Reading for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Ephesians 4:1-16
Peace be with you!
During the suffrage movement, woman wanted to be equal with men. During the civil rights movement, the African Americans fought to end segregation and have the same rights as white Americans. In the 1980s, disability activists fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act, so people with disabilities could enjoy life to its fullest. Most recently the LGBT community fought for the same rights granted to married heterosexual couples. All of the civil rights movements work toward legal equality for a group of people who have been oppressed by society.
The focus of Ephesians turns to ethical questions of how Christians should live out their lives. In the fourth chapter, the author makes an appeal for unity in the Christian community (Ephesians 4:3). As Christians, we are united in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father” (Ephesians 4:5-6a NRSV). We are all connected to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit through the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from each other or from the Triune God.
Through grace we are given different gifts from Jesus (Ephesians 4:7), who sends us out into the world to spread the good news. Jesus calls different people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). We are all equipped with the gifts to do our different calls through the same Spirit. Our unique gifts add to the well-being of the community as a whole as we use them to support and strengthen one another.
Each civil rights movement focuses on a group of oppressed people about whom it raises public awareness. Each movement has its own rhetoric as to how its community has been treated unfairly in the past and would like to see social changes. Women fought to obtain equal pay compared to their male counterparts as well as the right to vote. It is difficult to imagine not being able to voice my opinions and thoughts just because I was a woman. African Americans fought to be able to use any bathroom or water foundation, to sit anywhere in a theater or on a bus, and to go to school anywhere. They fought to end segregation. Disability activists fought against having individuals who have disabilities put into facilities and separated from the rest of society. Disability activists fought the government to mandate public buildings be accessible to individuals in wheelchairs and to those using other assistance devices, which meant buildings needed to have ramps and elevators. The LGBT community fought for the rights of same-sex couples to be able to legally marry and have the same legal protections as straight couples. They fought to be able to legally recognize their union with whomever they fell in love with. Each civil rights movement fights to end injustice towards a certain group, though they all have striven for equality and to be heard and supported in society.
The author of Ephesians explains how Jesus gives his followers different gifts, which all strengthen the group as a whole (Ephesians 4:7, 16). Each individual is given a unique gift to help the body work toward sharing God’s love with the whole world. Jesus recognizes no one person has the responsibility of doing all of his work, so he splits it up among all of his followers. Each of his followers has the responsibility of lifting up the next person and giving them the support they need to do their job, which strengthens the community.
Disability activists modeled their movement after feminists and African Americans who led peaceful but direct demonstrations. Martin Luther King led marches and gave speeches in Washington DC to bring together the American-African community. In 1989-90, disability activists took part in the “Capitol crawl” by abandoning their wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and other assistance devices to crawl up the eighty-nine steps of the Capitol building. All civil rights movements make a commitment to bring about social change in a society in the pursuit of equality in the community. No one movement could bring about equality for everyone, but each group builds upon the one before it to strengthen the community at large. In the same way, we, as Christians, build upon each other’s work to spread God’s love in the world. Jesus gives us the tools we need to do his work in the world. By doing his work, we build on the community with other followers and with new believers. Our work furthers the work of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving us each gifts to do your work in the world. Help us to understand our individualized roles in your master plan. Lead us to go out into the world to spread your love and to build a community. Thank you for your love for us. Amen.