When I grew up in Champaign, Illinois for the first 10 years of my life, I had this incredible sense of being home and of being at peace. Though I’ve lived away from Champaign for more than 30 years now, there is a sense in which it is still the measure of what life could be.
I’m convinced that one of the main reasons this is true is that my family, consisting of my Dad and Mom, two brothers, a sister, and myself, were incredibly close. There was this great unity there, so that you could say – “There goes the Erlandson family!” (complete with 4 kids in a 2 ½ year span.)
Though now my parents are grandparents and the 4 kids have gone their separate ways – one brother is in Michigan – there is still a unity that lies underneath our separation. When we get together, we still manage to have several conversations going at the same time; we still tend to talk about intellectual things and analyze things to death. One of my sister’s boyfriends politely likened our family conversation to an orchestra.
Regardless of how far away you removed us, even in death, there would still be this underlying unity. In the same way, St. Paul talks this morning about the unity of the Church – a unity that already exists, but one that must also be maintained by the Church.
Just as in many sermons, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians there are 2 main parts of the letter: theological explanation and application to our lives.
In Chapters 1-3 Paul deals more theologically with God’s election and Great Plan of Reconciliation, the call to life in Christ, union with Christ, and fullness of Christ in the Church. In Chapters 4-6 he turns to God’s command to walk worthy of His calling.
I mentioned that often theology must go before application – well, here goes a little theology. Paul’s theology in Ephesians is based on the Trinity in many, sometimes not obvious, ways. Remember how Paul’s glorious sentence in Chapter 1 was based on the work of each person of the Trinity? The Trinity, the one God and 3 persons who created all things, is the basis for all reality. For this reason, there is both diversity in the world and also an underlying unity in this diversity.
Look at your loose change or a One dollar bill, and you’ll find the esoteric Latin phrase E.
pluribus unum, which means “out of many, one.” This political ideal is nothing less than an application of the ultimate reality of the Holy Trinity.
Paul is especially concerned in Ephesians 4 about unity, and he refers to the unity of the Trinity, for there is one Father (verse 6), one Lord (verse 5), and one Spirit (verse 4.)
But wouldn’t you expect that in the Body of Jesus Christ, the New Man that God has created, there would also be diversity in unity? Just as there is unity in God, there is unity in His Church. God is one, and therefore His Church is one. Not may be one but is one. Episcopalians and Reformed Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and Baptists – there is only one Body of Christ, although, of course, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a part of the Body.
There is only 1 Jesus Christ, and he’s not a polygamist. He has only 1 wife, the
Church – whether we believe it or not. All of this exists, for, example the one true faith, regardless of what we believe. People may choose to think that all religions are the same or that it doesn’t matter what you believe. But regardless of what people believe, there is only 1 true faith, only 1 Lord, and only 1 Body of Christ.
So unity in the Church is a fact, but we must make it visible, to the world and to the angels, and we must maintain this unity and incarnate it.
It is all the work of God; but God gives us a role to play in His mystery of salvation, and part of that role is to maintain and make visible the unity that God has created through the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us that we are to work to keep the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace (verse 3.) There are things each of us must do to keep the bond of peace that God has created. Paul tells the Corinthians (2 Cor. 3:2) that they are his epistle, his letter.
You also are God’s epistle: you are his living, visible theology that others see. It is through each of you, through all Christians this morning, that God makes this unity visible and known to all.
St. Paul gives us 3 main ways you can make visible the unity of God that He expresses in His one, holy, catholic Church, and these are having one faith (verse 5), one body (verse 4), and one Lord (verse 5.)
Our one faith, as we’ve talked about in other Give Us This Days includes both aspects of faith: belief + behavior, faith + faithfulness. To maintain and express the unity of God in His Church you must have proper belief or theology on your lips. There are certain things you must believe to be a Christian, things which are summarized in the Creeds.
To maintain and express the unity of God’s Church you must also have proper behavior in your life. Paul commands you in verse 1 to walk worthy of your calling. Remember the high calling you have as: a steward of the mysteries of God; an apostle; a martyr; an evangelist; a disciple of Jesus Christ; and an adopted child of God. This is the calling you are to walk worthy of.
How you live as a Christian makes a difference: it makes every difference in the world. You have been called to a God who is Light and have been called a child of Light. To choose therefore to walk in darkness is to break unity with God and His life. To make matters worse, when we disbelieve or sin, and therefore break the unity of the one faith, then we are leading others astray as well.
You can often hide your beliefs [not from God!], but you can’t hide your behavior for long.
When I taught school and talked to students who had doubts about Christianity or had left the Church, the number one reason they gave for giving up the one faith was the hypocrisy of Christians who said they believed one thing but lived as if they believed something else.
We can also make visible the unity of God in His Church by acting as one body. The mystical body of Jesus Christ on earth – the Church – is one. Jesus Christ came and died to make us one with God and one with each other.
How can we, who are sinful and selfish and prone to wars and divisions, show the world the one faith and the one body that we say we believe in? How can we, who are too often hypocrites, teach the angels the mystery of unity?
By living in unity with one another, and that means to live in love. How sad are the divisions in the Church! They are as sad – no sadder – than divisions in earthly families. What part have you played in breaking the unity of the Church? In what ways are you not living at peace with your brother or sister? In what ways have you broken the unity of the Body by being a consumer of churches and of God, by believing that you can worship God however you want, whenever you want, with however much of your body, mind, soul, energy, time, money, gifts and talents you desire to give Him?
Finally, before we can have one faith and one Church and one life together we must all serve the one true Lord. It is only through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the Cross for the reconciliation and unity of the world, that we can ever have the other forms of unity. There is only 1 Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no other name in heaven or on earth by which men may be saved, that is, made one with God and with each other.
Like St. Paul, I am begging you this morning to walk in a manner worthy of your calling: your calling to believe in one, holy God; your calling to act like one body; and your calling to serve your one Lord God by being like Him in all things.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on my calling to unity in God through unity in Christ and the Church, resolving to reflect on one way in which I have been called to help make the unity of God in His Church visible.
Prayer: Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who lives in perfect unity and love, I pray that You would help me to walk worthy of the calling with which You have called me. Help me to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and to guard the unity of Your Church by pursuing one faith, one body, and one Lord in whatever way You are calling me. Above all, give me Your love by which I may bear with others in the bond of peace and by which You are reconciling the world to Yourself. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. Relate one of your previous resolutions or meditations to today’s meditation. If there is one thing in particular to which God has been constantly calling you, renew your dedication to serve Him in this way, in light of His call to unity.
2. Meditate on the glorious calling to which God has called you as a steward of His mysteries and His love letter to the world.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson