Two Revolutionary Words

Christ’s Body in Motion
Ephesians 4:7-16
Matthew Raley (4-29-12)

When we started our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, I described a character named Alexander to help us understand what Paul wrote.  Alexander, the 1st century Ephesian, as an actor is a follower of Dionysus. As a free Ephesian citizen—and thus a member of the city ecclesia—he is also devoted to Artemis.  Alexander assumes there are many gods and goddesses, none of whom have any particular interest in him.

If Paul’s message about Jesus Christ is true, then God, as a Father,  is specifically interested in Alexander. Such a message is no mere novelty. It is a threat to who he is, as an actor and as a citizen.  The source of spiritual life is not the risen Dionysus but the risen Christ, who has his own ecclesia that worships him alone, one that includes men and women from all cities. Thus, Paul’s message upends Alexander’s life as a citizen, a professional, a husband, and a father.

Alexander, like the vast majority of people who have ever lived, has a strong identity and role in his culture. He knows who he is.

In contemporary America, however, we have lost the two words identity and role in the sense in which Alexander understood them.  Having little connection to the past, to authority, to ethical principles, or even to family—the different kinds of glue that hold people together – many Americans live disconnected from one another.  Lacking strong roles for men and women, young people are expected to make their own identities.  We’re better able to express ourselves more than ever, yet people are less able than ever to be confident of who they are.  We have a new society now: You are what you consume.

Churches have redesigned their ministries to accommodate this new society, and in so doing have made the body of Christ inert and the very message of the Gospel inconsequential. In the consumer church, Christ is the way to become the person you really want to be.  In today’s message we will learn that if we recover the words identity and role the way Alexander and Paul understood them, we will see a revolution in church ministry.

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Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment