LentBlog 2015 Day 14: On the Church

Ephesians 4:1-6

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.

NRSV


I teach a theology class on Tuesday nights. It’s for pastors who are in training headed for ordination in our tradition, the Church of the Nazarene. Tonight’s session focused on ecclesiology, or the theology of the church.  We talked about the church being One (in unity), Holy, catholic, and apostolic. One of the conclusions we came to together is that in many places, we are in the church living below the poverty level in regards to our calling as the church. We are settling for less. We aren’t living out unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. We tend to fall short of living lives worthy of our calling. And I don’t mean “fall short” in a sort of Calvinistic, “we all fall short, so that excuses our sin” kind of way. I mean we tend not to take words like Paul here in Ephesians 4 very seriously.

See, as I read this passage (and it comes as no surprise to me that this is next up after spending three hours tonight talking about the church), I don’t think Paul is simply setting out some unreachable ideal here. He’s not setting the bar impossibly high in hopes that the church will at least improve a little. I believe the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is actually possible for the church to live-out. It takes grace. It takes work. It takes a whole bunch of God’s people getting over their individualism and personal agendas. It takes leaders and pastors who lead out of love, grace, passion, and wisdom and not fear, guilt, and self-centeredness. I think such a church will be an amazing witness to the world around her, and I’m looking forward to being her pastor.

Blessings,
Mark

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LentBlog ’14, Day 28: ONE.

1 Corinthians 12:1-12.

So check this out. Here is tonight’s passage, with some usages of the words “same” or “one”  highlighted:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Get it?sum

It’s almost as if Paul wants the folks at Corinth to understand their unity in the Spirit is more important than their individual gifts.

Regardless of one’s giftedness, the same Spirit is the source. When the individual’s contributions to the community are truly in the Spirit, they fit within the diverse framework that is the Church.

What I guess I want to say here is that churches are significantly more than just haphazard groups of people who believe roughly similar stuff who happen to hang out together an hour or two per week. There’s more to it than that. The total is greater than the sum of the parts. Our gifts are diverse, thank God. We don’t all have the same role, preferences, or God-given abilities. But  the unity, health, vibrance, and ministry that can happen when we  recognize (and embody) the same Spirit working in and through is is nothing short of miraculous.

Blessings,

Mark