‘‘…lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 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.”
If, like me, you sometimes wonder what difference faith ought to make in daily life, then this morning’s passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is just what we need. Paul is urging us to live a life that is worthy of a calling to which you have already been called…a worthy life calls each of us…but what does that look like?
The text before us this morning marks a change in Paul’s emphasis. In the first 3 chapters of his letter Paul has described in detail what God has done and is doing for the whole cosmos, for his church and for Paul himself. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s only Son, is the centerpiece, the head of the church and now we come to the implications of all of this for daily life.
We come to consider the kind of life that is the fitting response to what God has done and continues to do out of His love for the world and all that is in it.
The church, as the gathered followers of Jesus, is called to a certain type of life. We are called not just to set aside an old lifestyle with a superficial makeover but, immersed in the waters of baptism, we die to old life, we put aside life without Jesus and we rise with Christ to a whole new life.
In Christ God’s new world has been launched; it makes demands on those who claim Jesus as Lord; it requires sacrifice; it gives real and lasting meaning and purpose to our lives and hope for the world. Humility, gentleness, patience and unity are marks of this new life…Live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…
We are going to hear lots more about what this looks like in our preaching series from the Letter to the Ephesians but in this morning’s passage Paul starts by urges us to Grow up, “…grow up in every way into him who his head, grow up into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love”.
Paul wants us to grasp that God’s church exists for a certain reason…it has a God-given purpose. That purpose is to live as a sign of God’s reconciling love in and for the world. God will use lives that lean into his vision and his plan, lives that seek to live a life worthy of that calling, to achieve his purposes in and for the world. God is at work gathering up all things into Christ, Paul says, and God uses his church, the body of Christ, with Christ as its head to accomplish it. He uses all of our strengths and weakness to do that – and calls us to grow up.
Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Exercise humility, gentleness, patience, and self-giving love for the sake of unity in the bond of peace, Paul says – that’s a tall order! It goes against our instincts and every cultural norm. But that is what we promise at baptism; with God’s help to be formed into a people worthy of our calling.
Be yourself Paul says…live your life as the person God made and loves unconditionally, know that you are worthy in God’s eyes, strive for unity and see the church as a place of deep spiritual nourishment and formation as an authentic Christian.
And Paul gives us instruction on how to do this. More will come but for this morning we have three key points:
- First, living a worthy life starts with grasping the truth that God is the initiator, the one in charge. God is the one who calls; who beckons and waits. The life he calls “worthy” begins and ends there, rooted and grounded in God’s love.
- Second, God’s calling is not some particular activity or occupation. Your worth has nothing to do with where you come from, your last name or what keeps you busy. Your worth cannot be earned or counted but simply received. Your worthiness in God’s eye is held in and by our life in Christ. Your life is formed, shaped and directed within the reality and movement of God’s life; of its overflowing grace and God’s intention for all of creation. Humility, gentleness, patience are sure signs of this worthy life.
- The third point is the centerpiece of Paul’s thinking about the church. Paul tell us that the worthy life nurtures the unity of the church…not uniformity but unity in the Spirit with all gifts and desires aligned with God’s mission in the world. Paul is adamant about the importance of unity in the church, not uniformity but unity; he names 7 things in this passage that are given by God as one: one body of the church called and sanctified by one Spirit; one hope which flows from God’s calling, one Lord Jesus whom we all confess and into whom we are growing up; one faith and one baptism with binds us to him and to each other. One bread, one body!
But unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Unity is freely given in Christ, just as the diversity of gifts are given. But we are called to nurture and care for it in the way we honour the diversity of gifts God gives to one another: the way we treat one another and our neighbour – with humility and gentleness, bearing with one another …maintaining unity of the Spirit with patience and love (vs 2) all so that the whole body is built up in love, working properly, so it grows and thrives, everyone exercising the gifts God has given, so that we serve God’s purpose, not our own.
This is heartbeat of our new congregation, and the reason we exist as the people of St Mary and St Martha’s church. We surely did not come together merely to survive or to continue in old ways even if they were familiar and comfortable – but to grow and thrive as one people reborn and engaged in God’s life-giving mission in this place and time. That is how we mature in our faith, that is how we grow up into Christ.
Speaking the truth in love we must grow up in everyway into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped as each part is working properly promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Paul’s description of the church urges us to examine our lives with fresh insight. I am reminded of how Martin Luther speaks about leading a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called:
This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not healthy but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This life is not the goal but the right road… everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.
And so I invite you in to open your mind, your heart and soul this morning to receive this gift: God counts you as worthy. He has initiated a good work in you and is calling you into a life, new life, one worthy of your calling.
Hold onto that precious gift and take it into the days ahead. Lean into living as worthy of the calling to which you have been called. How? First and foremost, spend some time each day reading your Bible and pray, giving thanks for all that is good and worthy; and seeking the comfort and strength you need to live into your calling. With reading the Bible and prayer part of your routine, reflect on the gifts and talents God has given you and consider how you can offer them here – step up not reluctantly or out of guilt but out of sheer gratitude for God’s faithfulness and all that God is doing in our midst!
More is possible if together we each come alongside what God is doing out there, ahead of us. Lend a hand at the yard sale on August 11, join up with the PALS small group study, come out to the mid-week Bible study, Eucharist and lunch. As more of us step up, as more of us engage in God’s ministry, a thirsty world will drink the water of life, a hungry world will feast on the very bread of life, Jesus.
We will grow and flourish in His name. And may the glory be His alone. Amen.