Unity in the Body of Christ

Sunday, 1 August 2021, Pentecost 10

Ephesians 4:1-16

What a wonderful way to commence our journey together! The welcome from the children was so special. The Induction Service last Thursday was marvellous. The hospitality of this congregation has a testimony throughout Presbytery’s South Region which is now extending beyond into the other regions. It is an absolute honour, privilege, and blessing to become your minister.

The position of second minister was created to allow a smooth transition from Rev Margaret Ann who has already announced her retirement. The time to look backwards over her accomplishments will soon come. We will have the opportunity to honour her untiring commitment to the success of this Parish. Today, however, we want to focus on the future.

St Johns Papatoetoe, you have travelled across some bumpy paths to arrive at this point in history. You are in a good place. It is now time to move from good to great. That will mean making choices that actually say, “No!” to good things to take advantage of opportunities to accomplish great things.

And Church Family, we can do great things!

Our Vision

Today’s reading from the Old Testament records consequences for David’s sin with Bathsheba. It all started with what David saw. “Desire is driven by sight. The first thing he did was to see the woman and once that picture had been posted in his eyes, he had fallen under the spell of desire.”

Sight is a powerful weapon. This morning, I’d like to wield that weapon like the Olympian fencing athletes. (Have you been watching the Olympics?) They wield a literal sword! How cool is that? I am going to encourage you to use your mind’s eye. What is the picture I’m wanting you to see? It is the vision for St John’s Papatoetoe.

Our vision is to be a visible sign of God’s presence in the world among mosques, temples, and other diverse cultures of our community.

It is so important that we keep our sites on who we are and why we are doing what we do. The Ephesian Church was encouraged to retain their unity. It is a message for us today. We have a good thing going but it will take work to keep it going.

Do any of you children ride a bicycle? Don’t you love peddling as hard as you can to go faster and faster? And then so many of us stop peddling so we can just coast at a high speed, right? Is that what you do?

Church Family, you have been peddling hard. Perhaps it may be time to coast just a bit and enjoy the scenery of past blessings – but only for a bit! What happens when you coast and stop peddling? That’s right; you slow down. If you wait too long, you will fall over! Or in the least take a lot of effort to get your momentum up again.

Let’s not coast too long. Perhaps we can add a gear or two so that we don’t have to pedal as hard – and that is what I’m praying about doing. The letter to the Ephesians teaches us how to move from good to great:

  • Walk worthy of your calling – you each have a gift responsible to share with the Church and Community
  • Bear with one another in love – as a church we have an obligation to work hard at maintaining our unity
  • Unity is defined as St Johns working and loving together in such a way where it becomes a place of peace.

That is how we will move from good to great. That is how we fulfil our vision of being a visible sign of God’s presence in Papatoetoe, amid mosques, temples, and other diverse cultures.

Our Values

Our Vision helps us steer our direction and reminds us of where we are going. Our Values inform us who we are and how we can move from good to great. The apostle encouraged the Ephesian Church by reminding them of their values. Although St Johns are adjusted to our Papatoetoe context, they are still grounded in the values of the Early Church.

The values of the Early Church and that of St Johns are grounded in the fact that there is one hope; one Lord; one faith; one baptism; and one God and Father of all. Unity in the Body of Christ means grace is given to each of us individually AND corporately. As a Christian, you cannot serve God in isolation. You serve God through the Church. That grace is measured from Christ’s gift. Not our own talents, culture, or values – but Christ’s. Christ is who we follow as “Christ”-tians / Christians.

What are the values of St Johns? They have been expressed in statement form.

  • We will be faithful to the Word of God, through our Saviour, Jesus Christ and to the leading of the Holy Spirit
  • People really matter to us and in our relationships, we seek to love others unconditionally
  • We will support people as they search for their purpose in life allowing and encouraging people to develop and exercise their God given gifts.
  • We will seek to provide a living and supportive environment where people feel safe and accepted for who they are.
  • We will seek to bring people closer to God through our words and actions

As a Church Family, we value the Scriptures, we value people, we value personal development, we value our environment, and we value connections. That is who we are. That is St Johns Papatoetoe.

The Reformation text for Ephesians 6:1 has the apostle begging that you walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called. Vocation sounds like a job. It is our occupation. By vocation, I am a minister. You have an occupation to earn wages. That is not who we are; that is only what we do with our lives. The idea of working ties more neatly into our Gospel reading where Jesus gave a challenge: Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you (John 6:27).

St Johns, we have a job to do. Our work is to take the bread of life from the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, and share it with one another and with the community around us. That work is summarised in our vision: to be a visible sign of God’s presence in Papatoetoe. Our values is that work we must do:

  • Be faithful to Jesus Christ
  • Be loving to others unconditionally
  • Be supportive of others as they search for life’s meaning
  • Be relentless to preserve our safe environment
  • Be diligent to bring people closer to God.

Prayer of Application

Great God, you are one God,
and you bring together what is scattered
and mend what is broken.
Unite us with the scattered peoples of Papatoetoe
that we may be one family of your children.
Bind up all our wounds,
and heal us in spirit,
that we may be renewed as disciples
of Jesus Christ, our Master and Saviour.

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