Raber’s 40 Acres September 18 2011 Ephesians 4:3-6
I want to make a fairly bold claim this morning; that There is no Christian witness apart from a unified body!
The unified body of Christ is the world’s only hope. Without unity, we’re just blowing smoke.
Last Sunday marked a full ten years of warfare by our nation.
The last 10 years have exposed our political and military inability to achieve peace. We have come through an entire decade of failure to achieve anything but an increase in fear, insecurity, suspicion and poverty.
Our secular institutions have splintered and divided us into hate groups and political parties.
Our religious institutions have fractured and succumbed to worldly pressures around the world. The prevailing message of the past 10 years has been that there is nothing too small to fight about, there is no longer anything too small to divide us; and whether you’re part of the church or not, there doesn’t seem to be much difference.
So, we must think more creatively about the role God has in mind for the people who call themselves by His name.
Christian unity is the most powerful message we can send to a fractured world.
But it’s not like Unity just happens.
It takes intentionality and hard work. But we can all do it.
I want to spend some time this morning, working on three basic skills that are fundamental to creating unity within Christ’s body.
First, we’ve got to trust other people.
Second, we’ve got to listen to other people.
Finally, we’ve got to be flexible. Not wishy washy; not unclear; not uncommittal; but flexible.
These are three learnable skills. That means we can practice them, we can recognize and measure whether we’re doing them or not.
Now, the Worship commission has come up with a kind of creative idea to help us illustrate and practice each of these three skills this morning.
We have series of activities planned this morning to help us try to understand this concept of unity
So, the first building block is Trust.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 14, he says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”
Trust can be a hard thing to do, especially when you’ve misplaced your trust in the past, when you’ve trusted people and they haven’t done what you trusted them to do.
We all know how it feels to have our trust broken.
It can hurt, and it can make you think twice before trusting them again.
But there’s a problem when you stop trusting altogether.
Can I have two volunteers?
It’s important that both people trust each other.
TRUST FALL experience
(walk them through the trust fall, then have them switch roles).
Trust can be easy to do; and it can be hard to do.
But it’s not optional. Use discernment as to who you do trust, and what you trust to others.
But you can’t opt out completely.
Now, I’d like as many people as are willing, to find a partner and practice this trust fall just wherever you can find some open space. Find a partner who isn’t a spouse or a family member, and do just like we demonstrated here this morning. Each one should have the chance to catch the other; to be trusted.
And each one should have the chance to fall back; to trust the other.
It might not come easy; but remember that trust can be practiced and improved.
TRUST FALL EVERYONE
The second building block of unity that I’d like to talk about this morning is listening.
Paul tells the Ephesian church not to let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples how to deal with conflict; he told them to first go alone to the offender and seek to reconcile.
If they do not listen in that setting, they are to take one or two others with them, so that there are witnesses to listen and help bring the parties together.
Finally, he says, if they don’t listen in that setting, take the matter to the church.
I often read this and put myself in the shoes of the one doing the confronting.
Maybe we all do. We think of ourselves as the one who’s been hurt; not the one who’s done the hurting.
But you know, I’ve pastored long enough now to know that most of the time, the people who hurt us don’t even know they’re doing it.
That means that most of us have wounded other people, even though we think of ourselves as innocent or as victims.
So how does Matthew 18 sound if we put ourselves in the shoes of the one being approached? It’s hard to have someone confront you. It’s hard to hear that we’ve been insensitive or rude.
It’s hard, but it’s way better for everyone involved to just do it like Jesus said to do it!
And that means learning how to listen!
We’re going to have an activity now, but you need to play a few rounds of “UNO” to get into it.
The final point we’d like to talk about this morning is Flexibility. That is, a willingness to step out of our comfort zone, or the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
There’s something to the old saying that ‘the only sure constant in life is change’.
We can no more stop change than we can protect sandcastles on the beach from the sweep of the tide. The skill of flexibility isn’t in making change happen; it’s in our ability to adapt to it when it comes. Life changes all the time, and very seldom does it have our consent to do so!
In times of change we learn the value of flexibility.
Like Job, we don’t have much control over the hand we’re dealt.
What we do have control over is how we respond.
Will we curse God and die? Or will we persevere until the end and try to make the best of things, trusting, listening, and rolling with the life we’ve been given?
You’ll notice at your tables that there’s a deck of Uno cards.
We’re going to take a few minutes and play a few rounds of Uno. As you play the game, periodically a new rule will be given to you.
It will change the game dramatically as we go along. You might benefit from the changes sometimes, and other times you might find yourself making some sacrifices, depending on what the rule is and which cards you’re holding.
Just try to pay attention to how you respond as the game unfolds.
Try not to react; but respond. And have some fun.
ACTIVITY to close; FLEXIBILITY; Game-changers.