Many of you may be aware
that when different Councils of the UCA gather to make decisions
we do it by what is called a consensus model.
It’s based on the idea that God doesn’t tell half the room one thing
and the other half something else
And so if there is a substantive difference of opinion,
the likelihood is that we have more work to do
in hearing what it is that God has to say.
Decisions sometimes take longer – much longer – than a simple vote.
And in fact one of the key decisions this past Assembly was to affirm that as a church
we had much more work to do on being able to state an overall theology of marriage.
We will keep considering it over the next 3 years.
That’s frustrating for many people.
And it was frustrating for many people at the Assembly – including me.
But it is a reminder that we can be better than we are at the moment.
At its worst – and when we view the world at our most cynical –
this consensus method can be seen as aiming at the lowest common denominator:
“how do we water things down so that no one can disagree with them”
But at its best – and when we are operating well with the spirit of God –
it is a way of asking us all to lift our game.
To grow up.
One of its gaps however, is that too often it still sits with the same old framework:
“how do we end up agreeing on an idea, a statement, a doctrine”
We slide into what I think is one of Charles Wesley’s worst ever hymn lines
“Even now we think and speak the same and cordially agree”.
The deeper truth is that we are called not to sameness but to unity.
And as far as the letter to the Ephesians is concerned, that’s important.
It’s hard for us with this reading (and the next couple of weeks)
because we are coming in halfway through the story,
But the fact that our passage starts with a “therefore” is a clue for us
to at least recall what has gone before.
The first half of the letter is an explosion of writing about God’s grace
And that as different as the people in the church are –
in those days the key groups being the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians –
they are all still there because God’s grace is so amazingly abundantly enormous.
So – therefore – because God’s grace is so crazily big, grow up.
Grow up into the grace that is ours and more than ours.
And as we grow up into the grace that is ours and more than ours
we will constantly see our focus changing, our questions changing,
our decisions changing, our actions changing.
It’s all part of growing up.
All very nice. All a lovely Biblical reminder.
But Ephesians is addressed to a particular church setting, aiming at particular outcomes.
I wonder if there are things for us to learn in our setting.
Let me leave a couple of things with you, and encourage you to prayerfully consider
if they have any relevance for us.
In a museum in Michigan USA, there is a huge steam locomotive.
It is a complex piece of machinery and has a sign explaining it:
The sign shows the boiler pressure, size and number of wheels, horsepower, lengths, weight etc
The bottom line indicates that 96% of the power generated
was used to move the locomotive and only 4% was left to pull the load.
Ephesians 4 talks about the giftedness of key responsibilities in the Body of Christ
being to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
To what extent do we deliberately free up people with key gifts
so that they can equip the saints for the work of ministry
and to what extent do we ask them to keep the machinery going?
Ephesians 4 talks about the saints conducting the work of ministry.
To what extent do we think hard to find a problem with who we are or what is going on
complain about it and then tell someone else what they should do to fix it
Or to what extent do we gather those with a passion and a giftedness
to make the work of the body of Christ stronger?
Ephesians 4 stresses the different-ness of the members of the body of Christ
and the strength that comes from that.
It’s intended to be a clear contrast with the way that the culture of the time worked.
To what extent do we long for a way of being
where everyone knows each other and is quite comfortable with it all
Or to what extent do we enjoy that we are different
and there is and always will be more to discover about this particular Body of Christ
In reality, the questions are probably a bit simple and a bit too binary
but they are there to stimulate.
Maybe even conversations at lunch today.
They are there so that we can continue to grow up as the body of Christ
and so that we will never become either comfortable or complacent
with the abundant grace of God which is ours through Jesus, the Christ.