This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news
Unity in the Body of Christ
4I 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.
In yesterday’s blog I mentioned how this writer, a disciple of Paul writing in his name, has a vision of the new community of the church, open to all people, as the main purpose of God’s action in the world: this is how God saves humanity, uniting it in love and faith in a community which spans all places and all races. This kind of community requires virtues to maintain unity: gentleness, forbearance and humility, based on a common faith in the one God and father of all, who creates this community through Jesus, whose cross and resurrection has imprisoned the powers that kept humanity imprisoned. The violent, dominating, separating powers that put Jesus on his cross have been defeated by his ascension to the Godhead, from where his his creative love fills the universe.
The gifts he gives to the church community are not spiritual qualities but people!-apostles, evangelists and so on. These are called by Christ’s love into the new community to serve it, so that all members may grow into the full stature of Christ himself. This shared life of men and women and children in Christ is the heart of salvation in the New Testament but is curiously neglected in popular Christian teaching today.
“But 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.”
This is an extraordinarily detailed and concise description of new life in Christ. One example may show its power. As part of the church I may not relish some of the neediest of my fellow members who require support, but I am asked to see that they too are joints and ligaments of the body, supplied by Christ. This way of thinking is clearly as beneficial for society as for the church.
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Jesus Heals the Gadarene Demoniacs
28 When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes,* two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ 30Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31The demons begged him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ 32And he said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and perished in the water. 33The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.