Sermon for Trinity XVII
October 8, 2017
A Walk Like No Other
This morning we see the thread of humility that runs through each of the readings. It is prominent in the first two of the proverbs and is central in the parable that Jesus speaks to those invited to the dinner at the ruler of the Pharisees’ house. But in our epistle reading, Paul lists it among five other attributes, as I have organized them, that describe what it means to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Along with humility, we have gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, eagerness to maintain the unity of Spirit and that done in the bond of peace. We are going to take a look at each of these in turn.
We begin first by understanding to which calling Paul says we are called. As a prisoner in the Lord, he is bound to preach and that is what he has done in the previous chapters of this letter. He reminds the Ephesian church and us who it is that has called us to be Christians. It is, of course, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17). He explains the purpose of this calling as liberation from a death in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) to make us alive together with Christ – for by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:5). Then he describes the stewardship and ministry by which this grace is proclaimed and delivered – the preaching of the unsearchable riches of Christ, bringing to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known (Eph 3:8-10).
As a pastor in our circuit is fond of saying, Paul delivered the goods. He described how this calling to which we have been called has been in the works since before the beginning of time. In other words, God had determined to send His Son to be our Savior even as He deliberated on the creation of all things. In love that exceeds all understanding and explaining, God created Adam and Eve even as He knew that they would disobey and that in doing so, Jesus was already determined to be born that He might bear the sins of the world and reconcile the Father to us who have been called, that is, who have been given the vocation as children of the heavenly Father, otherwise known as Christians. To be called as a Christian is a calling to be a little Christ or to be like Christ. The grace is given to us. We are saved by it through faith. This is not our own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that we may not boast in our justification but in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9). And as Christians, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has also prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. It is in this manner that we walk, willingly doing those good works prepared for us (Eph 2:10), that we may demonstrate the worthiness of our calling.
Note that the manner in which we are to walk is the result of faith in Jesus that is directed towards those around us. What Paul describes is that the response to God’s grace is seen in the manner by which we treat others. It is not how loud or how vehemently we sing. Nor is it seen in any inner devotion to God. It is distinctly outward towards the neighbor and fellow Christian in particular.
We are to walk in humility. Humility means that we are not to exalt ourselves over another or assume the place of honor. A Christian is not to see himself as anything other than a servant to others. As members of the same body, we all serve the same purpose even if we have different functions. But the hand cannot say that he serves a more noble purpose than the foot, not the eye that it has no need of the ear. Each has her function according to her calling and each serves the same master working together to accomplish the same goal or good work. Everybody likes to be recognized and singled out but it is important for us to remember that each of us already has the highest honor given to man in that we have been called to faith in Jesus Christ and given the honor to be called Christian which is to be honored as a son and heir of God. The riches and glory of heaven are your reward as they are mine and as they are the Ephesian church’s. We are all honored the same according to faith. Humility is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us that He might die for the sins of the world.
The Greek word translated as gentleness in our text could be translated as meekness and is closely related to humility and could be translated as such. But it has a more direct way in dealing with others than does the first word. Here it is more about how one sees others than how one sees himself. We may rightly see ourselves as honored in Christ Jesus, but in gentleness we also see others as having the same honor. We do not mistreat them, belittle them or look down our nose at them in anyway, whether it be in temporal things or spiritual. Gentleness means that we treat others with respect, valuing their opinion on things, appreciating their contributions in every situation, and looking at them as equals in the work given to the Church of Jesus Christ. Gentleness is what Jesus displays as He welcomes the little children and doesn’t smite the disciples for hindering them.
Patience can also be translated as one of those words that kind of says or sounds like what it means: long-suffering. We might consider it as forbearance. Patience suffers through all things and does not seek to even the score when wronged. But it also is exhibited in the training of children and must be exercised in the closest of relationships. To be long-suffering doesn’t always mean that a wrong has been done. Sometimes it just simply means that we are slow down and to realize that we don’t all move at the same pace. Patience is necessary when teaching the faith and training in righteousness. Patience is what God has with us as we continue to struggle in this life.
Bearing with one another in love describes the how of being forbearing. We are to endure the faults and failures of others because of love. Because of God’s desire for their everlasting salvation and the desire that He has planted in us the seeks their eternal good. Our affection for others is to see beyond the sin and the brokenness to the individual for whom Christ also died; to bear the affront in pursuit of their soul. With love, we are to suffer the things idiotic and careless. We are to bear up under the foolishness of those that do not know better without belittling or begrudging. We are to carry our own crosses in love for those around us as Christ bore His cross in love for all.
We are called to do more than simply agree to disagree or to agree in some primary points as if they were the only important doctrine. We are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. We are to actively pursue agreement in what we teach and uniformity in how live and worship as Christians. Life in the Church is not like having a roommate whereby you share a space but have differing schedules and interests. Roommates may share the costs of things but everything is separate. In the Church, we are not roommates that just pass in the hallway. We share all things in common. We are equally all sinners that are dipped in the same font, fed from the same Scripture, and sustained by the same body and blood of our Lord. Our eagerness is to maintain them as they have been given to us for in these means the Spirit of God is the One active in unifying us in the Faith. He unites us to Christ and keeps us in unity with Jesus through this ministry of Word and Sacrament.
As we consider the “bond of peace,” we might be reminded of Paul’s declaration of being a prisoner in the Lord. The bond should be considered as a binding that ties things together. Or it may be seen ans the sinew or ligament that keeps the joints of the body together and in place. The unity of the Spirit is that which binds us to peace with God and one another. The faith in Christ worked and sustained in us by the Holy Spirit binds us together and to Christ. Pure doctrine is the ligament that holds our members together. Faithful observance of the word and sacraments in the Divine Service is the expression and the bestowal of peace that passes all understanding.
These things we cannot do on our own. We require the support of the Spirit and of one another. Our calling is granted individually in Holy baptism but our walk is never alone. We walk together in a common hope of resurrected life guaranteed under the rule of one Lord an Savior, Jesus Christ. We are a body forgiven and a body that forgives, a ragtag bunch of sinners made new in the image of Jesus.
I make one more quote from Paul’s writing to the Ephesians; the last two verses of chapter three. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”