In this summer Narrative Lectionary series on the Letter to the Ephesians, we continue on the theme of unity from last week’s reading in Ephesians 2. In that reading, the unity was between separated groups, while in Ephesians 4, we read about the deeper unity within the community of individual saints. As a community, we are not united because we are alike, we are united because:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
We are one because God is one. We are built up into one body through the one Spirit. Here, we see the same body metaphor made famous in 1 Corinthians 12, which also includes a passage relating all gifts to the one Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12, one focus is on the importance of diversity within the body of Christ, which is not a primary focus in Ephesians 4.
The focus here is more on the purpose and work of the body and how the diversity of gifts given work together to get the job done. Here, the gifts lifted up relate to faith formation leadership roles within the community (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). Why do I call them “faith formation” leadership roles? I do so specifically because of the purpose laid out for these roles: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” and to build up the body of Christ for the spiritual maturity of all. These two parts are a good description of faith formation.
All members of the body of Christ are given gifts for the benefit of all, though not all are gifted for what we often think of as “leadership roles.” And that’s okay. The truth still is that all are given gifts and that “each part…promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). All members of the body contribute in their own way to the growth of the whole, and at the same time the growth and maturity of every other part/member of the body. Children, youth, young adults, and every other adult grouping or generation each have something to teach each other and together we will help the body of Christ grow.
I note that leaders are provided “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” so that faith formation is not just for the benefit of the body of Christ, but also to equip that body for the work of ministry (service), the work of Christ in this world. (I also believe that service/mission work contributes to faith formation, so it is a beautiful cycle of growth and love.)
Within a faith formation setting, it would be good to emphasize the interdependence that exists in a healthy human body (which can be done at a simple or complex level, depending on the audience), and make the connection to the fact that each person has an important role to play in the working and work of the body of Christ in your specific location. Lift up the gifts that people have and how they can be used to help each other (and please don’t focus only on how people should use their gifts to volunteer more at church).
Let us all work together for the benefit of all in Christ Jesus!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
This week’s FREE resource is a simple conversation starter from our Living the Word: Cross+Generational Worship product. This product provides a weekly interactive liturgy aimed at all ages designed to make our worship services accessible and engaging for everyone in the congregation, from every generation. Use this in worship or in any other context to help make this story come alive to your congregation!