“The Truth in Love”

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.

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.

Today I am reminded of the well-known movie “The Lion King.” You might think that this movie is on my mind because of the scene when Simba is held up and presented to the animal kingdom, kind of like I did with Amalee this morning when we baptized her, but the real reason I have been thinking of The Lion King is the sense of calling that Simba has as the future king of all the animals. This calling is a great responsibility. In the movie, he hears the James Earl Jones voice of his father Mufasa, saying, “Simba, my son, remember who you are.” He tries to run away from his calling, but he ultimately knows that he has to follow this path to be a leader.

This sense of call is important in our lives too. Ministers are the ones who we most often hear talking about being called, but the apostle Paul would say that we all have a calling. We need one another to help us remember who we are, who we’re becoming, who we are called to be. Our society tells us many ways we should be. Our families, co-workers and friends voice their opinions. Beyond these other influences there is the call of God inviting us to claim a higher purpose. When making choices we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, what do you want people to remember of your life?

We remember the apostle Paul for being one of the most influential and important leaders and missionaries who built up the early Christian church. He is said to be the author of today’s passage from the Letter to the Ephesians. Supposedly Paul wrote this in prison and was encouraging the members of the church beyond his prison walls to remember who they were. He wrote, “Live a life worthy of your calling.” Writing from prison is not the most uplifting place to be pondering and penning spiritual truths. Even in prison Paul felt God’s call to be an inspiration and to give encouragement to others. In the midst of suffering he did not despair, but he found greater meaning in his own life because of his faith and wanted others to do the same. This was his calling. In particular, Paul wanted to inspire his fellow Christians who were figuring out how to be the church. This was at a time soon after Jesus’ death and so the church was not well established. The early Christians were still discovering what it meant to care about the story of Jesus and to model their lives by his messages. They were also facing the challenge of being and building the church, the community of believers.

What I take from Paul’s message is the reminder that there is something very important about how we are going about being the church in this place, in this moment, in this time. We are called by God to be Kenilworth Union Church. We are called to be part of God’s body on earth, living our lives in love. That is my calling and that is your calling. After six years, I’m still dazzled every day by the spirit of Kenilworth Union Church and how I see you living into God’s calling. I am so touched by the ways I have seen you grow on your individual faith journeys and as a community. I am especially inspired by the ways I have seen you making a difference in the world and in the individual lives this church touches. We’re not a mega-church but we’ve had a mega impact for good here and out in the world.

A verse in Ephesians tells us that God’s own power “at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” KUC illuminates God’s power at work in us in so many ways: Mission trips that change the way people live; a huge Rummage sale that has benefits beyond measure; hundreds of people connecting their lives through fellowship events; raising up our children in faith; blessing the animals; making exquisitely beautiful music here in this sanctuary, worshipping with all our hearts, welcoming every person who walks through our doors. We could congratulate ourselves for all this great work, but it’s not just us doing this all on our own. The impulse and power to do all this doesn’t come solely from within us, from our own determination or intelligence. All that we have accomplished and will accomplish is part of God’s dream for us, to be a vibrant, engaged and engaging family of faith. God is working with us to bring this dream to fulfillment. That’s kind of a relief. We don’t need to let ourselves feel overwhelmed or anxious, because God’s power is limitless and at work here, now and always. We still have to do our part but God is doing his part too to lift us up and help us to grow.

What we do reflects who we’re called to be. We are called to be the church, to be a loving community trying to learn about and grow in faith. Every once in a while we need to remember a hard truth. It’s not always easy to be church. I’ve got to be honest with you, being part of a community of faith is challenging, and it is not always enjoyable. I’m not trying to scare you off, but I am trying to speak the truth to you in love. When your life connects with the lives of others, it brings joy but it can also bring challenges. You can’t have one without the other. To receive the gifts of life in community one must also endure the trials of being the church. As we now face more changes and challenges, we need to keep this in mind. We can make the difference in whether the challenges we face strengthen us or break us apart. We can choose to use our gifts and talents together to build up KUC during this time. That is what God is calling us to do.

A long time ago, a bunch of early Christians were captivated by the message of Jesus and wanted to be his followers. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians clues us in to the fact that there was some trouble in the early churches. We can assume from reading between the lines that there must have been some disagreements going on. Paul’s exhortation to the church is to be a people of peace, a loving community, healed and whole. Be reconciled, he says, be one, be strong, strive to be worthy of your calling! He uses words like humility, patience, gentleness, telling them to bear with one another in love, and strive always to be one. Working together with God we will find healing and wholeness.

Here today we can speak words of tenderness and inspiration to one another, words of challenge and hope, so that we can be healed here, made one here..

Coming together as one unified church body will give us strength and energy for what lies before us. All around us, materialism and incessant electronic stimulation assault us and close us in. With all the noise and distractions, with all our misguided attempts to fill the voids, we might just forget who we are. We might forget the power of love within us, and the urgent need for that love to transform the world. Paul says we must no longer be children, and I agree. Childish faith wants easy answers and a way out of the challenging path.

Speaking of children, I watch Amalee struggling to learn different skills. She is frustrated when things don’t go her way, when she can’t get what she wants. She cries out, wordlessly asking me to help and I want to make things easier for her, but I also know that I can’t. I have to let her struggle, because it is only through the struggle that she will learn. One of my cousins didn’t learn to speak until she was 5 years old because her parents met her every need and she never had to learn to speak up for herself. From my daughter I can see that we never learn to walk if we are always carried. Through our struggles as individuals and as a church, we learn and we grow in faith and in love.

God still speaks to us through Paul’s ancient letter, reminding us of our calling and telling us to live a life worthy of that great calling. We are called to embrace that deep down, we are one, that there is one body and one Spirit and one hope, and that divisions and discord and broken relationships are not part of God’s dream for us but of human failing, pride, human striving against that dream. May we each hear that call, whatever form it may come in and follow the path God leads us on; even when we have doubts or there are obstacles along the way, we will persevere because God is with us.