Before the Nazarenes broke off from the Methodists, before the Church of England separated themselves from Rome, before the protestant reformation or even the schism which separated the Western Church in Rome from the Eastern Church in Constantinople, there was the argument between school of Christian thought that came out of Alexandria and that of Antioch. For better and worse, it seems there have always been things that have caused divisions in the Church. Arguments and the inability to come to an agreement that have led to divisions in the greater Church, which have resulted in the fractured Church as we know it it today, as well as those that have led to the splitting of a congregation, which have led to broken relationships and dissension between people that have led at times to generations of animosity.
We have all heard about the congregation that literally split apart over disagreements between individuals who attend. Whether it be over something as mundane as the color of the new carpet or the color of the newly refinished women's bathroom or over a disagreement over a theological matter, these things are no entirely uncommon. In Mulvane, the little town of 5,000 where Mike and pastored before we came here, there were two congregations of the same denomination whose buildings were blocks a part. What ever divide they had was so great that members of the two congregations would not speak to each other and did not believe that anyone who attended the other was actually really a Christian.
Our congregation, unfortunately is not immune to this phenomenon either. After, Rev Short passed the congregation asked their new young associate minister to take his place. There was some disagreement over “the manner which the Rev officiated communion” and something about how he was taking in new members. The Church board minutes during this time got very interesting, with the board holding a special meeting of the Church, the DS intervening, ending in the good Rev defying the instructions of the DS to ride out his term as pastor and leaving suddenly in January. After that a suspicious number of people left membership to “go join that other church.” When they began looking for a new pastor, they made sure that the new pastor served communion “in the manner of Rev. Short.”
Divisions among Christians is not a new are unique problem, it is something that seems to have been enough of a problem to be a concern even as early as when Paul wrote this letter to the members of the Church in Ephesus. Paul wants us to know that we are one in Christ, that we are united through Christ. Together we make up the ONE body of Christ, and as such we are united not only through the Spirit and through the one in whom we hope (Christ Jesus), and because we all share the hope of the second resurrection, but we are also united because there is but one Lord; Jesus Christ, in whom we all believe, one faith; our belief in the salvific work of Christ through his life, death and resurrection; one baptism; all of us being baptized into this one faith in which we all believe in the name of the one Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and lastly we all believe in One father; one God who is forever Triune, one Father, who remained in heaven and eternal, who sent the Son through whom we find salvation and the Spirit sent to remain with us after Christ return to heaven, all three co-equal forming the One eternal God, who is above all, works in us all to bring salvation and life eternal and who works through us all for the betterment of the Kingdom.
First and foremost, as believers we are united, we are one together forming the kingdom of God bringing the truth and good news of Jesus Christ to the world around us (this is the work God does through us). We are united in our love of Christ and our love for one another. We are united in our support and encouragement of each other. Our unity through Christ comes first. We all make up the building, of which Christ is the corner stone, we are all adopted, members of one family, brothers, sisters and co-heirs with Christ. All things, which Paul has made a point to explain thus far in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus.
Paul also wants us to know that not only are we united, not only are we one, but we are one body, made up of different parts, all working together to accomplish the work and will of God and to spread the truth of the Gospel with our world.
We are diverse individuals, who come together, united in Christ. We are not uniform, we are not clones, we are not cookies, all cut with the same cutters, mirror images of one another. We are all different, different parts, with different functions, with different skills, and different purposes, functioning, using our skills and working together for the betterment of the kingdom of God. In the unity we form in Christ we are all different parts of the same body moving and working together so that the body can move through the world performing the tasks God has set out for us to do.
Paul tells us that as we come together, God has given us different functions, different skills, different gifts and talents that when we all work together we are the body of Christ, working together, so that the body of Christ can function and work, so that the truth of the gospel can be seen in us and be worked through us. God is at work in us and through us so that the kingdom can be furthered, so that the body of Christ can be the people of God together.
My girls are really into making their own Lego creations right now. They have an amazing amount of legos and almost every day it seems they spend hours making things, boats, houses, cars, whatever their imaginations can think of. Each creation it made up of hundreds of little pieces. Each piece holds a different place in the creation. They are different shapes, they are different sizes, they are different colors, some of them are even transparent. Each Lego on its own is just a Lego; a little round green cylinder, a brown square brick, a thin transparent rectangle, but you put them all together they make a house complete with little Lego furniture. Each Lego holds its own place in the creation, each one serves a specific function. Each one does its own thing, and on their own not very impressive, but together they are pretty cool. And the entire creation would not be complete, would be missing something if even one was missing, or was swapped with another piece. The creation is dependent upon each piece being in the proper place and serving its proper function. In fact, when they are building these creations, and they need a particular piece, they will fish through all of the pieces for quite a bit of time, in order to find just the right piece, because when they need a clear rectangle piece, green square piece, a brown cylinder, or whatever particular piece it is for which they are hunting, no other piece will do. The creation will not be right, if they do not have the one piece for which they are looking.
This is the way it is with the Church, each one of us are different, we have different skills, different personalities, different things at which we excel, but we all come together as a congregation, as the people of God, all working together to be the Church, the body of Christ God is calling us to be. Whatever piece in God's creation of the Church we are, we are important, we have a particular function. The Church needs us. We all may be different, and all of us have different skills we bring to body, and all those skills, and talents are needed for us to be the congregation God is calling us to be. All of our differentness comes together to form the amazing creation God is building here called the Cambridge Church of the Nazarene. And all of us need to use our skills, our gifts, our talents so that this creation God is forming us to be together can function and work properly. So that together we can do the work God is calling us to do here in Cambridge.
What ever it is that we do, whether our talent is in leading or playing music, is cooking amazing dishes to bring to fellowship meals or to take to someone in need, or writing letters, or helping us set up at the park, all these things are needed for us to be THIS Church, to be the church as it functions here, for us to be the Church God is calling us to be.
Paul tells us that these different gifts, these different skills and talents are all given to us for the building of the body, for the betterment of the kingdom. When we are all working together to do the work God has set out for us. When we are all utilizing our skills and talents, when we are all working together, functioning as the unity which we are, in Christ, then the kingdom of God grows, the body becomes healthy and strong.