“A Body, A Family, A Building” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden
Good morning! We’re continuing our study of letter to the Ephesians which will run into next month. You may remember from last week — or you have figured out on your own — that I am summarizing this study with the word BEYOND. In Ephesians chapter 1 we encountered the riches of grace: the idea that our worth to God is beyond anything we have or have done — not our money or our education or our good works — we are priceless to God because Jesus Christ redeemed us with his life, a price beyond measure. God loves us with abundance and abandon, and even though that love may be beyond our ability to comprehend, the knowledge of it should effect the way we see ourselves and the way we interact with other people.
I asked you to consider two questions last week, and I’ll ask them again, because they are still really good questions. When was a time that you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were loved? And what represents abundance for you?
We need to carry this awareness of abundance into our text today, because here in chapter 2 the writer of Ephesians working on the same concept of grace, but from a little different angle. In chapter 1, we encountered redemption and the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ. This is salvation by a Savior who knows and cares for each person, but it is beyond simply individual salvation. Jesus came not only to save a bunch of individuals, but to redeem a people — and entire community. He came not only to make Rosanna a child of God, Christ came so that each person could be part of the family of God. Ephesians 2 talks about how groups of people who had no hope, who were strangers and aliens to each other, who were distant from God and God’s promise — these people are now reconciled to one another through the blood of Christ. If Christ died to make us part of one family, then there are no distinction between us. Whatever our differences, Betty is as much a part of God’s family as Ted, and Mary Lou is as much a part of God’s family as Scott. This communal sense of grace is what I want to talk about this morning.
When our kids were young, we had a board game called Tribond. One team drew a card which listed 3 separate things, and the other team had to guess what they all had in common. Let me give you an example — feel free to say the answer out loud if you think you know what it is. King, Queen, Twin. Mattress sizes The author of Ephesians is doing something similar in this passage, using different images that all have something in common. If you tried to read these verses literally or drew a picture using all these images it could be very odd, but as related concepts, it works — at least for me. Chapter 2 verse 16 is talking about Jews and non-Jews, and says [Christ] reconciled both groups to God in one body through the cross. This image of believers as the body of Christ should sound familiar. The death of Christ’s earthly body by crucifixion has reconciled believers so that we can continue the work of Jesus on earth as the hands and feet of Christ. We are the body of Christ. The body of Christ is Image 1. Image 2 is one we explored a bit last week — being adopted into God’s family. Verse 19 says that we are part of the household of God. And verses 20-22 immediately throw a third image into the mix: it says we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. A body, a family, and a building? How are these three things alike? They are all images which Eph Chapter 2 uses for the community of believers.
Here’s what I take from these images: a body, a family and a building are all singular things which are made from different parts or pieces which fit together. These pieces may be different — in fact, there differences are part of what makes the whole thing functional. A body needs arms as well as legs; a family needs people who fulfill different tasks; a building needs walls as well as rafters; you get the idea. But there is also an actual or implied hierarchy in a body, a family, and a building: the head controls the body, there is a “head” of a family, and a cornerstone joins a whole structure together. Whatever image we are using, Jesus Christ is the organizing principal: without Christ, the body or the family or the building falls apart. The power to connect a body, to be the head of God’s family, or to grow into a holy temple in the Lord is beyond our power. Each one of us is called to be a member of the body, part of the family, and piece of the dwelling place for God, but it is the power of Christ which holds us together.
We will be sharing bread and cup communion as part of our service today. Part of what we celebrate is that through the body and blood of Christ — his sacrifice on the cross, but also the bread and cup which represents Christ’s body and blood — by the power of the cross we are reconciled to one another, and re-membered — re-constructed — as the body of Christ. In the Church of the Brethren, we acknowledge that even this intimate act of eating and drinking is not merely an individual, personal experience. In our preparation for communion we examine our relationship to God, so that we can confess how we need to make that relationship right, and we also consider what we need to do in order to be in right relationship with our brothers and sisters — the other members of the household, God’s family of faith. We love, encourage and value children in this congregation, but young children don’t understand the significance of making this commitment to participate in the body of Christ. We have a special snack for children, and if you are worshipping in a Sunday School classroom, deacons will bring communion for adults and a snack for children to those classrooms. I will give some more directions shortly to those of you who are in the Worship Center. If you are joining us by LiveStream, I suggest that you stay in front of your device while I lead us in prayer and the words of institution for the bread and cup, and then you will have opportunity to get your own communion elements if they are not at hand, or to take as much time as you need to thoughtfully prepare yourself as a member of the family of God — even if we are a widely extended family.