28 October 2018
Preacher | Penny Bird
Sermon 28 Oct 8.30 & Morning Worship
May the words I speak, and all our thoughts, be to your glory, O Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Chapter two of Ephesians has two headings in the NIV – “Made alive in Christ” and “One in Christ” and concludes:
“You too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)
This beautiful building where we worship has been altered and extended in many ways over the years. Different architects have looked at it and offered advice. There is one thing they all agree on, the big pillar beside the lectern is what holds the whole building together – what holds it up. Nothing must be done to tamper with that.
If we are being built together to become a building in which God lives by his Spirit, then what holds us up? What is our central pillar?
In our Isaiah reading we read that the people of his time were sure nothing could touch them, saying ‘We have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding-place’. What might we be relying on, which God sees as false?
Or to use Paul’s positive metaphor, what is our cornerstone? We know that the ‘right answer’ is Christ, but how does that affect how we live and work together?
Do you remember the Topsy and Tim books? Perhaps like me you read them to your children. I remember one where the twins Topsy and Tim saw builders preparing to construct a house. First, they built a shed to keep all their equipment in. The children asked if it was a baby house and would grow into a big one!
Next day as they passed the building site it was raining and the builders were getting wet. ‘Why’, asked Tim, ‘don’t they build the roof first to keep them dry as they work?’!
Sometimes, as we seek to build God’s Kingdom, we can have ideas that seem equally silly to God, and God’s ideas can seem incomprehensible to us. In our Gospel reading, Jesus is speaking to his disciples shortly before his arrest and crucifixion. His main themes are ‘Love one another’ and ‘abide in me.’ He knows that he will die and that many of them will be martyred too. By telling them that they too will be persecuted, Jesus is revealing how they are called to be like him – to abide in him.
Jean Vanier explains it by saying; ‘They too will accomplish the works of God. Not just through powerful words and wisdom but through weakness, failure, even death. They will give life as Jesus gave life.”
Of course, not all followers of Jesus are physically persecuted or killed. There are many other forms of more subtle, hidden persecution, as those who stand up for the rights of the oppressed soon discover. Vanier goes on; “Even within community life, family life and at work, there are forms of persecution, where some people are rejected, looked down on, put aside because of their faith. They live the martyrdom of daily pinpricks. … There are two dangers for those who find themselves in such an uncomfortable position. The first is to compromise, watering down their faith and the Gospel message. The second is to enjoy disturbing the status quo, creating a fight in order to be in the limelight.” (Drawn into the mystery of Jesus – Jean Vanier)
It is so easy to say, ‘This is all too difficult.” But God knows that, and Jesus goes on to reassure his disciples that he will not leave them alone. He will be with them and the Holy Spirit will be within them to guide, sustain and help them to say what they have seen and heard Jesus do.
St Paul frequently uses the phrase ‘in Christ’ to describe how we are to live as Christians. We are to experience his love for us and know his peace. Then we are to allow that self-giving love and peace to permeate us and flow out from us.
You may well be asking, ‘How?’ The answer is prayer – not the prayer that is a shopping list of our desires, but the prayer that is an honest seeking to be open to God. If we patiently clear the clutter of our minds and repeatedly return to simply seeking to be present to God we’ll find ourselves floating in God, encompassed by love. As described in John 7:37 From our “innermost being will flow rivers of living water”, which is God’s self, spilling out into our life and into the lives of those we touch.
Now, when we think about our church, we have been taught that it is the one institution which exists for the benefit of its non-members, but do we really live that?
We have been taught that it is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, it is the God of mission that has a church in the world. But do we really live that?
It is hard isn’t it when ‘what I want’, or ‘what I prefer’, conflicts with what seem to be the mission imperatives of God. There is only one way we can cope with the changes that are afoot here at All Saints, and that is to remain together ‘IN CHRIST’.
In Chapter 2 of his letter to the Ephesians Paul teaches that central to God’s plan for gathering up all things in Christ is the uniting of Jew and Gentile in Christ. As a new society, the church witnesses to the new creation. Christ does not force Jews to become Gentiles or Gentiles to become Jews. Instead, he allows for creative and historical diversity while endowing all believers with a new primary identity: the status of being ‘in Christ’. In this way Christ is our peace and makes peace.
In most churches today, there are people who are very different from each other in all sorts of ways. It is easy to see what some of these differences, such as ethnicity, are. Others are more hidden, such as musical taste. But whatever our differences may be, Christ continues to preach peace in and through the church, because “in him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”
… “in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
So how do we relate to one another in Christ? And how are we to relate to people who are not yet in Christ? Perhaps, we need to look at how Jesus related to people. Jan Johnson in her wonderful book ‘Invitation to the Jesus life’ says this; ‘Each person (Jesus met) needed something different to trust him more deeply, so he looked deeply within each person and worked with those needs. This is the only way we can ever be of help to anyone as well. He will help us see what people really need.’
She goes on; ‘Jesus didn’t use clinical one-size-fits-all methods as we tend to do – establishing policies, inventing programmes and printing materials….
‘Jesus’ focus on people probably startled the disciples, over and over. They wanted to ignore kids; he wanted to bless them. They wanted the blind beggar to stop yelling and following them; Jesus stopped in his tracks and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted done for him. They would never have spoken to a despised Samaritan woman; he asked her for help and held a deep conversation with her. … Jesus routinely paused, (putting his own agenda on hold,) to have restorative conversations with people such as the man born blind and the woman with the flow of blood.’
She concludes; ‘People and their stories mattered to Jesus. Even now, Jesus invests in people and is eager to interact with us.’ (Op cit p32-33)
How can we lovingly include children and young people and their families as well as older people moving into the many retirement flats, people of different backgrounds and with different needs? How can we say to them ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you …’ and not expect any thanks or reward of any kind?
I suggest the answer lies in how we are ‘in Christ’, built together on the cornerstone of Christ. Being in Christ Jesus is a stupendous reality and we can be excited to share it.
Let me list what St Paul says to all; of us about being in Christ. The references for all these statements will be on the website if you want them: (See the end of this sermon)
- In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God and given grace before the world was created.
- In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love.
- In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins.
- “In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you.”
- In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and an heir of God.
- In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy.
- In Christ Jesus everything you really need will be supplied and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind
- In Christ Jesus you have eternal life, and you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord.
Wow! How should we respond? Let us pray as St Paul did for the Ephesians.
Father, we pray that we may be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And that being rooted and established in love, we may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge. May we, dwelling in Christ, be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
8.30 only As we come to communion may we have a taste of being built together into a temple of the Holy Spirit and rejoice to dwell together in Christ, as he dwells in us. Amen
Prayer is based on
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Article by John Piper Modal Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
Being “in Christ Jesus” is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be in Christ. United to Christ. Bound to Christ. If you are “in Christ” listen to what it means for you.
Thirteen Stupendous Realities
1. In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created. “He gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
2. In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation. “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
3. In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love. “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
4. In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7).
5. In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you. “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you.”
6. In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
7. In Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
8. In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you. “All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
9. In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
10. In Christ Jesus everything you really need will be supplied. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
11. In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
12. In Christ Jesus you have eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
13. And in Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”
(1 Corinthians 15:22). All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again.