8/2/2015 Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Text is Ephesians 4:1-16.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that no two of us are totally the same. We are as different as snowflakes. Some of the differences between us, of course, are built-in differences, for God in his creative wisdom never uses the same mold twice. He is a God of infinite variety and rich diversity. In his wisdom, God endows each of with a unique set of genes, and equips us with different looks and talents. No two, not even identical twins, are exactly the same. Yet, each one of us bears God’s stamp of approval as each one of us has been loved into existence.
Some would have us believe that the science of genetics can explain all the differences that exist between us. But we know that isn’t true as you don’t look or act or have the same gifts and talents as your brother or sister. You are not identical clones of your parents. So, while some of our differences are built-in and are genetic in origin, there are other differences that develop as we grow up in a unique environment. Even if we grow up in the same household, there is only one oldest and one youngest. You may be an only child or one who has been shifted from household to household because of divorce or death or the breakup of the family or through intervention by DSS. Some of us have grown up in Worcester, while others have lived in different towns and states. We have grown up at different times, with different value systems and under the influence of peers. And for better or for worse, we have made personal choices that have become an ingredient of our character. Over the course of time, we have even developed our own set of peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and habits, all of which make us who we are.
So, in the end, no two of us are totally alike. We have our differences and we tend to cherish them. We resist the trend of a computerized society that seeks to blend us all together into one globby mass, a world where everybody looks alike, behaves alike and thinks alike, a world where no one can tell the players without a program and everyone can be controlled by tossing the right bones in the right direction. We don’t want to live in a “1984” world where no one stands out and everyone is anonymous, a world in which right “speech” and controlled lives has individuality fading into the walls like old wallpaper. Yet, at the same time, we who cherish differences often don’t see the joy in diversity. Our vision can easily become distorted and we can become cantankerous about the molehills that divide us, the differences that separate us from the masses. We can be crotchety, embittered, and divided when we do not see eye to eye. And, in the end, brotherly love and forgiveness can leave our vocabulary, and we can separate ourselves from others with haughty arrogance and disdain toward those who differ from us in opinion, skills, energy level and a myriad of other things.
St. Paul knew something about the type of love/hate relationship we have with differences. The people of Ephesus who were one in God, united in Christ, and gifted by God with a full measure of unique talents and treasures, often locked horns in battle over who and what was most important to their faith community. Was it the prophet or the evangelist or the pastor or the teacher? Or maybe it was the one who spoke and interpreted tongues? Yes, God had uniquely gifted each person and placed them in community, uniting them in one faith, one Lord, one baptism, but that didn’t seem to be enough to satisfy a people who want to know who is better, what is better and which one has received the greater measure of God’s grace.
The people did not yet understand that God doesn’t place a greater value on one gift or one person over another, as God is not engaged in such one-upmanship. To God, each gift is important; each person is important and endowed with something to give. Variety is the key to the body of Christ and the fulfillment of the call to be God’s people in the world.
When pastors ask members of their church what their calling is, people don’t express their calling in the terms of a prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. Instead a variety of answers are given. Some may say, “I guess it’s to work in an animal shelter or be a Good Samaritan.” Others look at the challenge of day to day living and may say, “Well, I think my calling is to be a good parent and faithful spouse.” All of these are good examples of God’s calling and God’s calling may come through parenting and grand-parenting, cheerful giving and joyful singing, compassionate care-taking and reaching out to those who need a listening ear.
God has gifted each of us and has called us to use specific gifts. God has created our relationship with each other for the purpose of furthering his kingdom, for the benefit of all. As surely as we have been called by the one Spirit through one baptism, one faith, one Lord and Savior of us all, we are one community with many gifts, a community where diversity is a sign of health and wealth and where unity comes through Jesus Christ.
We have been given gifts for ministry…gifts which are only used when shared within Christ’s body, the church. We cannot sit on the sidelines or in the back pews, cheering others and staying uninvolved ourselves. God has given us unique gifts to use. God has endowed us with unique talents for ministry. Everyone is important. Everyone is a player on God’s team. No one is too old or too young to get involved. But, sadly, not all of us are willing to pick up the ball and run with it. We set our own limitations and we adhere to our own set of values. We carry in our flesh the evidence of our fallen nature. We, who have been called into fellowship and unity of faith, still have a lot of room to grow until we fully live a life worthy of the calling to which we are called and become the called-out people of the living God.
For growth, for ministry, for witness to Christ, our Lord has dispensed gifts to nurture and nourish his people and have placed those gifts here, in the community we have with one another. We who confess Christ’s holy name within this congregation are a family of faith – each one of us as unique as brothers and sisters, yet all of us one in the body of Christ.
Rejoice in the gifts God has given you and use them. Rejoice in the gifts God has given you in others who differ from you and relish those people. Know that God is at work today through you and through others to build his church, extend his fellowship, establish his community and gather his people. Watch him work, through you and through me as we live a life worthy of our calling – to be the called-out people of God.
Join in the action, my friends. YOU ARE NEEDED. Amen!
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.