Philippians 1:3–11 (NRSV)
Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
The season leading up to Christmas and shortly after, is one of my favorite times of the year. I know it sounds pretty cliché but it is not about the gifts, mainly because I am a terrible gift giver. I think it has something to do with the whole concept of leaving my job at a store and going back into a store when I am not working that just has an adverse effect to my mental wellbeing. What is it about this season if it is not the gifts, I really like the gatherings. I love the idea of friends and family coming together and sharing meals and laughter with one another. We live in such a busy spread out culture that we rarely gather, there is too much to do. I love these gathering because these are the times that memories are made. The moments we stop what we are doing to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
The season of advent is a season of longing. It is a season to celebrate the anticipation of the coming messiah. It is a time to recognize the hope that those in ancient days looked forward to and to remember that we too are longing for the fulfilment of that coming to be seen today. I have a fear that as we mature physically and emotionally we forget about the anticipation and longing of the season. Kids on the other hand they get it, well I should clarify that by saying they get the longing of the season though maybe not the reason we should be longing. Advent is filled with longing but also joy. There is hope for those of us in Christ because there is a reason behind our longings, we do not wait appearance of the king, but we are waiting for the return of the king.
There is a difference in these longings. Those of ancient days were longing for the Messiah, they had these preconceived ideas of how this person would look and act. They studied this in great detail, to such a degree that when the one came many missed it. We on the other hand have the actual personality revealed to us, we know what to expect and our hope is not in hypotheses but in observations. There is a difference in the two types of longing. One is based on ideas the other is based on experience. One is founded on interpretation of hope, the other is anticipating the fulfillment of that hope in the world around us. One is like living in the shadow where the other is like turning around and walking toward the light.
This holy anxiety is something that I would like us to consider today. Anxiety might not be the best word to use, but the idea of a joyful anticipation that cannot be stilled in response to this turning from the shadows to walk in the light. Paul understood this holy anxiety. Last week we got a glimpse of it when we read his prayer to the Thessalonians, today we see it again as he writes to the people of Philippi. Both of these places were in Macedonia, both were people Paul was called to minister through the vision he received while at a cross road in Troas. He could have gone south to Ephesus or north across the sea into the heart of the Hellenistic world. God led him to the north and Paul began the ministry that brought the Gospel of Christ to the west.
There is a difference in the joy, the holy anxiety that Paul feels between these two cities. To the Thessalonians the anxiety was a longing that they would remember and to the Philippians there is joy that they have continued. Some biblical scholars feel that a more accurate translation of Paul’s opening would be, “I thank God for your remembrance of me.” Instead of him thanking God when he remembers them. There is something to that statement. They remember him and he is aware of their remembrance. This could only mean that they were participants in the continued ministry that Paul started among them. If you were to look at a map you would see that Paul would have gone from Troas directly to Philippi, and from Philippi to Thessalonica. So the Philippians were the first Macedonians to encounter the Gospel. And they were so engrossed in the new life that Christ had to offer that they assisted Paul in spreading the gospel throughout their land.
I think that it is a valid point that the scholars make because of how Paul continues his greeting and prayer of blessing. The next verses he speaks of the joy that he has for them because they participated in the spreading of the Gospel from the first day until the moment he penned the letter. They were active, their belief was more than just knowledge based but it moved into the deeper regions where they put their very lives into the hands of God and allowed Him to direct their paths.
He says to them, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Witness the holy anxiety. There is a longing not only within the life of Paul but one that he senses within the lives of the community of Philippi. Something began in their lives and it continues to well up within them, it stirs and moves, it makes it difficult to stay still, they are on the verge of becoming charismatic Quakers literally moved by the Spirit. But I want us to focus on the word began. The use of this word means that they are involved in a process that started at one point and is growing. A seed is taking hold and through the fullness of time will bring forth fruit. It began, it continues to press through the anticipation of advent reaching out to that glorious day of the return of the one on whom we lay our hope.
Life with Christ is a process it is a journey that begins, and stretches along life’s pathways as we walk toward the light. The difference between the greeting Paul give the Philippians and that of the Thessalonians is that the Philippians continue to walk with their faces pointing to the sun, where the Thessalonians turned their heads and begun to cast shadows. Paul looks to the Philippians with increasing joy, and those in Thessalonica there is thoughts of nostalgia.
Last week I asked a very personal question, I asked each of us to consider why this meeting called me. I asked this because I have a great deal of love for this meeting, it is something very deep within my spirit. To be fully honest I longed to be here with an anxiety that I could only say was God’s calling. When I left from the care of this meeting, I walked out into the life of being a pastor knowing that eventually I would be back here. What surprised me was the timing. I did not understand the longing that I had stirring within my soul, was it a stirring of nostalgia a longing to return home to the comfort of home or was it this joy similar to what Paul feels with Philippi? That is my own part of this journey. But what is yours? Was the longing that you had one of nostalgia or anticipation for the next phase of the journey?
Paul writes to these people of Philippi, the people that first responded to his ministry in Macedonia, and he longs for them with a longing of continued partnership. He urges them in his prayer to continue pressing on toward the goal before them. He prays that the love of God will overflow among them that they will become a greater blessing to those around them, and that as they continue with their journey toward Christ that the very Spirit of God will grant them greater knowledge and insights in how to proceed.
There is a reason that Paul writes this prayer, because Philippi is a very important place. It was an important port for Macedonia, a center for gladiatorial sport, and the religious cult of Dionysus. We are far removed from the ancient practices of the pre-Christian Roman Empire so many do not understand the importance this has, but Dionysus is the Greek form of the god Bacchus. This is the god of wine, merry-making, and insanity. This god was believed to be a shape shifter that would appear as a drunk man that would shift into a frenzied lion or bear. Those that participated in the worship Dionysus would engage in drunkenness, fornications, and would work themselves up into a violent frenzy where they would rip sacrificial animal apart with their hands. Rituals of this kind were so disorderly and threatening to the community that the roman government was forced to regulate it. Much of the letter to the Philippians was written to encourage the community of Christ to live his lifestyle even though so much of their culture opposed the ideas of Christ.
Remember his prayer again, that love would overflow abundantly, filled with knowledge and insight. This prayer and these words speak volumes to our own culture that seems to be fixated on intoxication, sexuality, and violence. Our current era is far from the debauchery those ancient Philippians witnessed daily. I admit that we as a culture have turned our faces away from the light of Christ and are standing in the shadows instead of facing the light of God’s grace, but there is hope. All we are experiencing today are things that our spiritual ancestors face two thousand years ago and they filled Paul’s life with joy.
We are called also. We are called to live through this time. God has given us gifts to minister to the people of this era, He will continue to give us insight that will direct our paths for His glory. Do not lose heart. Do not lose hope. Have faith that the one who began this work in our lives will see it through. Believe that we will see a harvest. Pray for knowledge, pray for insight, and pray for an overflowing abundance of love. It is the life of Christ that turns people away from the emptiness of the world. It is lives that reflect the holy lifestyle of Christ, that give this broken world hope.
When people experience the love God has for them through us it causes them to question us and themselves. When we live the love of Christ with them and encouraging them to walk in faith they have to respond with belief or rejection. Remember who the people Paul wrote this letter to, they were a people that were once actively pursuing a life totally dedicated to the satisfaction of their own lusts, yet they turned from those ways to embrace life with Christ. They actively pursued this life and spread this life from the very moment they heard and continued long after Paul left from their presence. This tells us that our current culture is not irredeemable, there is still hope. If God can turn Philippians to Him He can do a great work among us.
The question is how do we move from where we are today into that anticipated future in Christ? We get to that place only by loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. We get to that place when we stop arguing about who is right or wrong and encouraging others to embrace life with God.
We live in a culture that is broken, hurting, spiritually sick and hungry. We live in a world that does not need more judgement but hope. We have that hope, we know that Christ came just as the ancients hope for. We know that he was born, lived, and taught us how to live life with God, and He made that life possible through His death and resurrection. He empowers us to continue the work He began by giving us the Holy Spirit who gives us all the gifts we need to spread the Gospel of the kingdom in our communities, states, nation, and world. He gives us gifts of teaching, healing, encouraging, hospitality, wealth, music, art, and various others. He gives these gifts for his glory and our joy. He gives us all we have for this time and this place. I ask again, “why did you call me?” Am I here to pat you on the back and say we are better than others or to encourage you to continue participating in the spreading of the Gospel? I long with the compassion of Christ that his love will overflow more and more among you and this meeting, and that we will see the fulfillment of what He began in our lives.
11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
A Call to Persevere
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
It is on days like today that it is hard to be true to the faith that I profess. On days like today I, with the rest of the world cry out to God wondering why awful things happen. Days like today I want to walk down to the nearest recruiting station and sign up to join a fight, I want to teach someone some sort of lesson and rid the world of all the wrong. To see and hear about bombings and shootings in Lebanon, France, and Iraq rips my heart out. To look at the world and realize that it could be very soon that we see the next war to end all wars. I find it odd that that term was one that was used for a war that was fought one hundred years ago. A war and the men and women, the families that were dramatically affected are remembered every year on the eleventh of November. We call it Veteran’s day but it began as a day to remember the ending of the First World War. Yet as we remember the true cost of war the horrors of violence continue to play out before our eyes. This past week we remembered the cost of war, and this week we remember that war remains.
This is a cycle that continues throughout history. A cycle of power hungry people seeking to bend others to their wills. A cycle of history that continuously repeats because so often we are controlled by pride, greed, and lusts failing to open our eyes to the humanity of those around us. Instead we see only means to an end, enemies to conquer, potential profit centers, and political supporters. We claim to remember the cost of war, we give platitudes of peace but do we really seek it?
The letter to the Hebrews was written just prior to possibly the most devastating event of Jewish history. It was written just prior to the final bout of the Jewish War. This war was not just a war that was fought in a forgotten corner of the Roman Empire but it was a war that shook the world. Many scholars have connected the battle in Palestine with the removal of Roman forces from Britain. This war changed the very courses of history yet many even remember it happened. It was a war that was fought for independence, religious freedom, nationalism, and cultural identity. It was a war waged by humanity in the name of God, and the result of this war sent the people that followed the God of Abraham into a cultural tailspin. It destroyed the temple and with it disconnected the people from the mercy of God.
War is not of God. Wars are fought because of humanities inability to live at peace. Wars are fought because of petty jealousies and contempt have gotten out of hand. They begin not with nations but with individuals. Cain was jealous of Abel so Cain removed the one that cause his discomfort. Cain, according to scripture, went on to develop the first city, the first civilization, the first empire, and violence was used to protect his legacy.
At the dawn of this war that ripped the Jewish people from the land of promise, a new era was beginning to emerge. An era that began with a rabbi that walked among the disenfranchised people that were forgotten by those in the seats of power. It began because a rabbi began to change the focus of the teachings of the prophets and the law to focus on the people instead of the nation. This rabbi questioned the status quo, began to personalize the religious practices, and caused people to consider the heart of the law instead of the letter. This teacher introduced people to a God that cared for them.
This was not anything new really. It had been taught throughout the ages, it was taught by the prophets of old prior to the exile of Judah. It was taught by the great law giver Moses. Yet people were distracted. Their minds were focused on things around them instead of God, they were focused on their own selfish gains instead of the humanity of those that lived next door.
The writer of Hebrews remembers the prophet Jerimiah and he quotes, “I will put the law in their hearts and I will write them on their minds.” This new era that was ushered in by Jesus, the era we call the new covenant, is one that is based on relationship instead of sacrifice. It is an era where we can each be directly connected with the Spirit of God and not have to rely on a priest to intercede for us apart from God himself. Consider this quote for a moment. What does it really mean to have the law in our hearts and written on our minds?
To have the law in our hearts goes well beyond knowing scripture. It is becoming the embodiment of scripture to the world around us. Living the scripture out to the fullest extent, taking it to heart means that it becomes the very essence of who we are. If we were to take the law “do not steal” to heart let that become the very essence of who we are as a person, what changes? The very idea of theft sickens us, the possibility of potentially taking what is not ours and defrauding someone of their own possessions becomes unthinkable. If we were to live by this concept every aspect of our lives would be moved from our own personal gains and entitlement and would focus instead of mutual benefit. The heart of the law condemning theft is building relationships, respecting others, and mutual profit.
Think about the other laws, do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not bear false witness, each if they are taken to heart, if they are lived instead of followed takes us to a completely different place. Respecting the individual instead of considering them a means to an end, honoring others by seeking truth instead of building ourselves up on falsehoods. Recognizing that every individual no matter who they are or what they believe should live and we should honor and protect their lives.
Do we allow God to place the law into our hearts? Are we allowing His Spirit to saturate our being to the point that His ways become the very essence of who we are? This is why my heart grieves today. I grieve because I can see in my own life that I have failed in so many ways to take the laws of God to heart. I grieve because somewhere along the line the people that are claiming Christ have failed to provoke one another to love and good deeds. And if the people that have encouraged me to come to faith can fail, where does that leave me?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As a leader of a group of people that were mistreated and often hated for no other reason than the color of their skin they had every right within the laws of man to rise up and fight against the oppression. But they instead took a different approach. I did not live through that era in history. I know that that time was not filled with peace I know that it was not an easy path for any that lived through that period of history but I also know that it made a difference. It can be summed up in a simple statement, “we cannot give what we do not have.” Hate breeds hate, violence breed violence, war breeds war just as hope breeds hope, respect breeds respect, encouragement breeds encouragement.
Provoke one another to love and good deeds. The writer of Hebrews is saying the same thing as Martin Luther King. The only way to change the course of history is to stop or change the cycle you are perpetuating. We need to actively pursue the very things we are hoping for in Christ. We need to become the embodiment of the law. Have it become the essence of who we are and what we hope for. Actively pursue without neglect, it cannot be passive but can only be lived.
Today we each face a challenge. It is a challenge that we have faced many times before at many different junctions on our pathway through life. Will we provoke those around us to love or will we continue the cycle of hate. Will we recognize the humanity of those around us or will we live life pointing fingers at others that have slighted our egos? Will we be instruments of war or peace?
I do not care about converting people to an institution of religion. I do not care about changing people’s political stances. But I care about people, I care about life, I care about the future that my children will inherit and the children of those around me. Will it be a world one step closer to the kingdom of Christ? Will it be a world that is willing to forgive and reconcile or will it be a world that holds onto the sins against them? Will we as a church provoke love and good deeds, will we encourage each other closer to God through Christ, or will we teach the ways of the world?
As we enter this time of open worship and communion as friends. Consider again what it means to have the law written in our hearts and on our minds. Consider what that means today and what it means as we train up the next generation. Consider. Will we as individuals, and as a community become people of God? A people who are loving God, embracing his Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others? Consider just what that might mean and are we willing to sacrifice our lives to allow that type of kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven?
Ephesians 4:1–16 (NRSV)
Unity in the Body of Christ
4 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 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.
There is much talk about the future of the church. Are we seeing the beginning of the end or just a renewal? I find that the book of Ephesians really speaks to this transitional period. As we learn more about the time and people that first received this letter, we learn just how much this letter speaks to our current condition as well. As scholars have dug into the writings we know as the Dead Sea scrolls we find that the religious order known as the Essenes taught things very similar to that of Jesus, and that these teachings eventually made their way to the dispersed people of Israel. The city of Ephesus was a city that became the home for many of these dispersed people. For over three hundred years Jewish people lived, worked and taught alongside people who followed the cult of Diana. The teaching of the Essenes intrigued the pagan people, it opened the doorway to uniting the people of Israel and the Gentiles of the empire. The first couple of chapters of Ephesians were written to the Jewish people, letting them know that according to the teachings of the Essenes all people were born as Gentiles that all people, including those that came from the roots of Jacob, are born uncircumcised and must be joined into the community. From the third chapter on, Paul teaches both the Jews and the Gentiles together, because he teaches that all people are equally in need of hope that is found through Jesus.
What then is the purpose of the church? This is the question that we all ask as we approach the future. This is the question that we as a community ask ourselves. Just as the Jewish people of the first century looked at spiritual landscape around them and saw that things were changing, we too see things around us changing. The things they once knew were changing, they were once known as the chosen people, yet as they were dispersed throughout the empires of Greece, Persia, and Rome that standing took on different meaning. The teachings of the prophets made their way to their scattered communities, which taught them to live within the world, to lay roots, to work for the good of the people around them. This is a different pathway, a different way to consider the world they lived than what they had known before. These teachings made it to the very heart of the empires. The prophet Daniel was held in high regard by the leaders of Babylon and Persia, these empires profited from their wisdom. Though this wisdom was given through the chosen people but it was not for them alone.
As the people made their way back to the land of their ancestors they brought with them the cross cultural forms of faith, expressions of faith that emerged when there was no temple and no sacrifice. Those that lived in Jerusalem returned to former ways of life but those that lived outside took hold of the teachings of the exiled because they too were people of exile.
It was the Essenes that taught that not even the Jewish people were righteous enough to enter into the kingdom, they set their communities up on the eastern banks of the Jordan, they taught about cleansing the body and the soul of unrighteousness. They taught the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans all who would listen and all who would repent.
It is from this school of thought the people of Ephesus began to see the church emerge. The church welcomed all people who believed in God and who repent. The church, the community was filled with Jew and Greek, but it was divided. The lines that were drawn revolved around outward expressions of faith expressions, physical expressions. Paul writes to them that this is nonsense. We were all born of the same essence, born uncircumcised. Division, Jew or Greek, Male or female, slave or free. This division was killing the emerging church. This division was cutting the very heart of the church apart, slicing away the very essences of its purpose.
Paul pleads with them, “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.”
Listen to that plea. Hear the words that the apostle writes, feel the tears and anguish in which the pen carves the words into the paper. The community of God fearers was ripping itself apart, they so early forgot what and how they were brought together in the first place. The Jewish people listened to the words of the prophets yet failed to hear, the gentiles listened yet they too out of pride failed to hear the spirit behind the words. The Spirit that says from the cross, “forgive them for they know not what they do.” They fail to hear because they are too busy, they are too busy seeking their own ways instead of submitting to the ways of the one who does the calling.
Lead a life worthy of the calling. Consider that statement for just a moment. Every one of them and every one of us are not worthy of the calling that we have received. None of us are worthy of the title child of God. Each of us in some way have failed to live a life worthy of that call. Why then do we divide and try to prove which of us is better than the other. Through our struggle to prove who is right we end up cutting off part of the body off and leaving ourselves crippled and unable to move forward. That is the church of Ephesus. The church that the apostle John penned the Revelation of Jesus to. Honoring them because they had toiled and endured, how they were intolerant of evil among them, yet condemning them because they abandoned their first love. All their toil, all their correct doctrine all their righteousness was seen as empty because they had removed their heart, the source of their love leaving only a cold shell behind. Yet Paul pleads with them to lead a life worthy of the calling, to live in humility, gentleness, patience and love.
Paul’s heart is bleeding for these people, his tears are running down his cheeks and falling on the very paper he wrote these words, he cries. He knows the passion of the Jewish people wishing to keep the faith pure. He knows the hope of the Gentile that was grafted into the community through the blood of Christ. He knows both sides of this community and that the future of the community is in unity.
Unity is the goal that every community should seek. That is the calling that Paul hopes to spark in the hearts of this community. Unity is the point and the purpose of the gifts that the Spirit gives us. These gifts are given to bring hope to the hopeless, and to encourage and bring healing to the hurting. The Spirit of God is calling each of us to participate in the uniting of the community. He is calling us to do this through humility, gentleness, patience, and love.
Live a life worthy of the calling. We all have an idea of what that is supposed to look like. The question is if our ideas of a life worthy of the calling of Christ is filled with unity or division? What are our ideals of the holy life filled with? If we were to step back and examine our lives for a moment would they be filled with humility, with gentleness, with love?
The past few months I have really considered this in my own life. In my dealings with those around me am I being humble or am I making people think too high or low of me? In my dealings with those around me am I gentle? Am I listening to their spirit and encouraging them to take steps of faith forward or am I in my righteousness putting them in their place? You know what I find when I examine my life, when I ask those questions of myself and allow the Spirit of God to answer them for me? I find that all too often I am not who I think I am. Because to be humble, gentle and to act out of love in the efforts of making peace and to promote unity means that I have to step back. When we are able to take that step back something begins to happen, we begin to hear.
Several years ago we as a community were faced with an uncertain future. That future is still uncertain in many ways, but we did something at that time. Our meeting was dividing, it was being split in half and before we did anything we prayed. We opened the meeting house and pleaded that we pray together. Something amazing happened when we prayed. We got a brief glimpse of what Paul pleads the church of Ephesus to take hold of. Out of our prayers we prayed that God show us who we really are and what He wants us to be. For a year we discussed this and we it wrote down as our mission. “Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the love of God with others.” That statement of who we are and what we are doing is important because there is no gray area in that mission. You are either doing it or you aren’t. The same can be said about the church of Ephesus. They are called to live a life worthy of the calling that they have been called: a life of humility, gentleness, love, and peace. You see there is no gray area you are living it or you aren’t. We can try to justify our actions all we want but if we want to be honest if we justify our actions we have already admitted that we failed.
We are living in a time of uncertainty. We are living in a time where the things we once place our hope seem to be failing all around us. Could it be that we have divided ourselves to such a degree that we have removed the very essence of who we were supposed to be. Could it be that we and our community are without hope because we do not even know where to find hope anymore? Paul wrote this letter to a divided church, a church that was split between Jew and Gentile. For so long we assumed he wrote this only to the Gentiles to give them hope in Jesus, but no he wrote it to all people. To all people that live a divided life. A life that is split between work and family, secular and sacred, and countless other factions. He tells them that we are all the same, born without hope destined to fail but there is one who can speak to our condition. There is one that left His throne in the heavens to live among mankind, one who took on himself the division allowing it to rip his very heart in two, and one that rose again to give hope to each of us. There is only one body, one Spirit, one hope to which we are called, One Lord, one faith, one baptism which truly cleans, one God and father to us all. He is not the God of the Jews, He is not the God of the Gentiles, it is not the faith of the Catholic or the Quaker but it is one. You cannot live divided it will consume you, we cannot live divided because it will consume us from the inside out. Division causes fear and hopelessness, Jesus is calling us to something more. He is calling us to unite in love and live a life worthy of that calling. He is calling us to be people loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others. There is no division if that is our vision and our mission personally and as a community. As we enter a time of open worship and holy expectancy I pray that that vision will become ours today and for all eternity.