Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ephesians 4 Family Values

The faith of Paul really amazes me, SLIDE

Everything he does is for the Lord and his church

You only have to read a little bit of what he has to say and you get that real sense that nothing can separate him from God’s Love

- Chains, prison, ship wrecks, torture

It’s a costly commitment he has to tell people about God

- It’s put him on the offside of his people - the Jews, with the authorities he used to work for and even with some of his brother in Christ

And because of the Ephesians this commitment has put him in chains - remember Trophimus... from Acts 21:29).

He was with Paul in Jerusalem,

and the Jews, thinking that the Paul had brought him with him into the temple, placed charges against Paul resulted in him being in prison.

Paul’s attitude - no big deal - I’m in Christ we’ll work with it

It’s this 100% commitment to the gospel that fuels Paul’s words to Live a life worth of the calling you have received...

New Family, SLIDE

It’s easy to see Paul’s commitment but what about our commitment – what does that look like for us?

I guess we can put Verse 1 that another way that might make more sense

the calling Paul is talking about refers to the name in which we as Christians are called - if you are in Jesus you are no longer John Smith or Jane Doe - you have a new name - a new family Christ

Calling - that the name you have been called to take up

You’ve been adopted in to God’s Family...

At Paige’s baptism this morning we welcome her into Christ’s family and as part of that welcoming she is Christened or named in God’s family the Church

When we are talking about the Church family we are not just talking about Nativity we are talking about the wider church, SLIDE

The creeds we say use the words Catholic Church – or the universal Church.

God has a big family and because he has a big family there is a real need to watch out for each other – and watch our own actions

I think we are all aware that we are judged by how people perceive others in our family and unfortunately we all can too easily get tarred with the same brush

When I was 20 I wanted to join the local police

- I passed all the tests but was rejected on basis that my family had a bit of a bad name in the region

- two of my brothers had done time

- and because of their record my card was marked the police wouldn’t accept me I was judge because of my brothers

When it comes to the Church Family we have a huge responsibility to live up to family standards.

We fail and the family name takes a dive on the commodities market.

Paul was in prison for the commitment he has made to Jesus – taking hits left right and centre for his beliefs

When we fail to live up to the name we are called by others take the hits…

Family Values

I am the youngest of 8 and I left home when I was 21 to come to NZ – I think it took my family 5 years to realize I was gone - the bigger the family the harder it is to stay together

What holds us together is not only having the same family name, but also adopting the Family Values SLIDE

Being part of the family means that we also have family values that we share in common - Quirks, characteristics that are unique

In verse 2 Paul names a few of these family quirks Humility, gentleness and patience

Some times we call these values fruits of the Spirit – why because they are not things that grow naturally in human beings

They are alien values to the average person

Humility- in the ancient world humility was not a value to be honored...

Donkeys were humble - slaves were humble - the average person was not - humility was associated with weakness

Gentleness - again is an alien value - dog eat dog, survival of the fittest is often how we see the world - I have to get what is mine - and just to make sure I get what is mine I’ll make sure I get more than I need. Gentleness is not an every day value

And as for Patience well just look in the car mirror next time you are stuck in traffic and you will realize how alien this value is...

They don’t come naturally… there fruits of God’s work in us not natural human attributes

But these are the values that help hold us together...

We are different and joining into God’s family is not about loosing your uniqueness, your identity and dressing the same way as everyone else.

But if we are going to stay together we need to develop family values so we can maintain our family connection - in spite of our differences.

Now as I said they are sometimes referred to as Fruits of the Spirit that doesn’t mean we lie back and God waves his magic hand and it all happens

We take our part in allowing God to develop them in us –

Family Beliefs SLIDE

In verse 4 Paul introduces us to another aspect of family valuesbelief

- what we believe - a creed - it’s not some family motto or a deep philosophical reflection on the nature of the universe; rather more often than not it’s stating the obvious.

Saying Jesus is Lord may not mean a great deal in our world but in the world of the Roman Empire where to people were asked to swear allegiance by the words Caesar is Lord - it has huge meaning

Its unpacking things in a way that makes sense.

As the Christian Church we have creeds that say what we believe -

Once upon a time in order to be welcomed into the family you had to be able to memorize a creed - why?

The thought was if you couldn’t say it and you didn’t believe it then you weren’t a Christian - you can’t be part of the family.

- take the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons

- they look like us, they talk like us they, they carry bibles like us

- but they are not part of our Family

- why because they don’t believe what we believe they have a different creed...

That’s why it’s so important for us to say the creeds to each other

- when we come to the Lords table were sitting down for a family meal

- we establish who we are as a family through the creeds.

It’s telling our story - the things we have in common...

But in saying it to each other we are also teaching each other.

now I know some people don’t like saying it every week - it become rote

- Why should I have to say what I believe in order to take communion I have been coming here for years -?

but maybe in saying it to each other we can teach others??

When I think back to being a kid I was told I had to learn the creed into to take communion - I struggled to sit down and learn it - in the end I learnt it through sitting in church surrounded by people who had been saying it week in week out for years

- so to those who know the creed by rote I wan to say thank you for teaching me it too.

And who knows maybe your teaching others too....

Family Business

So we have a name, values and beliefs that make up this big family. But I think we are all aware that there is something more than that

It wasn’t that God just put us all together so we could sing some happy songs on a Sunday morning say some prayers and then go and have a coffee together.

Great as that is - wonderful as it is to spend time with you

- there must be something more?

- and yes there is SLIDE

- The family Business, being part of God’s Family requires a commitment to his core business...

In the Lords Prayer we pray our Father your will be done on earth as it is in heaven- that’s a great honor to be able to call the God of the Universe Dad - but with it comes a concern for the family business - seeing this place become God’s Place - seeing his will done HERE his Kingdom come HERE

He didn’t give up the life of his son and go to great sacrifice just so we could drink tea together

He did it so that we would become part of the family business of reconciliation.

On the cross the debt was paid for our sin - Jesus took every wrong thing upon his shoulders and died the death we deserve

In that we have been reconciled to God

But there’s more…

In his death he set us free - the captives that Paul talks about in verse 8 are people who have died in the faith... SLIDE

And when he ascended into Heaven he took them with him

The image is of a victory parade where a victorious King would return from battle with a triumphant procession of his people behind him

and in the process of this victory parade the King would hand out gifts to all his loyal people.


And it’s these gifts that help us to be reconciled to each other.

Practical gifts that will help us become family.... Family Values

But also practical gifts that will help us carry out the family business - of reconciliation.

We become God’s hands and feet – his agents of reconciliation

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

Christ Has No Body by St. Teresa of Avila

God’s Business becomes our business.

As verse 10 puts it so the whole universe will be filled with his presence...

God’s kingdom has a universal scale.

God’s business our business reconciliation of all people of all things under his rule.

The trail of captives that ascended is a foretaste - the work is now ours to do.

In Verse 11 Paul lists five gifts, that were to be used to build up all God‘s People for the Family Business. SLIDE

Not going to go in with any great details but:

- Apostle - sent

- Prophet - mouth

- Evangelist - good news

- Pastor - shepherd

- Teacher - nurture

Now without even explaining them I am sure you can think of some of the ways in which these gifts exercise themselves.

And I am sure you can see potential conflicts between them, but without each other the family business doesn’t work.

I mean I think we are all too aware that growing grapes is one thing but unless you have someone to harvest, someone to juice, someone to ferment and someone to bottle you don’t get Wine

it’s no different for the Church

- A church without Evangelists turns teaching into lectures

- A church full of evangelists but no teaching is just a door way...

- A church without apostolic direction becomes a fortress that’s only concern is self-preservation.


But when the apostolic function exist it births new environments for ministry to take place in

When the prophetic ministry exists God’s people are continually called back to him - to his covenant relationship.

And as people are brought into relationship with God through the evangelist a place is created for pastoral ministry of nurture into Christ likeness and then through teaching people are led to a greater understanding of God’s will.

When these gifts work together - the family grows, not only numerically but in maturity too.

Historically the Church in the west has not valued these five gifts we have specialized as churches in shepherding and teaching people

And when they often rose up the people were ostracized for demonstrating these gifts

But we live in a different time - as I said a few weeks back the world we live in is probably closer Spiritually to the world of Ancient Rome SLIDE

-it’s hostile to the gospel – it’s pre Christian

Therefore we need these gifts and people gifted with them if we are to continue the family business

On Tuesday I was sitting in the staff meeting and I could see these gifts present in the staff team… it makes you wonder if God is assembling a ministry team this way - it makes you wonder what he has in store...

But it’s not just about the ministry team.

These gifts have been spread about the whole church.

- For some of you they are sleeping - if so then wake up

- For some of you they have been trod upon - if so then ask God to raise them up in you

- For some of you your angry with the Church – and so your hiding these gifts if so we hope you can find the opportunity to unveil them again

For the sake of God’s family we need these gifts

– after all God didn’t give you them so you could feel good about yourself but so the whole church could be built up

In a moment we will gather around the table again for a family meal - I invite you as you receive to recommit yourselves to this family again... SLIDE

For others you have never been part of this family

-your sitting on the fringe

-well maybe in gathering you could commit yourself a step further

We are a family; we need to work together - to be one

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