Expect the Mess
No matter how many times I have read this passage, it always amazes me that the writer, Paul, was writing a letter while he was imprisoned, separated from the church he was writing to. This passage serves as a window for us to see into Paul’s deepest conviction. That we are one in Jesus, there’s no division but unity in our Lord, who is the foundation of who we are and what we do.
And you know the apostle Paul was under no illusion that keeping unity was an easy task. “Make every effort,” he says. Be united with all that you got because you’re going to need all that you got to be united: It will require humility, gentleness, patience, and love that is willing to bear with one another in the most difficult circumstances.
Paul knows that it can get very messy as we strive to live in community.
This is a tough time we live in. We have been under the shadow of a pandemic that does not seem to want to go away. And because of this, we are likely more stressed, frustrated, and short tempered than before. I’m reminded by Paul that we are one in Jesus, with the indwelling of the Spirit, with the same hope in Jesus. We share more in common than we have differences!
Let’s read this passage again and this time, if your surroundings allow you to do so, read it out loud, read it slowly, pausing when needed.
Read it in a way that you are affirming and proclaiming this truth in your life that Jesus is Lord and we are one in the body of Christ with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Take a minute to read this aloud a couple times and let this truth resound in you. Enjoy!
If you have read Day 1, we were reminded by the Apostle Paul regarding making every effort to keep unity in Jesus. In Jesus, we share more in common than we have differences. Today reading flows from Day 1’s. Out of this oneness in Jesus, we have been given gifts by Jesus.
Yes, you have God-given gifts!
These gifts are very specific: there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. It is worthwhile for you to look into which gift you have in Jesus.
What’s more important is that no one has all the gifts. They are intentionally apportioned over the entire church body. Which means that you need other people with different gifts in your life as others will need you in their lives.
It is by design. We really are better together!
If I’m honest, the different gifts will naturally lead to different ways of doing things, different ways of planning and thinking.
That’s why I love where Paul points our attention next, he reminds us that yes, Christ ascended to heaven because he’s victorious over sin and death, but Christ was also the one who descended to us. He came down to serve us, to love us. It’s like he was saying “look at Jesus! Look at the way he came down to serve us in humility!” We are to model after Jesus in the way that he served
It is such a beautiful reminder of this flowing exchange of service to others in the body of Christ.
My friend, I’m not sure if you consider yourself part of The Well, this local expression of the Church of Jesus in Vaughan, King, and Bolton. If you don’t, I would encourage you to keep exploring with us. If you do, I think Paul has a huge point to make here – that the gifts given to you and me are not primarily for you and me. They are for serving others. That as we come into the church community through the Sunday services, the home groups, the everyday life, the mindset is one of Christ’s – you are there for others.
Wouldn’t that be a beautiful picture when everyone is there to serve others? I certainly think so.
Some questions to reflect upon:
- What is your Christ-apportioned gift?
- By extension, what are the gifts you don’t have? Who are the people around you who have these gifts that you don’t have? Does that bring a new level of appreciation for them? Give thanks to God and pray for them.
- Who can you serve with your gift today?
Today’s reading points us to an essential characteristic of the spiritual journey – that it is divided into two parts, a part that is known as the former and a part that is the present, a part that is old and false and the part that is new and true.
If you’re not convinced, here are a few passages that came to mind about the old and new nature of the journey.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. –Revelation 21:1-2
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! –2 Cor 5:16-17
I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” –Matthew 26:29
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. –Psalm 96:1
In this passage, it is for the attitudes of our minds to be made new.
At any given point in life, you can draw a line in the sand and determine that that is my former way of thinking that is false, destructive, or even dark. But from this point forward, it’s a new page, you can take on a new mindset.
Yes, you have the freedom to choose the new work that Jesus is doing for you.
Friends, we shouldn’t take this freedom for granted because it came from Jesus. It starts with Jesus.
Pause in silence for 2 minutes.
Begin reflecting: If you were to look at your life, your habits and patterns, are there some old ways of thinking or attitude that are futile, dark, deceitful, and ultimately separate you from the life of God? What are they? Write them down.
As you continue to be in silence, what is the truth found in Jesus that is against those deceitful thinking and attitude? What is the Spirit saying to you? Is it God’s love for you? Is it the newness that is available in Jesus?
Spend some time reflecting.
At first glance, today’s passage reads like a list of do’s and don’ts. Let me just say that I am glad the good news of Jesus doesn’t start with sin or what we did wrong. Rather it begins with God’s love for us that he sent his son Jesus to us.
Having said that, today’s passage is still incredibly important. Because when living in community, the interactions can get messy. We will be exposed to the sins of others as well as our own sins. Pastor Vijay reminds us that if there’s no sin, then there’s no need for forgiveness. We are to expect the mess, remember?
I love how the writer Paul calls out the sin, but then writes about the way of Jesus that ought to replace the sin. It’s a beautiful contrast. He brings us back to who Jesus is.
I think this calls for a time of repentance and confession .
Let’s begin with ourselves.
In February, Pastor Vijay led us in a prayer of confession he aptly called the “Daily Record Clearing” exercise. Here is a video of the exercise.
Here are the reflective questions if you prefer reading them:
Daily Record Clearing exercise:
In the last 24 hours:
- What words did I say/think that were unkind, selfish, angry, cutting, sarcastic, gossipy, or discouraging?
- What acts of selfishness (seen or unseen) did I engage in?
- What things did I look at or think about that were dishonouring to others?
- What opportunities to show love did I miss, ignore or avoid?
- What things have I held against the others who are close to me?
As you finish responding to the questions, simply let the following statements be a guide to prayer:
- I write these down on paper, device or in my mind’s eye, and I ask for God’s forgiveness, cleansing and grace
- I hear Jesus saying to me, “yes, I died for those things”
- I end my time by throwing out, deleting or burning the record, knowing that it is no longer seen by God
- I ask Jesus if there is anyone I need to go and confess to in light of this conversation
- I close with this simple prayer: “thank you Jesus”
“Live as children of light!” The writer Paul exhorts the early church. When I read this passage several times over, I noticed that at first I’d read it as live in the light, or once you live in darkness. But no, that’s not what it reads. You ARE children of light. Down to the very core, because of Jesus, we have become children of light.
That is such a wonderful description of who we are in Jesus.
How do children of light live?
As Paul suggests, they are “to be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”
Let the Spirit dwell in you, fill your life! Also, what’s striking is that we are to speak and sing to each other! It made me realize that when we worship with music, we are not just singing to God, but we’re singing to each other! I know the idea of singing to each other might sound awkward. But isn’t that what we’re doing at an in-person worship service? We can hear each other’s singing? When we speak and read scripture, we are reading to each other aren’t we? It’s something to ponder.
I want to share this song video with you, it’s a good beautiful picture of a group singing to Jesus and to each other. Let it be an encouragement. Next time you’re in a space of in-person worship with others, pay attention to the sound around you and as you sing, or speak scripture, or pray, do so for the sake of others, in the company of others. I think that will help us put in practice when being filled with the Spirit looks like!