In our passage from Ephesians this morning, we hear two very important, complimentary lessons.
First – God is One. There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One Spirit, One Hope, One Body, ONE!
A few weeks ago, as I first introduced these elements of worship, we looked at the very simple message that Isaiah heard proclaimed in his vision. I forgive you, I love you, and I have a job for you. It’s short, It’s simple, in some ways, It is a summary of the entire Biblical tradition. Repeat it with me. I forgive you, I love you, and I have a job for you.
All of those “ONE’s” that we just heard about – they each have to do with this core message. We are forgiven by One Lord, through our One Faith, and in our One Baptism. We experience God’s love through the One Body. And empowered by the One Spirit, we are called to One common Hope.
That call is the Second lesson for this morning. The Word of God gave each of us a gift – a task – a calling… and these gifts, though united in purpose, are as varied as we are.
At annual conference this year, our resident artist, Ted Lyddon Hatten, created a color wheel out of chairs. Each one of the 16 chairs represented a different part of the color wheel.
Now, when we talk about light and color, we may remember from our childhood that white light is made up of many different wavelengths. Blues and Reds and Greens and Yellows all come together to create what we see as white. But in certain situations, that light is broken up, it is refracted, and we see a rainbow. We see the beauty of difference in what once appeared to be unified.
The color wheel is in some ways like that. If we mixed them all together, we would get a muddled and icky brown color – but individually, if we allow them to be in relationship, to compliment one another, our pictures become more vivid and brighter and full of life.
God’s Word – rather than being black and white words on a page that never change – is alive and varied and moving among us – as different as each of these sixteen chairs and sixteen colors. And the Word of God who is Jesus Christ chose us to carry the word to one another.
As The Message translation interprets this passage: You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly… BUT that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.
In different times, in different places, and to different people, the Word of God is revealed.
In part, that’s what we saw in our children’s time today.
Each one of our senses, though different, experience the same God – they just do it in different ways.
Each sense is like a chair around this table. And when we put all of those messages together: the smells of Christmas, the taste of bread, the sight of the empty cross, the feel of cleansing water, the sounds of love – we find we have written one story: We are forgiven, We are Loved, and We have a job to do.
The One Body of Christ is a lot like this circle of chairs also. Because each of us are different people. We are each called and gifted and blessed in different ways. We each have unique and beautiful life experiences to share. Some of us have spent our whole lives working with the soil. Some of us have spent our entire lives helping and serving others. Some of us are young and have fresh eyes with which to look at the world. Some of us have experienced profound pain in our lives. Some of us work with machines, and others of us work with our minds.
And in all of those very different experiences, we have each felt the love and grace of God, although none of us in quite the same way.
Because of our difference – we are all a part of the Body of Christ. Because of our difference – we all have a seat at this table. Because of our difference – we all are called to proclaim the Word of God.
What I notice about this list of gifts here in Ephesians, is that none of these gifts call for silence. As Paul begs the people of Epheses to live up to their calling, he says that some of us are apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers… but NONE of us are benchwarmers. NONE of us get to watch. ALL of us have something to share in ministry, all of us have to build up one another up, all of us are needed. The circle of chairs isn’t complete without the Word that each of us has to offer.
When Paul writes this letter to the Ephesians, he’s locked up in jail because of proclaiming the Word. And what does he have to say as a word of encouragement: Get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God has called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes no where… Grow up! Know the truth that is in your heart and tell it in love. (adapted from The Message)
In many ways, that is what the Roundtable Pulpit conversations are about every Tuesday morning. It’s a chance to sit together with the scriptures and for me to hear the truth that each of you has to speak around that table. It’s an acknowledgement that even though I am the pastor, I don’t have a monopoly on the Word of God – we all have something to contribute.
It is the same spirit behind a very old tradition called Lectio Divina, or Holy Reading, that has been transformed into a new practice in some congregations. All of those who gather around the table are invited to hear the word of God, ponder it in their hearts and then speak the truths that they have received. And as we celebrate the word this morning, I want to invite you to practice this with me.
First of all, I need for all of us to find here in the sanctuary a small group of people – five or six is a good size, and make sure you are close enough to hear one another speak. Once we are all settled, I’ll have a few more instructions =)
Lectio Divina has four parts and the easy way to remember is that they all have something to do with eating. First, we take a bite of the scripture, we pay attention to a word or phrase that jumps out at us as we hear and read it. Second, we chew on that word or phrase as we hear the scripture a second time – why did it speak to us? what does it have to say? Third, we savor and celebrate the Word that has come to us by sharing it with others. Fourth, we digest the Word and make it a part of our lives.
We will go through each of these four stages together, and before each one, I will read our scripture, and then invite you to share with those around you how you would respond to the question on the screens.