Fourth Sunday after Easter – May 10, 2020
Text – Eph 4:1-6
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
SLIDE 1-title slide
- Last week… 3 circles…spend time in solitude, then engage in community with others who have been in solitude.
- Done in families, informal fellowships, small groups, and other friendship groupings.
- But the primary place where we do community is in the unique, special context that God created in Christ through his Spirit: God’s covenant community, that community formed by believing faith and bound to God in covenant relationship. This is what the NT calls the Church. (Large C church—whole church of believers regardless of denominational affiliation. HTC is a small c church—one part of the larger body of Christ)
- The church is a very special thing. The NT calls the Church the bride of Christ, a term of endearment that means that implies a unique bond and mutual fidelity; He is our God, we are his people; he is my beloved, my beloved is mine. The Church is also called the body of Christ, which emphasizes the organic union of Jesus with his people. We are not two separate things but one, merged in a shared body, with Christ the head and we the torso.
- So, the Church is more than just a group of Christians meeting together. The NT lays out very clear guidelines for what makes Church Church. For example, it provides the qualifications and character qualities to be found in its leaders. It prescribes the proper way to observe the sacraments, the reading and teaching of scripture, the use of the spiritual gifts, the exercise of order and discipline, and the way of preach the gospel and to then disciple converts in the faith. All these things are defined by God himself and laid out for us in NT books, especially places like Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus, etc.
- I have a group of three other guys I’ve had the privilege of meeting with every week for over 25 years. I love these guys and am so blessed to consider them spiritual companions and dear friends. But everyone of us knows that we are not a church nor a substitute for church. We’re a group of friends who intentionally meet together to encourage and love each other in Christ. We don’t have the formal features, mentioned above that make a church a church. But that doesn’t keep us from loving one another and valuing each other.
- So what makes the church church? Let’s start with the name. SLIDE 3. Look at our text in Eph 1 again, verse 1: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
- SLIDE 4 The word “calling” (klesis) and “called” (kaleo) are morphologically related to the word “Church” (ekklesia), a compound of the Greek preposition ek=out of; kaleo=called). So, literally the church is the assembly/gathering of the “called out ones”.
ekklesia (ek=out; kaleo=called)
“Called out ones”
- The Apostle Peter captures this idea in a dramatic way:
1 Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
- The nature of the Church is utterly unique. It is not a human institution. It is a divinely created organism that fuses humans with God in Christ through the Spirit. We see hints of this in our Eph 1 text. Look at:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
- Do you see what is being claimed here? The church is a renewed, recreated humanity fused with the triune God into a single unit….
- Because of this, the church is referred to as a theandric organism or reality. Theandric is made up of two Greek words: Theos=God; andros=having to do with human. Theandric, then, means a divine-human thing, a union of human beings with the divine being.
- Jesus was the Theandric being, the unique God-Human. So, it is only fitting that his eternal companion, his spouse, also be theandric.
- Think about it, friends, everything about the church is determined by God. He is the one who gives the church its purpose, its mission, its hope, its power, its authority, its life, its worship, its teachings, its bond of love. Everything comes from God the Father, who is over all and through all and in all. Everything is mediated through God the Son, who is the One who unites the new humanity to God. And everything is animated, given life, by God the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and among us, accomplishing God’s purposes. The church is unique.
- Okay, having talked a bit about the nature of the church, let me share with you…
Three reflections on doing life together in community as the church of Christ
- SLIDE 7 The best way to introduce this is to look together at our Holy Trinity Logo. Triquetra, Trinity knot, representing the divine life of the Father, Son and Spirit.
- Underneath are the three statements: Live by faith, grow in grace, walk in love. Each of these happens as we live in covenant community in Christ’s body, the church.
- So, three thoughts on doing life together. First, SLIDE 8
1. It is in community that we are encouraged to live by faith.
- Our Eph 4 text says in v.4-5 there is one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
- Dallas Willard said that life is a long, difficult journey with Triune God and other holy ones, opposed by dark powers, cheered on by the saints that have gone on before us. It takes perseverance and endurance to run that marathon.
- It is the community of faith that gives us the encouragement we need…
- Keep our eyes on Jesus, elder brother who made the way
- Looking to the Father who provides our every need and invites us to call him Abba
- Trusting in the Spirit to be our strength, power to…
- Not lose hope
- Keep hearing the voice of our Abba say: you are my beloved
- Reading/studying scripture together is one way… Faith comes by hearing….
- Another is to hear regularly about what the Lord is doing in our individual lives… Main reason for our midweek community group.
- Some of you may be struggling with your faith today….Jude 1:24-25:
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before the presence of his glory without blame and with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
- Friend, if you’re questioning…
- A second thought regarding doing life together is that… SLIDE 10
2. It is in community that we are equipped to grow in grace.
- Community is like an incubator where the environment is carefully controlled to created conducive conditions for growth in grace. Life is hard. One antidote to…. is to hear from others how we reflect…Celebrate.
- It is in community that we celebrate each other’s glories. We get called out by others who see something of Jesus in us. John Mcclaren: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting great battle.”
- Receive grace and extend grace. Forgive.
- Makes it easier for us to live loved. To embrace our belovedness
- Rejoice in the ways others image Jesus.
- Healing takes place. we can move toward wholeness.
A third thought regarding doing life together is that… SLIDE 11
3. It is in community that we are empowered to walk in love.
- Living with other imperfect humans is where….What is vs. What want it to be, idealized humanity (Bonhoeffer, 26-27)
- Let others not be God.
- See in our text… v.1-3: “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
- How? practically?
- Ministry of hospitality, making room for one more. One big part: Eating: Breaking bread
- Includes especially loving those deemed unlovely by the world, what Jesus called the least of these my brothers and sisters: those with rough edges, prickly exteriors, those who endured great tragedy in life and were broken and aren’t yet very well put together, those with various mental, emotional, physical challenges… (Bonhoeffer, 38)
- Serve each other with gifts-Eph 4, one body, many gifts
- Love according to the immediate need. Tend to think of love in one dimensional terms: love is being gentle, kind and deferential. Well, often it is that way. But sometimes love looks very different.
- In 1 Thessalonians 5, the Apostle Paul gives us a good look at the multidimensional character of Christian love. SLIDE 12
1 Thess 5:14
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters,
encourage the disheartened,
help the weak,
be patient with everyone.”
- Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
- We have the privilege of doing life together as God’s covenant community. As we seek to be all he made us to be as a church, we will help each other live by faith, grow in grace and walk in love.
- Let’s pray.