray…
I guess it might be easy to overlook this, but our readingtoday starts with a reminder that Paul is writing this letter to the Ephesiansfrom prison. He says he is a prisoner for the Lord.
That fact alone provides the basis for the rest of what wehear this morning.
When you read theletters from Paul in the Bible, you will notice that he writes quite a fewletters from various prisons around the place. He ends up dying in a Romanprison. But he even reports to thechurch of the Philippians that his imprisonment serves to spread the gospel of Christ.
That’s a powerful statement in itself – that even in prison,the Gospel can be proclaimed.
There are two lessons I think we can draw from Paul'sexample.
Let’s stand back for a moment.
You’re gathered in someone’s house. You look around and yousee this mixed group of people. People from Jewish backgrounds. People who wereuse to worshipping the God’s of Rome or Athens. Women , men, older younger and even some slaves perhaps. And maybe theonly thing you have in common is that you share this testimony that thiscrucified and risen Jesus has touched your life. And now you are wondering what your futurelooks like together?
Those earliest Christians saw themselves as caught up inthis movement. They simply called themselves ‘The way’. The Greek word ecclesiawhich translates as church, means something like gathering or assembly. Going to church in those days would not havecarried the same meaning as it does for us. Small groups of people comingtogether to hear the scripture read, praying sharing food, and sharing their skillsand gifts and resources in ways that served their communities and witnessed toJesus and his commitment especially to the poor.
Paul is writing to inform and instruct and encourage thesegatherings. People who were wondering, what now? The fact that Paul often wrote from prisonwould have been a powerful witness to the nature of the Gospel.
Where is the good news being proclaimed? In a prison. From a prison. And if the gospel can be proclaimedin a prison then, yes, God also present in your small diverse, uncertain, gatherings. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus proclaimedin the most unlikely of places. Here in Clevedon as well.
Let’s think of the big picture for a moment.
Those Jewish Christians in Ephesus would know the great stories of their scriptures.
God present, lifting, creating from chaos. God present withHebrews in their imprisonment in slavery and in the imprisonment of the desertand in their captivity in Babylon.
God present at the stable for animals at Christmas time, thegood news announced to shepherds. All that time Jesus spent with tax collectorsand sinner. The kind of people who might expect to end up in prison. Thecalling of fisherman as his first disciples. The first proclamation of his resurrectionwas a group of woman, Mary first witness of the resurrection may well have hadthe job of hairdresser. Paul back in prison. Don’t we start to see a patternhere? The Good News in the most unlikelyplaces.
Paul is writing from Prison.
Perhaps many of us have been inside magnificent churches andcathedrals. And I’m guessing that few of us have seen the inside of a prison. Butwe are getting a message over and over again that whatever situation we are ineven the most difficult and unlikely where there might seem no future, there isthis powerful proclamation of the gospel. I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord.
Some of the most profound messages this church has receivedover the last century has come from prison.
Martin Luther Kingwrote from a jail in Birmingham. Kingwrote the letter on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paperavailable to him, and then gave bits and pieces of the letter to his lawyers. He would write ‘our lives begin to end theday we become silent about things that matter. ‘ ‘Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the wholestaircase, just take the first step.’
Pastor DietrichBonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis also wrotefrom prison “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others...notdominating, but helping and serving. It must tell every person of every callingwhat it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”
So we start with a message today. From a prison. About acalling. To live for Christ, to exist for others.
We think of wealth and influence and splendour and comfort,but everywhere we hear about the Gospel being proclaimed it’s in situations whichare almost always opposite to this.
So as unlikely as it is, our reading this morning has such afocus on calling. There is no place or time or point in our lives where werenot being called. Even in prison.
How are we to speak when we are in Ephesus? To each other? And to people who know nothing about this newfaith?
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead alife worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humilityand gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making everyeffort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Our scripture this morning is about our life together in a world which is largely ignorant, partlyhostile, partly indifferent to the message of the gospel.
We are told that among us is a diversity of gifts - we eachhave something to offer for the good ofthe whole "to equip the saints for ministry."
This word equip is a really interesting one . The word "equip" comes from aGreek word kat- art -ismos meaning" "to reconcile,""to set bones," "to restore," "to create,""to prepare."
We grow in our own faith, we use our gifts to grow togetherand we grow as the body of Christ. And we equip each other for ministry. Whetherthat’s in prison, or among the people and communities we are part of.
Perhaps we need to think of ourselves more as a gathering,and ecclesia than as a church. Sometimes I think we undervalue or take forgranted this wonderful spirit led witness found in the simple act of comingtogether.
Last Sunday night I was talking to a father of one of thechildren at out HATCH dinners. Thefamily had recently moved out this way from somewhere in central Auckland. Andhe said I didn’t think places like this existed anymore. I’ve never come acrossthem before. I said that’s interesting and I asked him what meant. And he said there’s that old guy over therehe must be in his 80’s and then that mother with the new baby, and here I amwith my kids and we are all lining up to have dinner together. The local cubsare serving us dinner. He said that there is no other opportunity, no othertime in his family’s life where they do this. Where they can mix with a whole diversecommunity of people.
Maybe this is our mostimportant witnesses. A place wherekatartismos is happening. New bones being set. Reconciliation, restoring,creating. This body of Christ being formed by us together.
Sin divides us. We are hearing almost every day the devastatingeffects of division, isolation loneliness.
Perhaps the human community is in desperate need ofcommunities of faith where belief and practice come together
Coming together, here and now. Building one another up. Paul talks about thisforming and growing body of Christ.
So this morning three things:
Let’s look around and see the people each one of us assomeone who God has called.
Let’s remember these words about speaking truth in love. It’snot a matter of being nice or pleasant, but it is a matter of affirming the miracleof God working through our diversity. Unity from the diverse skills and giftswe bring, but not uniformity.
And let’s celebrate that the Good News flourishes in prisonsand in the most unlikely places. With people close to God and people we mightsee as far away. With your life and mine,there is always something more, there is always growth and new discovery as wemature into the people Christ calls us to be. AMEN
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