Aug. 5th 2018, Sermon by Pastor Galen Zook
How many of you have ever played on a sports team, been a part of a choir, played in a band or orchestra, or worked together on a group project at work or school?
Working together as part of a team can be incredibly challenging, can’t it? It takes a LOT of practice. Depending on what you’re doing, working together can be grueling and exhausting. But there is something so beautiful when your team starts working together in perfect synchronization to move the ball down the court, or when your group finally comes up with the perfect solution to a problem together. It’s an amazing experience to hear your musical instrument blend together in perfect harmony with all of the other instruments around you and feel the music swell to a crescendo.
It’s moments like this that make all of the hard work and hours of practice worth it. You get that feeling that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
But all of this does not come easily. Part of the challenge is that everyone is different. Everyone comes in with their own goals, or ideas, or what they think is best. We’re shaped by our backgrounds, our experiences in life, and these things influence the way we think about the world and approach particular situations.
Sometimes I think it would just be so much easier to get along with everyone if they were just like me, if everyone had my same personality and preferences and sense of humor. But we’re not all the same. And that’s actually a good thing! Imagine if everyone wanted to play the same position on a sports team. Or if everyone wanted to play the same musical instrument in an orchestra! When you’re working on a group project, it’s actually better to have people with different skill sets. You need someone who is good at research and design, someone else who is good at taking notes and keeping track of all the details, someone who is good at managing people and keeping everyone on task.
You’ve probably heard people say the phrase, “let’s just put aside our differences and work together!” But often its those differences that are exactly what we need in order to achieve our goal! Most often, rather than putting those differences aside, we have to lean into those differences, and recognize those differences as strengths rather than weaknesses. It’s only then that we can work together toward to reach the goal.
But it takes a lot of perseverance, a lot of patience, and a whole lot of practice. And it’s the same in the Church.
The book of Ephesians was written as a letter to be circulated around to churches in cities all over the area. Within each of those cities and churches there was a wide diversity of people — men and women, boys and girls, young and old, people from many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The majority of the people that Paul was writing to were Gentiles, which was a term used for anyone who wasn’t Jewish. The word Gentile literally means “The Nations.” And so Paul was writing to people from every cultural, economic, and geographical background you can imagine.
Here in chapter 4 we see that not only did they have a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, but they also had a lot of different personalities, preferences, likes, and dislikes. And they had a wide variety of roles and responsibilities within the Church. Paul mentions that some of them were Apostles (meaning they were sent out to proclaim the Gospel), some were prophets, meaning that they were great at hearing from God and conveying that message to the people, some were evangelists, meaning that they were great at explaining the Christian faith and drawing in people who didn’t know Jesus. Some were pastors, meaning their gifts were in caring for people and helping them grow spiritually. Some were teachers (like our wonderful Sunday School teachers) and could explain the truths of the Gospel to people of all ages. And others were gifted in service – like those among us who help with the Sunday morning worship service, and visit the sick and home-bound, and serve in our food pantry.
Please note that Paul is not just talking about the leaders, or even just those who are really spiritually mature here. He is talking about each person in the church — each one of us in the church have gifts that we can use to build up the Body of Christ. Every one of us has a different role to play, and that’s a good thing! Imagine if everyone wanted to sing in the choir — there would be no one to listen! Or if everyone played the piano! (We’d have to get a lot more pianos!) Or if everyone wanted to preach (I’m really glad we don’t have that problem because our service would go really long on Sunday mornings!) I’m glad that we have a diversity of gifts in the church.
But just like on a sports team, or orchestra, or a group working on a project at work or school, it takes a lot of patience, perseverance and practice to work together.
And so, Paul tells the Ephesians to:
- Be humble and gentle (4:2)
- Be patient, bearing with one another in love (4:2)
- Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (4:3)
- Build one another up in love (4:16)
Paul recognizes that it’s not always easy to get along with each other, even within the church. The phrases that he uses: “Be Patient,” “bear with one another,” “make every effort” — these phrases show how challenging it can be to work together. Paul knows it’s difficult. But Paul urges the Ephesians (and us), to “make every effort.” In other words, let’s do our best! Let’s give it our best shot. The great news is that we’re not doing it on our own, we have God to help us, and Jesus has already gone before us and done the heavy lifting. By Christ’s death on the cross he has already reconciled us to God and to one another. We just have to live that out.
But it’s not just about getting along. The end goal is to build each other up, and proclaim God’s love to those who have never experienced God’s love. This doesn’t come easily. As with any group, we have to work together, strive together, and practice together to make this happen. But when it does happen it’s a beautiful thing.
Our Weekly Workout
Sunday morning worship is just a small part of what it means to be the Church. We are the Church 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings! Church happens every day of the week as we strive together as a Body of Christ to proclaim God’s goodness and love to the world.
There are so many divisions within the Body of Christ. Racial and cultural and denominational fault lines divide the Body of Christ on a global scale. But here, in worship each Sunday morning, in our little congregation, despite our differences in backgrounds, and experiences, personalities and preferences, we practice moving together in synchronization.
Sure, each of us could say, “I’m just going to stay at home and worship God by myself, in my own way.” But instead, we choose to come together. We allow our voices to blend together in unison as we sing songs to express our shared beliefs and remind one another of what God has done for us. We pray prayers together as an outward expression of our desire for the Church to be united, and as a physical expression of the unity that we have been given in Christ. We break bread together as a reminder that we have been reconciled to God and one another. We Share the Peace, and worship our one Lord, our “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:6).
This morning as we prepare for our Communion Service, let’s respond in worship together by singing together “Bind Us Together.” And let this be our prayer as we seek to live into the unity that God has given us in Christ, and move in sync with God and with one another!
Bind us together Lord,
bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together Lord,
bind us together Lord, bind us together in love
There is only one God, there is only one King.
There is only one body, that is why we sing!