25 November 2015Ephesians 4:7-16
"But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted 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". (vv. 15-16)
Psalm: Psalm 134
This is not as complicated as it looks! 1st century Jewish
writers liked to use odd verses from the Hebrew Scriptures to help
make a point - in this case a line from Psalm
68 (verse 18) which the writer misquotes (not as uncommon
as you might think!) He is wanting to talk about God's gifts to
God's people (although Psalm 68 actually speaks about the people's
gifts to God, but never mind), and gets sidetracked into a brief
discussion about Jesus 'ascending' to heaven and 'descending' to
the dwelling place of the dead. But the real point here is that
Christ has provided the Church with everything it needs in order to
fulfil God's calling.
This familiar list (there are similar ones in Romans and 1 Corinthians) describes various activities within the Church that together enable the Church to grow into what God intends for it - which is the unity talked about in the previous verses in Ephesians.
A united Church is a mature Church, which has grown out of the kind of petty debates about doctrine that provide the excuse for divisions within the Church. And a mature Church functions like a healthy body with all parts functioning properly. The image of the Church as a body is one that Paul liked because it appealed equally to Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) and suggested something truly 'alive' and purposeful. The purpose, of course, is to demonstrate what "unity in love" looks like in real human relationships.
The title for this week's passages is 'New Life in Christ". The 'good news' of the Christian message is that we can be redeemed, or set free from anything and everything that stands in the way of our becoming truly mature humans as God intends, which means sharing a relationship of love with God and with our fellow creatures.
This may involve us in "speaking the truth in love" to challenge the prevailing culture of our day - whether in the Church or the wider society - but that is the only way for us to grow up.
- To what extent is the image of the 'body' is still a helpful one for us today, given the problems many people have with their own 'body image'?
- Can you think of any examples of what it might mean to "speak the truth in love" today? What might they be?
- In a culture that idolises youthfulness, what positive images of 'maturity' can you think of? Does the Church come across as 'mature' or just 'old'? Why?