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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Be the Church - Sermon Series Part 1 (1.25.15)

Be the Church
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, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive he gave gifts to his people.”
9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 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.

Pray with me: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen. 



The UCC’s cover photo to be the church mentions interesting tasks given to the church. Tasks that would be make us good administrators of God’s creation.When we are the church and we understand our mission, these come naturally, they come as part of the “job description,” or better yet, part of our ministry, as it is not just a job, but a ministry. 
Thing is, you don’t have to be the church to be able to:
- protect the environment
- care for the poor
- embrace diversity
- reject racism
- forgive often
- fight for the powerless
- share earthly and spiritual resources
- enjoy this life
I have seen people that don’t consider themselves religious doing that. 
For different people: 

It has also been said of the church, that it saves lives. 
Brian McLaren on his book: “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming Faith” said:
I’ve heard stories of Catholics being saved from ritualism by becoming Pentecostal, Pentecostals being saved from emotionalism by becoming Presbyterian, Presbyterians being saved from rationalism by becoming Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox being saved from clericalism by becoming Baptist, and Baptists being saved from historical amnesia by becoming Catholic or Orthodox. Simple churches save people from complexity, and complex churches save people from simplicity. Political churches save people from an overly personal religiosity, and personal churches save people from an overly politicized religiosity. Exciting churches save people from boredom, and quiet churches save people from hoopla and hype. Around and around the cycle goes.  McLaren, Brian D. (2010-01-21). A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (p. 162). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

Ephesians 4 mentions a calling for the Christians. Not just any calling, but a vocational calling to BE THE CHURCH. The instructions were quite clear: we have been called to be the church, in humility, gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
In other words, just as McLaren expresses: "the church exists to form Christlike people, people of Christlike love. It exists to save people from the great danger of wasting their lives, becoming something less than and other than they were intended to be, gaining the world but losing their souls.
McLaren, Brian D. (2010-01-21). A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (p. 164). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

 It is quite ok then to say that if by being the church we are becoming one with Christ in being his body, and being agents of transformation, will mean that we need to be transformed first. We can not give what we don’t have. Yes we need to do strategic planning, yes we need to be active and alive in the community. Yes we need to be a sanctuary to all in the storms of life, but how is that done? What does that even mean?  'To become like Christ, we need to have the Spirit of Christ within us, among us, before us, beside us, as the old Celtic prayer says. We need to be Spirit-saturated people.” McLaren, Brian D. (2010-01-21). A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (p. 165). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

There is no doubt that the church is experiencing the crisis of its life. Churches are being closed. They are being found useless to many that have had an encountered not with Christlike Christians, but with people that are full of great intentions and good ideas, but are not yet matured in their faith, by being insisting that things are done their way or the high way, that process, practices and traditions are more important than being open to God’s transforming Spirit. They wanted to produce transformation their way, not God’s way… and it didn’t worked.  Why should people go to the trouble of being part of a church if it does a thousand other things well, but falters in this one primary calling?
McLaren, Brian D. (2010-01-21). A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (p. 170). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

This week I ask on Facebook for folks to answer in one or two words what was church for them. Here are the answers:
  • Family
  • Peace
  • A significant part of my life
  • Home
  • Spiritual home
  • Fellowship
  • God’s limbs
  • community
  • Our rock
  • Saving grace
  • Love & respect
  • Kin-dom come (as in kindred)

It is clear that for us to be the church, we have to individually and collectively seek God’s Spirit constantly. To be Christlike people in ongoing transformation. Not something that happen once, and we’re good… but a daily transformation that allow us to in sync with God’s Spirit and God’s plan for us as people with very important ministries to perform…

"God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn't have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people's hands to be Christ's hands and other people's feet to be Christ's feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him or her to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better.” 

Let us pray:

Gracious God, you have called us to be your church leading 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.
Transform us today. Change our ways, as we so many times struggle with our own inconsistencies. Makes us like Christ and increase in us our love for you, so that we desire to seek your Spirit, so that we long to come together in prayer and worship.  So that we strive to be a people that bring others to be transformed too. 
We know that as people we can’t be perfect, yet allow us to seek perfection in faith and in spirit, keeping our own desires and ways in check, so that we live through you and for you.  Allow us to clearly see our calling to serve, our calling to seek transformation, our calling to BE THE CHURH, seeking you and maturing our faith so that we can love, grow, and serve. 

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Rev. Dámaris E. Ortega,
Pastor