Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16
Key verses: (4-6) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all.”
Reflection: My journey in ministry began in the Middle Tennessee Presbytery. I became a candidate at a meeting held at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Tennessee. I still remember the sermon preached that day, though the name of the preacher escapes me. It was entitled, “God’s Favorite Number.” He suggested a number of possibilities for God’s favorite number. It could be 3, given the Trinitarian nature of God and the number of days Jesus spent in the tomb. It could be 12, for the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. It could be 10, for the Ten Commandments, or perhaps 7, for the days of creation’s process including Sabbath. Maybe it could be 40, for forty days of temptation faced by Jesus, or forty years in the wilderness for the Israelites. As the sermon went on we all had an idea where he was going. “Given Ephesians 4,” he concluded, “it is clear God’s favorite number is 1.”
At that Presbytery meeting, we were debating “Amendment B,” one of the first constitutional amendments concerning ordination of people who are homosexual. Suffice to say, it was a tense meeting. I’ll never forget that sermon, because it set the tone for the whole debate. Paul’s words calling the Ephesians to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4:1-3,) really came to life in that moment. Paul’s description of the varied gifts with which God equips the saints for the work of ministry, his call to “to speak the truth in love,” his emphasis on the growth and functionality of the body of Christ that is the Church informed every aspect of that Presbytery’s debate. I shall never forget it.
In the midst of the current divides defining our nation, once again Paul’s words written almost 2,000 years ago come alive. Our unity is found not in our agreement about political issues, nor in our race or ethnicity or socio-economic status or even our citizenship, our unity is found in the one God, who is “above all and through all and in all.” That’s why we are one, because of God, not because of us. The only choice we have to make is to decide whether or not we want to live in response to this truth. We can choose not to, but even that won’t change the reality that we are one. That’s not up to us. That’s up to God. And God’s favorite number is indeed 1.
Prayer: You are one, O God, Lord of all, above all, through all, in all. You are above and through and in Republicans and Democrats and Independents, in black people, white people, brown people, and every other worldly identifier of people. You are above and through and in children and the aged and all who are somewhere in between; in women and men and those who describe themselves as “non-binary.” You are in Americans and Mexicans and Canadians and Salvadorans and Hondurans and Brazilians, in the English and the Scottish and the Irish and the Turkish and the Kurdish, in the Xhosa and Zulu and Tutsi and Hutu, in Samoan and Korean and Haitian and Hungarian and Cuban and Persian and Pashtun, and in every other human being on the planet. Therefore, in You, we are one. Help us live into this truth. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].