Speaking the Truth in Love: A sermon based on Ephesians 4:11
This morning is the culmination of the previous three Sundays, in which we explored all three of our vision statements which have to do with Worship. We reflected on the statements “We value worship that honours God and fully engages all God’s people.” We value biblical reformed, Christ-Centred preaching that transforms us.” “We value being a praying church.” Soon, after a very short sermon, we are going to have an opportunity to listen to each other reflect on these statements in groups.
The reason why we’re doing this is not because we love tormenting the congregation by introducing something different. Rather, we believe that in order for us to discern how we can live out our mission, we need to listen to each other. We believe that only in listening to each other, can understand who we are. Only by listening to each other, or as Paul says, “speaking the truth in love,” can we grow into him who is our head, namely Christ.
The metaphor Paul uses is the church as a body. This morning, we will practice listening to each other, so that we can better understand who we are as the body of Christ. Would you take out the handout with the triangle on it? Each level on the triangle represents a different aspect of our life together that impacts how we are as a church. Look at the bottom of the triangle. How we are together is most strongly impacted by our attitudes and beliefs. For example, we are united around our belief in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and it is He alone whom we worship. Our beliefs are like the ligaments that knit us together, they connect us. The next level on the triangle is systems and structures. In other words, our beliefs shape the way that body moves. In other words, our beliefs determine the systems and structures that are in place. That’s where Paul talks about each part working properly together. When we talk about systems and structures, we’re talking about the way that the different parts of our body work together to accomplish something great. Think of how the body needs to work as a system to do a pull-up. The legs raise the body to reach the bar. The fingers grip the bar. The arm and back muscles contract to lift the whole body off the ground. A finger on its own could not do a pull-up. Not even an arm. It takes the whole body. As a church, we have systems and structures, or ways that everyone works together that help us to live out our beliefs. We are knit together by our common belief that we are to worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we have a more specific belief that knits us together. We believe that a primary way of worshipping God is through songs and hymns. Because of this belief, we have a system in place to help us worship. We have musicians who lead us in song. The projectionist and the sound person also help with that. The whole congregation is joins in in by singing more or less on key. That’s a structure that helps us to worship in one interconnected movement, like the body doing a pull-up. Then you move further up the triangle, and you have particular actions. That part of the triangle gets at how each individual part works in the system. A body can’t do a pull-up unless both lungs are breathing, the heart is beating, each arm is pulling, and the fingers gripping. So with the church. We believe that we are to worship God through song, so we set up a system in place, and in order for that system to work, we each need to do particular actions. Worship will grind to a halt unless the projectionist advances the slides, or if the pianist suddenly stops playing, or if someone in the congregation decides they want to sing the National Anthem instead.
The point of all of this is we are working for one particular result: we want to honour God through singing. Now its true that all bodies are different. Each body has different strengths and limitations. One body might be great at dancing, while another body might be great at singing, and another body might be great at cooking. That’s the same with churches. Even though we all have Christ as our head, each church body will have slightly different beliefs about key ingredients for worship, so will have different structures in place to implement their beliefs, resulting in individual people doing unique and particular actions. Think of the difference between a Catholic worship service, and a pentecostal worship service.
Christ has given us particular gifts. With each new person that joins our church body, we have a new set of strengths. But if we don’t know who our church body is composed of, we won’t know the unique gifts that Jesus has given us. That’s why we want to have this conversation this morning. We believe its important for us to hear each other so we know who we are.
So in a moment each of us will head into a group. Each of us will be invited to reflect on the beliefs, structures and actions that surround a given vision statement.
We’re asking you to respond to these questions in a particular way. This isn’t a time for responding to what other people say. During this time, you will be invited to briefly say what you think or feel. Then the next person responds will say what they think, it might be totally in line with what you said, or it could be totally different. Then the next person will briefly say what they think. The goal of this is to follow Paul’s encouragement to speak the truth in love, so that we can grow up in every way into him who is our head, namely Christ.
If you look at your handout, the top righthand corner will tell you where your small group is. You’re either here, the foyer, the Fellowship Hall, or the basement. Let’s head out together, and practice speaking the truth in love.