8/6/06, P9B

The Bond of Peace
Ephesians 4: 1-16

1I (Paul) therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2. with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (NRSV)

verybody loves a baby. Too bad that we can’t love adults as much as we love babies. Babies are not perfect, but we look beyond their imperfections and love them because they are babies. Babies can shake up our schedules, they can make a mess. But that’s OK because they are babies. Our Granddaughter, Charlotte, whom we baptized this morning, is a perfect child, but a perfect baby has imperfections. God loves this way. This love can change us and can change things.
Not only do we love and adore babies but we make them the center of our world. We dress them up in a white gown and bring them to the Altar of the Church, even on Communion Sunday when the schedule is full. We interrupt everything and bathe them with water right in front of God. We symbolically say that one day this world will be theirs and that we are going to do everything we can do as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles; and as a church to rear our babies so that when they are in our spots the world will be a better place.
Currently the world, and even the church, is sadly divided. There are over 250 denominations in America. We all have our creeds and cranky attitudes. We can’t look beyond the mess toward understanding and toleration. We never seem to pray for a more perfect union.

The Middle East is being blown up because of deep divisions among the largest religious bodies in that Holy Land where many of us have trotted along following Tour Guides not wanting to miss any of the sites. Muslims, Jews and Christians too are heaving missiles at each other. Not just armed combatants are being blown apart, but babies too, some sheltered in their mothers arms. Beautiful brown babies are dying along with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

But why? Most human beings are good people who want peaceful lives where their babies can grow up and live out their days in peace. We want them to someday tell their grandchildren about that day when the killing ceased and grown men and women shook hands in brotherhood and sisterhood; not because they worked out a perfect plan for coexistence, but they decided to tolerate the mess and to look toward God who spoke to them and they finally listened and just quit making a mess of the planet and its precious people.
Long ago St. Paul told the Ephesians how to reach out and love one another and all people in his letter addressed to them. They were messing things up, as churches continue to do. Paul was inspired by God to say, “Bear one another in mutual love. Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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 us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (V.3-4)
Today more than ever we are uniquely given an opportunity for world peace. The leading nations seem to be tired of the march toward Armageddon. Perhaps we can get over the hatred that has divided. Maybe we can agree to disagree
After doing our best to bring persons to faith in Christ and to a new attitude, w e can only allow God’s will to work out in time.  It is a long series of events, great and small, that we only know from history.  Looking ahead we can assume that His plan will unfold in a similar manner. Our calling is to preach the Good News and to evangelize new believers for the Church. We are no longer children, but mature saints. Our joy is to see the Church grow so that all people might know the love of God and in turn put an end to all wars and conflicts. If this sounds Utopian then blame it on Saint Paul.
What if God’s forgiveness and pure love for us could shine in the eyes of ten people this week? Could that change the world?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
8/6/06/, P9B