United in Mission
“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. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.” … “11 [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:4-7, 11-16)
I love how the Apostle Paul is able to hold the truths of Scripture in such beautiful tension. So often we feel life trying to pull us in one direction or the other. So often we hear of the polarization taking place within our society today. Paul doesn’t want us veering one direction or the other. Instead, Paul yearns that we might live in the sweet spot of God’s beautiful will for his church. In Ephesians 4, he celebrates many different tensions that are at the heart of our identity as the church. Here are just a few of these beautiful tensions to consider:
- First, there is the unity and the diversity within the church (4:4-7). There are many different gifts, skills, desires, and backgrounds of the people of God and yet we are graciously united through our one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. None of us are more saved or less saved than others. We all stand as recipients of “grace [that] was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (4:7). And it is through that grace and salvation that we are united also in our mission to those outside the church. We are united in our calling to be a light to the world.
- Second, there is the unique callings for both the leaders and the people of the church. We are all equally called to our unique roles and places within God’s kingdom, but we are also all a part of the same team, working to build one another up and to build up the body of Christ. The pastors and teachers of the church equip the saints (4:11), so that they in turn may build up the body. It is a mutual mission and a collective calling. We are all in this working together.
- Third, there is the reality of the now and the not yet. Paul uses several images of growth and maturity to express the truth that we are not yet who God will shape us to be. The tension then is that we are just as loved and just as saved today as we will ever be, but we have not yet grown to be the saints that we will become. We celebrate all that God has done for us in our past and present. He alone deserves all glory and praise for the gift of salvation that is ours now to enjoy. But he is not yet finished in fulfilling his promised work among us. He gives us a promise of a future that is drawing nearer each and every day.
- Fourth, there is the tension between being firm and steady and yet also growing and in motion. Paul uses first an image of a storm on the sea to describe our stability on God’s Word of promise. Though the waves might threaten to toss us here and there, we find ourselves deeply anchored in the rock-solid confession of Jesus Christ (4:13-14). And yet he goes on to use and image of a growing body in motion that is ever changing and becoming who God wants it to be (4:15-17).
May God continue to guide us as Calvary Lutheran Church and School, as we seek to live out these beautiful tensions within our lives together. May we be equally committed and connected to that mission of “Engaging People in Christ,” as we celebrate all of God’s gifts and benefits to us, as well as all the opportunities that we have to reach out in service to others.
May God bless our Advent and Christmas opportunities to connect with our community, as well as new opportunities for us to serve our church, our school, and our community in the year ahead.
Pastor Kurt Ebert