Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11-16
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit 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.
Sometimes when you are planning a sermon you have to struggle to find an appropriate illustration. Not so today! We've been yarn-bombed! Maybe you have seen the photos of our garden, perhaps you joined evening prayer this week, or maybe you have walked through our garden. What began as a seed of an idea – to celebrate creation by an explosion of wool, fabric, ribbon, by knitting, crochet and sewing – has become a magnificent celebration, it's breathtaking. It will be up for a few weeks so do take the opportunity to visit the garden if you can and see all the amazing creations. Hopefully the weather will be kind to them and they can stay up for a while.
The passage today talks about knitting! The body of Christ being knitted together by every ligament – each part working properly it promotes the body's growth in building itself up. We have lots of different elements in the garden that all link together to make a beautiful piece of art. The body is different in that each element is physically joined and coordinated. The passage talks about growing up into him who is the head, Christ. This is a beautiful image of order, synchronicity, connectedness. You can find another exploration of the metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12 – we are diverse, we are different but we are one.
I can knit but I don't know how to crochet, The team who put the items together for the garden have diverse gifts. I guess the person who went up the ladder to put the birds on the tree was not necessarily the same person that made the birds. Tying hoops of flowers to railings is a different skill than making the flowers. Teaching someone to make a flower is another skill, encouraging someone to have a go, organising the collection of different elements – there have been so many skills within the group of people creating the celebration. In the same way within the body of Christ we all have a different role – a different part to play – we can't all be teachers or pastors we need apostles, prophets, evangelists. We have different roles. You have a gift from God – there are no exceptions here! The passage in Corinthians makes that clear. Read from verse seven 'to each is given...'. Don't insult God by saying that you were overlooked when the gifts were being given out! You have a gift!
The gifts are varied – we are not all the same! Would the knitted birds look as good without the stripy knitted tree? Would one pompom look as good as 30? Nothing would look as good if it was all still packed in a box? Every element relies on the others – like a good piece of art the arrangement is in balance – likewise in the body of Christ we rely on each other and we would be limping, struggling if we were short of a hand or a foot - we need each ligament knitted together. We need each other. What happens if one part of the body does not play its part – surely the body will feel the loss? Don't underestimate the part that you play – what you might take for granted may mean a lot to someone else. For example picking up the phone and ringing someone to see how they are might seem a minor thing – but it can mean so much to someone. Being able to genuinely say that you have been praying for someone is powerful
I wonder what it feels like to know that Christ has endowed you with a gift?
Just think about that for a moment – you are gifted – there are no exceptions here. So if you don't think you have anything to offer – look again – don't be too hard on yourself – if you're not sure maybe ask someone else what they think that your gift maybe. Some of us don't feel very gifted or that we have anything to offer! But don't insult God by trying to say that you have nothing to offer – this passage and the chapter in Corinthians leaves no space for anyone to be left out – whether young, old, working, healthy or not – you are a child of God, gifted. Yes, we have different seasons in our lives when we might use different gifts but we have all been blessed by God.
Or we may take for granted what we are capable of. Just this week I have rejoiced that we all hold something different – a unique perspective, a variety of vantage points – in a standing committee just this week I was so grateful for someone who had shared some specialist expertise , another who could play with finance figures (and find it fun!), another who had some wisdom about practicalities, another who had a practical solution and wanted to pin us down to a date, one was a visionary who was listening and hearing God, every single member had something different to offer – it was a great illustration to me about acting as one body. Hallelujah!
Cruise liner or Oil Tanker
A vicar once said to me that the church is an oil tanker not a cruise liner -it is all hands on deck, we need you – everyone! There is no room for passengers – your church needs you and i'm not talking about the building – i'm talking about the body of christ. I give thanks to God for each one of you. You are the body of Christ! But what if you are here at church but you are not part of of the body not really sharing or using your gift – I wonder what that is like. I wonder what the impact is on the body – if one limb does not play its part? Its not just at church that we use our gifts.
This week I was having such a struggle – I had found some beautiful words for evening prayer, Suzanne had taken some great photos but I just couldn't get them into a power point – I was having a terrible time. It was taking me just too long and there were a host of other things to attend to. One phone call to Dan and it was covered – to him it was an easy thing to simply slot them in. I needed the support and the expertise of others. Thank God we all have different skills and perspectives. Thank God for everyone who plays their part at St Andrews – at the moment to open the building as safely as possible there are several requirements – our stewards who volunteer are doing such a great job at keeping us safe, thank-you!
Tom Wright paraphrases this passage in Ephesians by saying – grow up! Its about Christians growing into maturity – not staying as babies – it reads: 'we must no longer be children'. It is time to grow up, to speak the truth in love. I have a puppy who has nearly doubled his body weight in two months – he is growing and learning at a pace! At puppy class we learn something one week – and the next week we are on to the next thing. There is no time to hold back its learn, learn, learn, grow, grow, grow!
Unfortunately sometimes the church has got into a pattern of infantalising the members – continuing to treat them as babies and not giving them the space they need to grow, to practice, to make mistakes and to move on. Grow up! I wonder what you need to grow into the next stage of your development? What is your next challenge and what do you need to equip you?.
We've probably all heard a few sermons based on the image of the body of Christ. It was interesting that when we were thinking of how to represent the image of the body of Christ on the centrepiece at church for Sunday - that we wanted to avoid it looking like a crime scene – with a hand, a foot or an eye! Instead we chose jigsaw pieces – each one slightly different but interlocking – fitting together in a coherent way. Not quite as dramatic as the image of a whole body joined and knit 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. But it does feel a bit like our jigsaw has been thrown up in the air and the pieces scattered and jumbled. Over the past six months the Covid pandemic has challenged how we can do chruch how we can be church.
We are facing a new season – autumn, winter, rising rates of Covid. Staying together as a church is going to be a challenge once again. No more than 30 of us can gather on a Sunday at the moment – this could change. We are continuing to gather on line – Sunday morning, Wed eve prayer, Wed mornign prayer, Thursday bible study.
as we face this new season – of being separate and apart – how can we stay together, how can we support one another, how can we encourage each other in our faith? What is the best way for us to be the body of Christ - how should we link together? And knit our ligaments?
One way we are encouraging is for folk get in small groups – to telephone each other, meet on-line by Zoom or face-book – or maybe you can think of another way?. Use the materials that we put out weekly to encourage you to read the bible and pray. But make sure you are linked and supported. Mirroring the rule of six maybe there are six people that you can be in touch with – you don't need to physically meet – but find a way to keep in touch , to encourage each other, to pray for each other, to discuss the word of God. If you don/t know who to join with do get in touch with Nick, Joyce or myself and we will help to put you in touch. It is no good having a hand that is not connected to the body – how will it survive, what use is it?
Finally, it is not all about doing, Id like to make that clear. Yes we need to grow, yes we need contributors at church. But to use the metaphor of the body – we are human beings not human doings! Sometimes we need to rest and restore. There are times that we need to just be – so an eye can just take in the landscape, or a foot can feel the grass on its sole.
Questions for reflection or discussion:
What do you think your gifts are? If you are not sure how will you discover your gifts?
What do you need to equip you for your next stage of christian development and do you need to do anything to put this in place?
Have you got a group to which you belong – to support and encourage?