Monday, September 23, 2013

Walking in a Manner Worthy of the Calling to Which You Have Been Called

4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV)
I therefore urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. The calling to which you have been called. What is that? What is this calling of which Paul speaks? It is the same as that to which Luther references in the third article of the creed. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel.” Called me by the gospel. The gospel, the good news, that is what we have been called to, the belief that while we were yet sinners, yes even right now, Jesus Christ died for our sins. That God died for the ungodly, for people who commit vile sins and are by nature at war with God. It’s a description of you: ungodly, enemies of God, and vile sinners. It is a description of the church that is made up of sinners like me, who don’t do the good they would, and the bad they would not, they find themselves doing. I mean it ends up that way. The good that you would, you wrestle with a problem that you want to fix, your emotions get in the way. You think you see ten years of hard and patient work toppling over like a house of cards so you try to fix the problem, and you wake up half way through and realize you haven’t helped a thing but made everything worse, alienated friends, and hurt fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. You took a mole hill and made a mountain, and now all you can do is suck up your pride and ask forgiveness. To return to the calling to which I have been called, to return to the calling to which you have been called, the forgiveness of sins, to faith that Jesus Christ has also forgiven these sins. To return to Jesus Christ who is patient, gentle and humble, to Jesus Christ who bears with us in love despite all our awful warts, who himself maintains the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Paul doesn’t leave us to our imaginations in figuring out what this means. He tells us explicitly. It means to be humble, gentle and patient. These are not attributes that come naturally to a sinner. They aren’t attributes that come natural to me. I like to think of myself in these terms. But the truth is, I can at best play humble. And at those times I learn people mistake me for having low self-esteem. That’s not it. I just want to brag about my humility. Gentle? I’ve managed a few times, the rest of the time I’m brash, and outspoken, cavalier, and often a blowhard. And patient? This is the key to the whole thing, isn’t it? I try so hard but I can’t speed up the time. Patience. No, this isn’t a virtue I have cultivated well. Impatience is the reason I have credit card debt. Impatience is why I run head long into a small little problems I perceive I can fix and create a mountain out of a molehill. Impatience is why my perspective shows the world falling apart around me like a house of cards. Impatience is behind the emotional wreck I’ve been for the last two weeks. There are so many things I would like to know, like if I’m going to go, and if so where and when. And I want to finish work that isn’t really mine to begin with. I want to tie everything up and get it altogether in a nice little package, leave everything perfect like. Fear for God’s little flock comes in and throws patience out the window.
Yeah, I’m sorry, that has been me. Some of you have seen it. Some of you have felt it. And then I read this from Paul. I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. And I’m reminded of a few things. We have time. I’m reminded that Jesus himself is gentle, humble and patient, always faithful to forgive. I’m reminded that you belong to him. That your sins are one’s for which he died, even as he died for mine. Jesus is patient with sinners, and in his patience he is also loving and kind, because: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) And this is what Jesus is. This is who Jesus is, our calling, him to whom we have been called. And this is Jesus who is our only hope. The one hope to whom we were called, who is the one Lord. This is the calling to which we were called when our sins were washed away in the flood of baptism. This is the calling which we share in faith as we worship the one God who is the Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all! We are in his hands. We are in his hands and therefore we can be patient, we need not fear, we need not despair. His will is done, and it is done here in and through you, because he is in control. There is no need to fear for this little flock, to despair of its future. It is Christ’s church, and it isn’t beset by problems anymore unusual than the problems of any other congregation made of sinners, that is all congregations. Christ works, he operates. He preserves his church. We are not faced with any temptation that is not common to man, and Jesus will provide a way out.
Jesus is in control because it was his humility, it was his gentleness and patience which lead him to bear all for us, to walk the way to Golgotha, to carry your sins, to die there in your place, that you would be united in the Spirit and the bond of peace that comes in the forgiveness of sins by which we live. Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins, shed his blood for your sins that all who eat of his body would be united by the one loaf they share, and united by the one cup that they drink, just as you now are united in that one spirit, and now, are forgiven your sins, even as you forgive the sins of others. And he who has done all this for you, will not abandon you, will let no one snatch you out of his hand, but will preserve you in him to the very end, because he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and does not run.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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