As I wind down for some time to have with family across this country and take some holidays to rest and reflect on the last year, I thought it might be good to take some time with this week’s Epistle and think about the life of the Church as a missional community and what might be ahead of us.
Our Lesson (Ephesians 4.1-13) is a transition from teaching the Church in Asia Minor about the nature of the single confession that every Christian makes, whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile to an exhortation to live a life worthy of the call that God has placed on every Christian – to come to him and to his kingdom. St. Paul calls on each of the believers to forgive each other whatever has happened in the past and to let go of that past so that together, as individual believers and as the Church, can embrace a common present and be prepared for what is to come.
I point this out to say this to the Church in North America, we have too often been told and have bought into the lie that the Church is dying. We have bought into the lie that the Church has no future. How do I know this? Think about what God has said through the prophet Jeremiah to the Exiled people of Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29.11 NIV) The problem with the Church is that it is not dead in North America: it is something far worse. It is become irrelevant. And the world knows it.
God has brought many people, of many different languages, cultures, races and nations together to be his people; his holy nation and his royal priesthood. God us brought us to himself to be his people. And since the kingdom of God has not come to fruition yet, God is still at work. And if God is still at work, then so are we. God isn’t finished yet and as the old saying goes, “God don’t make no junk.” Beyond that, God has broken down and removed himself the barrier that used to be between people. In Christ, he broke down the dividing wall of hostility and made all who take Christ as Saviour to be one people.
And as such we are called to be a community of hope, of the resurrection and of life, not a society for despair, destruction and death of the whole world. Our response to the world in the face of despair, destruction and death is to hold out to people the courage, the hope and the life that we have with and in Christ because we have chosen to surrender to him. People believe that Jesus is the truth but so often, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently pointed out about his own self, he did want all the moral stuff that came with being “Christian” when he first came to faith. What stops so many from being followers of the Lord Jesus is not Jesus himself but the thought of what life with Jesus and the Church would be like.
So how do we live to win people to Christ and then the Church? St. Paul lays it out in a simple manner. We are to live in humility, gentleness, patience and loving forbearance. These are the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) and are a part of the work of the Spirit in the life of the Church and therefore of every believer. These fruit are more than just a once given, always gotten type gift. They have to be used, developed, and maintained.
So don’t buy into the nonsense of the culture. The Church is not dead. There is a God and he loved the world so much that he has given us bread to eat and his Son to believe in. Until he comes again we are called to hold out life and hope for the world that they might come, receive forgiveness and know that they are adopted into the family of God, becoming beloved children of the Most High. God is here, and we are with him.
Have a safe and happy holiday. We have work to do this Fall because God is not done just yet.