A Worthy Calling (A Sermon for Proper 13B, 2021)
The Rev. Alan D. Bentrup
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church (Keller, Texas)
August 1, 2021
These past few weeks, our lectionary has been working its way through Ephesians.
In Ephesians 1 we saw how God chose us, in Christ, before the foundation of the world to be adopted children, holy and blameless before him in love.
Ephesians 2 reminded us that we were outcasts, and that God has brought us back in. God has taken two hostile cultural groups – Jews and Gentiles – and broken down the wall of hostility, and made them into one new thing: the body of Christ.
Ephesians 3 gave praise to God for this past work…where we’ve been and where God has brought us so far.
Ephesians 1-3 illustrates how the past has shaped who we are right now.
The past forms us. The past has formed St. Martin’s. The past has formed me.
But now the future calls us.
Ephesians chapter 4 starts to get at how we are supposed to actually do this thing called being the body of Christ.
Look at what he says in verse one: “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
We need to take a moment here and make an important statement about being a follower of Jesus.
Let me state, emphatically, that we are made whole and holy by grace alone, it is a gift from God. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does.
But Paul reminds us that it takes effort to walk worthy of this calling.
You see, Jesus didn’t break down the wall of hostility so that we could just be assured that we will go to Heaven when we die.
Jesus broke it down so that we can actually live together in peace, right now, and be a witness to the whole world that God’s kingdom is a reality, right now.
God loves us. God has saved us. And that love now compels us to participate in God’s work in the world.
So…how do we do it?
I want to answer that question in one word: TOGETHER.
We, as followers of Jesus, are one body. We’re Christ’s body.
And we, you and I, today are being made into one body. You and I are being called to walk this path, together.
So let’s look at three aspects of walking together as the body of Christ.
First, together doesn’t mean the same.
Paul is talking here to Jews and Gentiles, to people from all walks of life.
Because the body of Christ is diverse.
Let’s look at our congregation. We might be tempted to look at each other with the typical labels that society uses. But the truth is that we are each unique individuals, created by God. We each have something beautiful to contribute to our collective whole.
And we each have our own weaknesses and junk that needs to be worked out.
We all come from different places and bring different gifts, but what unites us is that we follow Jesus and seek to be the presence of God’s love in the world. What unites us, as Paul says, is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
There is a second aspect of walking together: Together means everyone contributes.
Paul goes on to say, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”
When people think about the church, and the work of the church, maybe they think it is the priest’s job to run the church. If you think that, I’d love to talk to you after the service…
Y’all didn’t call me to be a professional Christian so you could just attend an event on Sunday morning every couple of weeks.
That is not the picture of the church that the Bible paints.
First of all, there is not just one leader, there are many leaders with many different gifts; apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Wardens, altar guild, Godly Play teachers, mowers.
More importantly, the job of the leader is not to rule from on high, but to be half buried in the mud, equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.
Y’all called me to jump in the mud with you. To help equip us all, so we can be the Church, together.
There is a third aspect of walking together: Together means growing pains.
The rest of our epistle lesson today says, basically, “we must no longer be children…we must grow up.”
My boys have been doing football camp at Richland High School this week, and every morning they woke up complaining about how sore they were. Every morning, I reminded them that the soreness means they are getting stronger. But it may hurt for a little while, first.
Because growth usually brings pain.
Anytime a group of diverse people gets together and seeks to actually do something productive, to grow, you can be guaranteed that there will be conflict along the way.
That’s why Paul begins this whole section with these words: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…”
I love that phrase, “bearing with one another in love…”
In other words, a huge part of walking worthy of our calling is learning how to put up with each other when we disagree and bug the heck out of each other.
And I can guarantee you that I will bug the heck out of each of you at some point.
We’re going to disagree about things. Healthy, growing, vibrant churches full of wonderfully diverse and gifted people are going to have conflict. That is inevitable.
But how we walk with each other… in and through the hard parts…is how we live out our worthy calling.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this reading from Ephesians popped up today. This reading clearly lays out our job descriptions. What we’re called to do.
God has called you all to be the people of St. Martin’s. God…through you…has called me to be your rector. God has called us…all of us…to be the body of Christ in this part of the world.
And I’m glad that we get to do this together.