Ephesians 4:11-16
Growing - Together

Over the last two weeks I have been acutely aware of how an injury to just one part of your body can impact on your ability to function normally.  I have been amazed at how chronic pain and the inability to use one arm can prevent you from doing even the simple things in life like washing your hair, sleeping, driving and the list goes on.  Thankfully in the last week I’ve been able to get some use back in the arm and the painkillers have been making life a bit more bearable, even if they do make my brain a little foggy!

Our Ephesians reading just happened to be illustrating what I was going through in my life as I was preparing to write this address.  Paul was using the analogy of the human body to describe the body of Christ, the Church. 

Like our bodies, the church is made up of many parts. Each part is joined together and when they are all working properly they together build up the body of Christ.  Each part has an important role to play, each has a particular purpose.

God has given gifts to all of us, you might call them life gifts or vocational gifts.  Some people’s gifts make them naturals to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  They are then given the task of equipping the saints for ministry, to build up the body of Christ.  That’s part of my call document, to equip you for ministry, to build you up so that the body of Christ can be healthy and grow. 

I see this as a bit like a coach and a team.  You might start out with a group of young players like the ones I saw playing in the St Kilda intra-club match on Friday night.  They are experienced and yet maybe not quite ready for the starting line-up in an AFL match.  It’s the coach’s job to get them built up, to prepare them, to make them an integral part of the makeup of the team.  There’s no point in having a team of ruckmen, you have to have forwards and defensemen, midfielders, even the interchange and emergency players have an important role to play in that team playing well on any given day.

I couldn’t imagine Ross Lyon running out by himself and trying to play a game all by himself, he sends the team out.  They are fit, trained, prepared, and equipped for the task at hand.  Each member has a role to play, and hopefully they can fulfil that role to the best of their ability and with the coach’s help.

I’m called to serve you, to act as your coach, mentor, pastor.  Not to DO everything myself, but equip you to share the ministry of building up the body of Christ, together.

In the coming months I plan to spend some time helping you, if you are willing, to discover your gifts, to be more specific, your life gifts, those God given gifts that energise and empower you to do your job, or your study, even your vocation, to the best of your ability, this includes looking at possible spiritual gifts that God has given you.  Then I’d like to help you discover your personality type and the values that you bring into your everyday lives and follow that up with the purposes or passions that God has placed on your hearts.

Many of you might have a fair idea about yourself in all of those areas, but many of you won’t.  I think this would be a great starting point to building you up, as your coach, ready for the ministry of building up the body of Christ.

Do you want to come along to church each week and be a spectator, watching me in action up the front, or would you like to be a part of the team, working together to make our worship relevant and engaging for you and for others so that we are enriched by God’s gifts in worship and prepared to go out into the world and share the joy of the Gospel with others, or perhaps to cope better with the things that life throws at you. 

You might have no interest in making worship happen but you might find that you are gifted and talented in another area that could give you fulfilment and energy as you serve others and in so doing you build them up in love and grace.

I’ve borrowed my mate Mr Skelly Bones from the primary school to help bring home a point.  We’ve already established that we need EVERY part of the human body for us to function at 100% of our potential.  When any part isn’t quite working we are held back.  If one of the parts of our body is not pulling its weight it hinders our growth.  You remember the song about the bones and which one connects to where, if you miss one of those connections out, things don’t quite work right.  Imagine if we took away a couple of the vertebrae from our mate here, it might make his head fall off!  Or if his humerus was missing, his arm would just flop about.

As we heard in the reading though, we must no longer be tossed to and from and blown by every wind of doctrine and people’s trickery, we are to grow up into Christ who is the head of the body, the head of the church.  We want to be like him in response to what he has done for us.  We were created in God’s image, but then sin got in the way, and it took Christ to restore us.  We need him, he is far more than a coach, he is our redeemer, he has the power to make us whole, and restore us to perfection before God.

What we do to serve him and his church is merely a response to his sacrifice for us, our salvation doesn’t depend on what we do, that is God’s free gift to us, but he does want us to work together, as one to serve him in building up the church, so that those who don’t know of his unfathomable love might be healed to wholeness and receive his gift of salvation too. 

Our theme today is growing, it is about us growing in faith and hope and love, so that we can be a part of a church that grows together, so that others may grow in faith and hope and love. 

This fits perfectly with our congregation mission statement, just in case you’ve forgotten it I’ll read it to you now; God has blessed us!  To celebrate this we encourage one another, we build one another up in faith, we use our gifts to serve others, we reach out to our community with God’s Good News, and we walk with those who are learning to know his love.  That sounds pretty much like what I’ve been talking about this morning doesn’t it.

I pray that the Lord will send his Holy Spirit upon us to guide us as we grow as his disciples and reach out into this community as one body, sharing God’s love with those around us.