Monday, 6 August 2018

Sermon for Trinity 10 on 5 August 2018


EPHESIANS 4: 1 – 16

I have just received a letter from the Apostle Paul to Holy Trinity Poulton-le-Sands with St Laurence Morecambe. It got a bit delayed until Tychicus realised it’s usually known as Morecambe Parish Church.
Let me read you this morning what the Apostle says:

Dear friends in Morecambe:
I heard about the party – all that singing by the choir and soloists and the geriatric something or other. They told me about those 2 old geezers with their maracas trying to accompany Mike on the guitar. And that bloke called Michael Page who was all shook up or something – we didn’t sing that in my day so I didn’t quite get it.

And I heard about Mike’s message last week – I couldn’t have done better myself. All that about bread which you had again in the gospel this morning. And your presentation of that fabulous picture Linda had painted. And that Reader of yours feeling she’d made a fool of herself. Just tell her to get over it; she was probably expressing what many of you felt.

I know you’re going to miss your previous Rector, Mike, but you know, God is not leaving you; I know it’s scary going into a vacancy but God is going to be with you. He doesn’t leave his people to flounder, in my experience..

And thinking of you all there in Morecambe, it reminded me of some things I said to another church that was in a sort of vacancy in a place called Ephesus an awful long time ago. So that’s why I’m writing to you this week.

I had a lot to say to that church in Ephesus about all that Jesus Christ had done for them and about who they were in him. You’ve got that bit of the letter. And then I got onto talking about some practical things. And those are the things I want to say to you today.

1          Maintain the unity of the Spirit
The first thing is this: I want you to keep united. I want you to keep together. That’s going to take humility and gentleness and a lot of patience because unity is not easy.
It takes a whole load of effort.

There’s always something or somebody who wants to undermine it. A little misunderstanding and suddenly you’re not speaking to each other. You get tired I know in a vacancy because there’s so much more to do, so many more responsibilities. You suddenly realise what the Rector did behind the scenes, without anyone noticing and it’s easy to feel over-whelmed and then to get irritable with each other and before you know it something has been said that you regret and it’s very hard to take it back. My advice is, apologise quickly, put it right, don’t let things fester – maintain the unity.

I said before and I’ll say again: bear with one another, put up with one another – even those who really wind you up. Jesus has loved you and his Spirit living in you will help you love them. You may not feel very loving like you do to people you like. But do the loving thing; want the best for them and you’ll find that the feelings will eventually follow.

You know I, Paul, had rows with people when I was a young apostle. I was so furious with my fellow worker Barnabas because he wanted to re-instate a young guy called Mark that we went our separate ways (Acts 15: 37). But when I had time to reflect during my long years in prison, with God’s help we put it right and eventually Mark became one of my closest companions. (Col 4: 10 & 2 Tim 4: 11)

So maintain the unity because “you’re all called to travel the same road and in the same direction. . . . you have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all” Permeate everything you are and think and do with being One.” (The Message)

The other thing I want to say to you is that:

2          God has given you everything you need for this vacancy
I know some of my original letter to the Ephesians sounds a bit complicated but that’s because they were Jews like me and were familiar with what I was referring to.

You see the most important story to us Jews was the Exodus from Egypt and how afterwards when they were wandering in the desert, their leader Moses went up the mountain and came down with stone tablets on which the Law was written. We thought of the Ascension of Jesus as rather like that. Jesus had been through death and resurrection – a new Exodus, setting us free from bondage to sin and death. And then he had ascended to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit and now his Spirit was showering gifts on his Church.

Well let me tell you Morecambe Parish Church, Jesus is still sending the gifts of his Spirit on the Church - including yours. So if you’ve got the same Spirit as we had, you can serve like we did. It may be a different millennium but you’ll find ways that are appropriate to your generation.
In my day, God’s Spirit equipped and sent people like me into new situations all over the Mediterranean and we planted new churches. We were called Apostles. Some of you will be able to tell other people about Jesus in a very natural way so that they want to become Christians too. We called them evangelists.

Some will be able to speak truth to power; they’ll understand what’s going on in the world around you and say things that are just right on the mark. We called them prophets. Some will be able to open up the scriptures to you and make them live. We called them teachers. Some will be really good listeners and take care of your needs. We called them pastors. There are lots of other gifts God gives to the church – I wrote about them in other letters, but these are enough for now.

They have a very special purpose. They are to help you grow up, so you aren’t tossed about on a sea of opinions that haven’t much to do with Christian faith v 14.
These gifts are to help you get on with the ministry like Mike was encouraging you to last week, to keep up with the things already established and be alert for anything else God wants you to do.

It may be a vacancy but that doesn’t mean it’s a vacant lot in Morecambe! You’re not a vacant building; you’re a body. And just as the ligaments in your body link all your skeleton together, so you are linked to each other so that you pull in the same direction.

These gifts will make the body of Christ there in Morecambe strong, so that you become more and more united in purpose, more and more full of the knowledge of God, more and more like Jesus.

And so Paul ends this letter sending us grace and peace.