Loving God, in whom all things are made whole, you
sent your Son our Saviour to heal a broken world. Visit us with
your salvation, that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:Anyone who comes to me
I will never turn away.
In the presence of God, let us confess our sins.
Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to God and
to one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you offer us a new beginning.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
God is love. Through Jesus our sins are forgiven.
Let us live in the power of the Spirit. Amen.
Holy God, you give life to all; you meet us in our
need and bring hope to those who look to you. Give peace to our
hearts and minds as we pray to you with confidence; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reading Psalm 78: 23-29
He gave orders to the skies above,
he opened the sluice-gates of heaven;
he rained down manna to feed them,
he gave them the wheat of heaven;
mere mortals ate the bread of the Mighty,
he sent them as much food as they could want.
He roused an east wind in the heavens,
despatched a south wind by his strength;
he rained down meat on them like dust,
birds thick as sand on the seashore,
tumbling into the middle of his camp, all around his dwelling place.
They ate as much food as they wanted,
he satisfied all their cravings.
Reading Ephesians 4: 1-16
As God's prisoner, then, I beg you to live lives
worthy of your high calling. Accept life with humility and patience,
making allowances for each other because you love each other. Make
it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably
be at peace with one another. Just as you all belong to one Body,
of which there is one Spirit, just as you all experienced one calling
to one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God,
one Father of us all, Who is the One over all, the One working through
all and the One living in all.
Naturally there are different gifts and functions;
individually grace is given to us in different ways out of the rich
diversity of Christ's giving. As the Scripture says: When He ascended
on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Note the implications here - to say that Christ 'ascended' means
that He must previously have 'descended', that is from the height
of heaven to the depth of this world. The One Who made this descent
is identically the same. Person as He Who has now ascended high
above the very heavens - that the whole universe from lowest to
highest might know His presence.)
His 'gifts unto men' were varied. Some He made Special
Messengers, some prophets, some preachers of the Gospel; to some
He gave the power to guide and teach His people. His gifts were
made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service,
that the whole Body might be built up until the time comes when,
in the unity of common faith and common knowledge of the Son of
God, we arrive at real maturity - that measure of development which
is meant by 'the fullness of Christ'.
We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy
of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are
expert in the crafty presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold
firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ,
the Head. For it is from the Head that the whole Body, as a harmonious
structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided,
grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full
maturity in love.
If we're reading right through Paul's letter to
the Ephesians we reach a point in today's lectionary passage where
everything changes. Paul begins today with the Greek word, 'parakalo',
I exhort. Now I ask you, how often do you use that word? Rarely,
I suggest. It's rather old fashioned and quaint but don't let this
put you off! Old fashioned, quaint language has its uses, attracting
our attention, perhaps because we are puzzled or maybe amused! Throughout
the whole Bible the word 'exhort' and its related words such as
'exhorted' occurs only 34 times - all of them in the New Testament.
Anyway, less common words may well cause us to pause and think for
a moment about the fuller significance of what is being said to
us, or of what we're reading.
So, what is Paul exhorting his readers to be or
to do? Answer: to live lives worthy of our high calling.
In other words he's urging his readers to show integrity.
And, you may ask, what does that mean? My dictionary tells me to
refer back to the word 'integer', a word that I associate with maths
lessons! Higher up the page in my dictionary I see that 'integer'
means a whole number (as opposed to a fraction), an undivided quantity,
a thing complete in itself. Reading on, I'm told that the Latin
origins of the word are rich in shades of meaning including undiminished,
blameless and irreproachable.
Perhaps we'll do well to pause for a while, maybe
re-read the previous paragraph and allow these words and what they
express to settle in our minds. The words of Singing the Faith 312,
verse 6 might help this thought grow and settle in your heart and
Spirit of purity and grace,
Our weakness pitying see;
O make our hearts thy dwelling place,
And worthier thee.
Paul urges his readers to have integrity - to be
at one. First of all, we need to be at one with ourselves.
I wonder what you wanted to become when you were
young. Did you have dreams of becoming a famous singer or dancer,
perhaps or dreams of travelling the world seeing all sorts of things?
In my day lots of boys aspired to become an engine driver, driving
steam trains across the length and breadth of the country.
Now, what did you become? Do you regret not fulfilling
childhood dreams and fantasies? Do you acknowledge they were foolish
and inappropriate, that the way your life has turned out has proved
altogether more satisfactory and successful than it would have been
if your childhood dreams had come true? Using words from earlier
in this address, are you now at one with your life? If so, your
life has integrity; it is, as our reading puts it, worthy of our
high calling. Praise the Lord!
Paul goes on to say that the gifts people have vary.
If you're sharing this service with one or more people spend a few
minutes comparing one another's gifts. (If you're on your own then
think of someone you know well and use your knowledge of that person/those
people.) Perhaps there's someone whose gifts feel to be way beyond
anything you could do, and maybe your gifts cause amazement to someone
else. Speaking for myself I'm hopeless at any activity that involves
one or more balls; throwing, catching and kicking aren't for me
(though I watch tennis - especially Wimbledon - and I watched the
semi-finals and the final of the European football competition).
I'm absolutely spell-bound by the skill of a Federer, a Djokovic
or one of the Williams sisters to smash a ball so it lands only
inches from the corner of the court.
Yes, gifts vary and very greatly, but we all have
them and if we are to respect God's generosity to us, we must use
them honestly and completely, i.e.with integrity. Remember that
an integer is a wholenumber, one that's complete; our acceptance
and use of God's gifts must be complete!
In all probability people's gifts aren't fully developed
in their early years; quite the opposite, in fact.We need to learn
and develop to allow our gifts to mature - just as we become mature
in other ways. My own gift, as you probably know, is music. Although
I turned 80 last February I'm still learning in all sorts of ways
regarding music: new compositions, old compositions that I haven't
previously come across, new insights into how to play particular
repertoire, how to get the notes into my fingers and feet.
This sort of thing goes not only for physical skills
and intellectual knowledge; it goes for every aspect of our life
(integrity again!) including our spiritual life. As we grow olderand,
I hope, wiser does our prayer life blossom and mature? Do we still
read the Bible with the same limited insights that we had in our
teenage years? Do the sacraments mean no more than they did way
back in the 20th century? The heading in our reading at verse 14
is 'True maturity means growing up "into" Christ'. Have
we been growing this way? It's the only way that has integrity;
that is undiminished, blameless, irreproachable.
We may be challenged by this and left feeling inadequate.
However, if we stop and reflect more positively, we may be spurred
to do as an old song urges us:
Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end.
John Oxenham, pseud. (1852-1941)
After each petition the phrase, 'Lord, hear us'
is followed by the phrase,'Lord, graciously hear us'.
Let us pray for the Church of God throughout the
world, for . . . and for . . .
Let us pray for those who have power and influence
and for all who govern the nations, for . . . and for . . .
Let us pray for the powerless, for all victims of
famine and war, and for all who strive for justice and peace, for
. . . and for . . .
Let us pray for the afflicted and sorrowful and
for all who need our prayers, for . . . and for . . .
Let us remember before God those who have passed
from this life in faith and obedience, giving thanks for . . . and
for . . .
Eternal God, through the self-offering of your Son
you have filled our lives with your presence. Help us in our sufferings
and trials and strengthen us in our weakness; through Jesus Christ