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Jul 1, 2018

“One and Many” 7-1-18

Ephesians 4:1-16
July 1, 2018

Our nation’s most well-known unofficial motto is the Latin phrase e pluribus Unum which means out of many, one.  That is one of the mottoes on the great seal which was adopted by congress in 1782.  E pluribus unum was generally accepted as the motto of the United States until the congress officially adopted “In God we Trust” as the official motto of the United States in 1956.
The concept behind the motto of E pluribus unum is that of the 13 original states coming together to form one nation.  We all know that those 13 states did not intend to surrender their own sovereignty to become a part of the United States, and we all know that the states came together as one entity to defeat a common enemy, and to create a more organized force as it faced threats from other nations.
What can be confusing for Christians, who live in the United States, is that the church of Jesus Christ is described in the Bible as an entity comprised of many people too.  And sometimes, in the Presbyterian churches, with its system of Government which was a model for that of the United States, we think that the church is just another organization similar to the government of the United States.  In this passage, I think we can clearly see that the church is much different from the nation of the United States.
The church also could claim the motto e pluribus unum.  In this passage there is the concept of one and many becoming a part of that one.  But the essential unity of the many is not based on the many voluntarily joining together because of security and common interests, as the states and citizens of the United States have.
In the case of the church, the many do not come and join together to become one, they are called to become one by the one who is one. 
In this passage, the Apostle Paul was exhorting the Christians in Ephesus in the first century AD to lead a life worthy of the calling of being a Christian.
Now when we think of a life worthy of a follower of Jesus, we might think of the 10 commandments of the Old Testament and the Beatitudes of the New Testament.  But that is not what Paul had in mind in this passage.  He certainly wanted them to be led by and informed by those two lists, or moral codes, but what he was writing about here is somewhat different. 
He was writing about each individual Christian becoming a part of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.  As they united with a congregation, and in their case built a congregation, they were to do so with each of them displaying humility, gentleness, and patience. 
And he tells them what they have been called to and by.  We might call it a series of Ones.  There are lists of things they are to have in common and share in,
There is one body (the church), one spirit driving that body, (the Holy Spirit,) One hope, (eternal life), One Lord (Jesus), one Faith (in Jesus) One Baptism (by which we identify as being part of the Faith and the Church) and One God and Father.
Today, I want to add one more one.  This meal.  It, too, is a gift of God that we are to share together.  In this meal we are connected to Jesus, and since we are connected to the one Jesus, through him we are connected to each other.  We are one with him and one with each other.
But in this passage, there is also the pluribus, the many, and these are the various members of the church and the gifts they have been given by God that are to be used to build up the church.
Since Paul was an Apostle in the beginning era of the church, he listed the offices that were used in that era; Apostles, evangelists, prophets, and Pastors and teachers (It may be that Pastor/teacher is one office).  In our time we also have Elders, Deacons, Sunday School and Bible School teachers and Church Ladies and other workers in the church.  Each is a gift to the church as they use their gifts.  There is reciprocity of these gifts. I know all about that.
For the past 10 years I have been given by God to this congregation to be Your Pastor.  (Now if you ever tell anyone that I said that I was God’s gift to the church, I insist that you cite this passage of Ephesians as the context of my remark.)
And As I have served as God’s gift to you, you have also been God’s great and marvelous gift to me and to this congregation.  And now, as I surrender the position of Pastor, I need to see how God will use my gifts to and for the body of Christ, and individual congregations, maybe even including this one.
And you need to continue to use your God given gifts to build up this congregation and perhaps even Christians of other congregations.
And now, as we think about the many of us, and how we have been called by the one God to be united with Him and other Christians into one body, it is time for us to act out our oneness by participating in this meal, the meal our savior gave to all who believe in Him.  We are one with Him and through Him; we are one with each other.
We are called to be one in Christ, and we are all given gifts by God to carry out that calling.

 

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906