A few weeks ago, I preached in the sanctuary from Ephesians 1:3-14. The opening of this wild little letter invites us to rest in the abundance of God’s love. It calls for a slowing down and looking at all the ways God has blessed us. All the ways God has proven God’s love: by blessing us, choosing us, destining us, adopting us, giving grace to us, forgiving us, revealing God’s design to us, giving us an inheritance in Christ, calling us, promising to seal us with the Holy Spirit. Wow! That’s a lot of love!
It was nice to rest in that for a while. There wasn’t really a call to action. There wasn’t really a way to respond — other than accepting God’s claim on each of us as one of God’s beloved children. Take that love. Let it wash over you. Absorb it. Claim it. Enjoy it! And let that love give you your core sense of identity. God’s love for you tells you who you are. How refreshing!
But here we are now — at Ephesians 4:1-16. The author of the letter has moved beyond affirming proclamations of love and pastoral prayers for lives of faith. Now the author is sending his audience off with a charge.
Henri Nouwen describes that our whole life can me imagined like a horizontal line that goes infinitely in both directions. And if we imagine that line going eternally into the past and eternally into the future, then that entire line is covered in God’s “I love you” to us. And we can draw a little segment in the middle. It’s tiny. It’s brief. And that little fleeting segment is our opportunity to say “I love you back.”
That’s what this section of Ephesians is about. It’s about the ways we can all spend the arcs of our lives bending toward an “I love you back.” It’s about growing in unity — not uniformity — not conformity — but profound unity. It’s about growing in maturity. It’s about growing to be more perfect in Jesus Christ’s love.
This Sunday, we’ll consider together ways that we can say “I love you back” to God — by the way we live in our individual lives and the way we relate in community.
I look forward to being with you in worship.
Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
7 God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. 8 That’s why scripture says, When he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people.
9 What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? 10 The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything.
11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.