Sermon at Yale Divinity School
November, 6th, 2018
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4. 2-6)
Dear sisters and brothers
The Bible reading in this night is one of the classical texts speaking about the unity of the Body of Christ. Allow me to listen to the Word of God with Lutheran ears. I hope my ears are not closed or against the intention of the Apostle.
Firstly, I hear in the words of the Apostle many requirements, demanding words, which ask much from us and urge us to be committed in our life to him. The Apostle speaks to us with words, which are in a form of the imperative: be humble, be gentle, be patient, bear with one another, be steadfast in your love, make efforts, keep the unity.
It is quite strange that all these virtues required from us are natural virtues, I would say, secular and worldly virtues. All the virtues can be performed also without faith, without being Christian. These virtues are acceptable for all people. Sometimes it may be, that good and serious atheists can observe them better than we, who believe in God.
All of us have to ask ourselves, whether we observe these imperatives in our daily life. Are we humble, are we gentle and patient? Dow we bear one another’s burdens?
So, we first hear in the Word of God the voice of requirements, the voice of law.
But then the whole tone of the words of the Apostle changes totally. He is not any more speaking about our responsibilities, but only about things which are above us, independent of our behaviour. Instead of using imperatives he tells, what simply is. Instead of saying ”be” he says ”there is”.
The change in the tone is most important. Now the Apostle speaks about things which are there, whether we follow our duties or not. What are these things?
There is one body that is the Body of Jesus Christ. There is one Spirit that is the Holy Spirit. There is one Lord namely Jesus Christ. There is one faith, the common faith of all believers. There is one baptism, the sacrament through which we have become members of the one Body. There is one God, the triune God. There is one Father, the heavenly Father, Abba, to whom we can bring all our needs and sorrows.
Surprisingly the Apostle says that all this, what ”is there”, is totally independent from us, is and are ”over all and through all and in all”.
Despite of all the demanding words the last and most important message of the Apostle to us is, that everything is above us, effective in any case. This is the consoling word of the Apostle to us, who so often worry how we can work for the unity of the Church.
So, on the one hand we have to do everything we can in observing the imperatives of the Apostle, but on the other hand we are allowed to rely totally and only on God, only on Christ and only on the Spirit. May he bless us also today with his many gifts.