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August 1, 2021

“Speaking Truth”

(From Ephesians 4: 1-16)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to 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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,one Lord, one faith, one baptism,one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”  (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)  The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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. 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.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.

     A member of one of my former churches was a certified lay speaker.  He regularly attended courses to further his training and certification to preach in the churches within our Conference.  Often, he would share some of his new learnings with me.  In one course, the students were asked to look across their time of preaching and to discover the main theme or themes of their messages.  After reflecting on his own preaching history, this man recommended that I to do the same for mine.  It had truly been a positive experience for him to do this reflecting.

     Shortly after this conversation, on a quiet afternoon, I began to review and reflect upon the titles and contents of many of the messages I had shared with my congregations on Sunday mornings.  After this tie of reflection, I could see that there was, indeed, an overarching theme to the content of my messages.  The theme I discovered is this: God is love.  God’s love is always with us, for us, and directed for our good.  So, together we can do this thing called being the Church.  I was pleased that this overall theme, like my personal style of preaching, was positive and uplifting.  I believe that we must be true to our gifts and graces for pastoral ministry, including those given to us for our preaching.

     I have always felt that my own preaching style was modeled a bit after Jesus and a bit after Paul.  By this I mean that I often, like Jesus, use stories as illustrations of the content found in my messages.  Like Paul, I have often thought of myself a cheerleader and equipper of the saints for their ongoing ministry to our world.  Fire and brimstone do not often, if ever, exude from my messages.  That does not, however, imply that my messages do not contain and speak the unwavering truth of Christ Jesus.  For, I agree with the Pauline teaching that we must speak the truth, in love, so that we may all grow up in every way into him who is our head and cornerstone-our Lord Jesus.  So, I will speak truth that has been given to me, in love, to you this day.

     The truth for our hearing is that we, folks, are the Church of Christ in this day, and even in the uncertain and ever-changing times in which we are living.  The Church, as our Pauline Letter reminds us today, is the body of Christ in and for the world.  Christ is our one Lord, in and through whom we have but one faith and one eternal hope of our calling.  This calling is for us to continue to build up the body of Christ until that time when we shall all come into full unity in our faith and in our knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord; until we mature into the full measure his stature.  For this work of building up the body of Christ we have each been given our own unique and individual gifts.  Some, as our lesson for today discloses, are called to be prophets, some preachers, some are pastors, and some teachers.  Some are butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers by trade.  Yet, all of us have a place and a role to play in building up the body of Christ.

     In 1Corinthians 12 verse 27, Paul reminds this Church that they are the body of Christ, and that they are also individually members of this body.  Just as a body has many members, so does the body of Christ.  All members of the body share with and care for one another; for, if one member suffers all the members suffer.  Likewise, if one member is honored, all members of the body are honored.  Take just a moment to allow this truth to sink into your mind and into your heart.  We are all connected, knit, and joined together, using our gifts together to promote the building up the body of Christ in love.  The truth is that our recent COVID-19 outbreak, combined with national socio-economic and political upheavals, have consumed a great deal of our time as well as our physical and emotional resources.   We have struggled to adapt to new realities of living we would never have dreamed we would face.  As Romans 13: 11 states, dear friends, it is now time for us to awaken from our slumber, for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers.  It is now time to rally together again in our ministry and mission toward building up the body of Christ until he comes again I final victory.  That building is a process; and, that process takes commitment-commitment to Crist, and commitment to one another in our shared ministry together.  It is commitment, deep, personal, and share commitment, that will help us to move beyond the inertia that we may have developed over the past several months. That personal commitment, when it works in unison with the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, is unmatched in its effectiveness.  Intention + Holy Spirit Power = more building up of the body of Christ than we can yet imagine!   So, Peninsula Church Family, let us be intentional about our shared commitment to our ministry and mission in our community and in our world.  Speaking the truth this day-God is love.  God’s love us always for us and directed for our good.  So, together we can do this thing called being the Church!  Let God’s people say Amen.

HYMN-“We Are the Church”

(words and music-Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh)

                                      I am the church!  You ae the church!  We are the church together!  All who follow Jesus, all around the world!  Yes, we’re the church together!