You’re Broken! (This is Good News)

Ephesians 4:1-16    A sermon from Sunday, July 30, 2017

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with 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.

7 But 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 knitted 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.

There was a clock that I always remember from my grandparent’s home in Arizona. It had the glass dome over the top and the bottom part spun back and forth, keeping time. That clock eventually sat upon my parent’s fireplace mantel when they lived in Kansas. I was home for a visit during college and wanted to get a better look at the clock. So I reached up and grabbed hold of the mantel to then reach the clock, not realizing, of course, that the mantel wasn’t grounded properly, and so it tipped, sending the clock crashing – and I mean crashing – down onto the brick fireplace. It made a spectacular, shattering sound and I just stood there, absolutely shocked at what had transpired. The crash still ringing in my ears, my dad came up the steps from the basement, summoned by this sound, and he grinned, “I thought that’s what happened.”

My dad’s laugh and reassuring smile helped, but I still felt awful. There was no repair, it was just done. Broken.

I think the church is broken, not from an accident by a well-meaning kid. Now, we could just as well pin-point events throughout human history that could be categorized as the shattering glass of an institution: Constantine making Christianity the official religion of the state; the denial of the epidemic of pedophilia in the Catholic church and the shuffling of priests from parish to parish; Westboro Baptist Church, and on and on and on. And, I wonder, what shattering glass stories do each of you have? When you were hurt by the church, excluded, left out, judged. I know you’ve got them, and yet, here we are. No, the church is broken because it’s made up by the likes of you and me.

Yet here we are, and as we’re told in Ephesians today, we are to speak the truth in love, and I imagine that’s part of why we’re still here. That and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The rallying cry of the church is at the center of our reading today: I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with 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.

And yet, we have these stories that seem to take the air right out of those powerful verses. We are divided. We are broken.

Yet, we are named in that rallying cry, aren’t we? “…just as you were called to the one hope of your calling…” And as the reading continues, some of those gifts are named into which we are called: 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, 

 Back in January, I traveled to Oregon to hear one of my favorite professors from Luther talk about preaching. David Lose spent 3 days talking about the church and faith, and decidedly not about how to give a great sermon. One of the big cracks in the glass for him is the professionalization of the clergy, of pastors. The “cult of the expert” he called it, lumped in with doctors and lawyers, people you go to see only when you’re sick or in trouble, making the rest of you “muggles” in Harry Potter speak, or “just” lay people.

He contends that we no longer know our own biblical story and that when we don’t know this story that is central to our faith, it has no power over our daily lives and we can’t use it to reflect and sort through the complexity of our lives. As a result of that, worship can then seem to make less and less sense because our faith only makes sense in story. Just like our lives only make sense in story.

David Lose went on to talk about participation and response, saying,

* “When we participate, we own and live into that story in order to make it our own.”

and he asked,

*“What does it mean to move from trying to find an answer to responding. What does it mean to respond?”

and he said

*“What matters is time and conversation in the word. It is not separate from the work of the church. It is part of it and actually more important than the work.”

And finally, I left that conference with these words ringing in my ears:

“The better you get at preaching, the farther away from participating in the story your people get.”

So, in light of those words and of what we hear in Ephesians let me say this: church leadership matters. My efforts to equip you are not for River of Hope to survive but: 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. So in my calling as a pastor, it is for me to always point to Jesus, to tell you the story, to remind you that you are part of the story, actively participating in the story. And, the word equip? It’s more than giving you tools or training. More deeply, it’s about restoration and healing. That word has a deeper meaning of setting of broken bones during surgery, fostering healing, and working for rehabilitation. It’s the same family of words that appears in Matthew when Jesus calls James and John to follow him as they were in their boats, mending their nets. (Matt 4:31) Mending and equipping are related. To equip is to weave back together the frayed edges of life, to repair brokenness rather than to write-off the broken, and to restore rather than discard the shattered.  It is to help people trust that in spite of what life has done to them and with them they are not alone. They are not discarded.

 Today’s scripture is not about professional church leaders, it’s about each of our callings into helping bring wholeness and unity – all grounded in our one hope of Jesus. So your calling as a teacher or a grandpa, a nurse or a lawyer, a sister, a brother, a student. All of these are to help build, to work together as the body of Christ to bring hope and healing to the world that God loves. And God works through us and despite us to bring that wholeness and healing.

Which brings me back to the broken clock. You see, this is the Good News. We are broken. We are wounded healers. And the truth of Jesus, the truth I am here to tell you in love? You are not alone in your brokenness. All of us, sitting here, glinting in the sun as shattered shards of the body of Christ. All of us broken. Jesus Christ does not set us free from our brokenness. Jesus is supposed to put that clock back on the mantel, right?! Not a crack to be seen. But that’s not the Jesus we follow. That’s not the Jesus I am trying to point to. Jesus brings us into life in our brokenness, into his brokenness. This is our story, folks. It’s a story we just cannot forget, because it’s the story of scripture, the story of faith, the story of our lives. Because through Jesus, we are transformed. We are never the same.

So yes, the church is broken. You and I are broken. And that’s how our lives are transformed — through this brokenness. And it’s why the purpose of the church is to, as broken people, go out into a broken world to love and serve the broken people God loves. All the way, following our broken savior. It’s the Good News of Jesus Christ that the world will try and clean up. They’ll try and give you a narrative that says you’re fine, not broken. Or worse yet, you’ll never be fine, but they’ll help you make yourself better. No, this Good News of Jesus Christ looks nothing like that. Which is why we’re here. Because we do forget. So we gather to remind each other of this foolishly Good News. We are broken. Christ is broken. And that’s exactly how the world is changed.

Thanks be to God.

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