Today’s scripture: the Big C Church ~ all Christians present, past and future are members… As today’s scripture begins, the word PEACE speaks of oneness/togetherness … The purpose of Jesus death is to bring literal peace between people that are so different from one another …the 1st part of today’s Bible reading is to bring peace … the 2nd part is the result: Oneness. Unity. READ EPH. 2:14-22.
Paul is speaking to the church then and now, a fresh start is yours. The greatest gift for the church to give the world is an attitude of optimism, expectancy, embracing more and more people, breaking down barriers, in Christ… In today’s scripture, a fresh start comes by reaffirming God’s purpose of reconciliation not only with him but with others. It’s not a matter of salvation for me, but for US.
Paul is talking about the Big C Church in Eph. 2:14-22 ~~ the church universal where every person that ever was, is and will be chosen of God to be a part of His Kingdom. That’s why we pray for other churches… other Christians that may belong to a different local church or none at all….
We are a little “c” Church, a local church body, extremely important but only one expression of a community of faith. There is a Big C Church of which we each belong… if anyone speaks ill of the Catholics or Pentecostals or Baptists or CRC, they are a part of the Big C Church and it is a reflection on me/us too… a scandal in one local body is a scandal on the whole. A revival in one is a praise for all! If large churches are slammed, then so am I… small ‘c’ churches are infamous for jealousy of others, competing, isolating, comparing…READ Eph. 2:15b-18. That’s Big C Church talk…We are invited/compelled to choose a small ‘c’ church, but never forget there is a big ‘c’ church that is bigger than any single church.
Another way to say the same thing, “It’s all about the Kingdom.” We serve/ fellowship/ use spiritual gifts/ grow/ belong to a local church, but our greater purpose is Kingdom work! So what if we pour ourselves into projects that don’t benefit us directly. That’s one of the reasons the simple acts of supporting missions is so important. In two weeks I hope to be going with Phil Dufrene to the cargo ships to bless (and be blessed) by the crews. Zero chance any of them will even visit here on a Sunday. As a small “c” church we pour ourselves into the kingdom… let’s love people into the Kingdom. Let’s rejoice when people choose Christ the King…Sumas CRC… Valley… It’s all about the Kingdom.
Many ways to speak of divisions, READ Eph. 2:19 ~~ a few thoughts on churches that divided by size… when I met Sally she was attending UPC in Seattle. One of the larger churches in Seattle at the time, might still be… amazing pastors, teaching, opportunities, college group… Sally had only known large wealthy churches. Then she met me//// I introduced her to small struggling churches with all their quirks and oddities … After a few years she came to value the small church for one main reason: in a large church she was segregated by age. In a small church there was great value in knowing people of all generations…. The small church can do a lot of things the large church can’t… it’s easier for us to love more deeply messed up people, to be more patient, to see people as individuals rather than categories… many times over the years there is a reason when crisis hits or there is a pastoral need people from mega churches will find me for the wedding/funeral/counseling…but it is all about the Kingdom. I am on the staff of God’s Kingdom work! So are you….
On the other hand, nothing worse than a small smug church. May small churches bless larger churches, recognizing the greater quality of teaching, the ability to fine tune programs for niche needs, the sheer number of people that are reached, the greater wealth to pour into the community and world, the ability to make a huge splash. The Kingdom is better off for the large megachurches…
but let us also celebrate the smaller churches, the bread and butter of Christianity is still found in small churches with prayer warriors, faithful people who quietly live out their faith, communities able to adopt a few of the most broken people who need a home, diverse groups who learn from people who are so different… The Kingdom is better off for the millions of small churches that dot our country/world quietly making a difference in their community. Big or small, it’s all about the Kingdom.
There are other differences that divide Christians beside size: styles of worship, denominations, creeds, locations…the point: only one Big C Church; the goal is not to make other Christian uniform with us, but to tune ourselves to Christ….
Christ is the center of the Big C Church. Jesus Christ binds us together! READ Eph. 2:18. Eph. 4:3-6 expands the same point: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
What unites people of the Big C Church is the fact that Jesus is Lord ~ It’s the only creed in the Bible! I love the illustration of A.W. Tozer, in his book, The Pursuit of God: "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow..." Jesus Christ is at the center of our church/the Kingdom… we must each be tuned to Him… Jesus binds us together….
Paul says in this scripture some are far and some are near… he’s talking in his context about Jew and Gentile Christians, each group having a different history, yet a sameness a unity. The same principle of near and far applies to any groups/ individuals… a baby Christian is every bit as much of a Christian as the person who has lived a hundred years with Christ… both have something to offer the other: the new Christian a fresh perspective with a thousand insights and questions, and the other a seasoned faith that has weathered a 1000 storms… “peace to you who were far away and peace to you who are near…” There is a freshness of faith when you walk beside the person who has a different background, different experiences, different questions, different perspective, different insights, yet both are tuned to Christ to bind us together (See amoeba illustration, what binds us together is direction we are going, not the rules).
We have a tendency to compete with others, justify ourselves, isolate because we don’t get the style of others.… but in Eph. 2:16 it says that Jesus died on the cross to bring reconciliation to those that are different from others. Not only are we centered in Christ, but we are joined together as part of the body… like the spokes of a wheel with Jesus at the hub, and each spoke keeping the tire balanced to provide a smooth ride….
“Fellow Citizens” is the phrase Paul uses in Eph. 2:19. Paul uses other illustrations to make the same point: members of the same household, Jesus the chief cornerstone of the foundation, together we are a holy temple, together we are God’s dwelling place….
The Christian Community needs a fresh start: It’s all about the Kingdom…. It’s about the unity of the Big C body of Christ. Years ago I read an opinion/ (prophecy?), that the next wave of revival will not be centered on one person, but rather, a grass roots revival of the body…. Each of us are a part of the whole. From God’s perspective, there is only one church in Sumas: the other churches and Christians that head off to Lynden as well as for whatever reason those that don’t have any church at all… in Whatcom County there is only one Church, the U.S… the world….
It’s refreshing to know there is a world wide church blessed by God, that is why Jesus died, for us to bless one another, be united with those that are different, those that we don’t understand…..
the most powerful truth to me: the Big C Church cannot fail. It is impossible!... God’s love is too great, too wonderful, too powerful…we have no reason to fear for God’s Kingdom will withstand any storm, any anti-Christ world wide movement; in Christ the most diverse group of churches and individuals are bound together. That give hope and assurance, that makes me optimistic when I get caught in depression or disappointment… with Jesus Christ at the center, the truth of the Big C Church gives me a fresh wave of optimism and encouragement. Amen.