by Michael Fitzpatrick
Reading from Ephesians, 4:1-16
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
I’m not sure Paul’s is technically the best translation we have of Psalm 68:18, but is there any more pithy gospel aphorism than to say that when Christ “ascended on high, he made captivity itself a captive”? To live in the new creation is to live in a world where there are no captives, only heirs, because captivity itself has been taken captive.
But for what? So that we can live with our private, personal relationship with Jesus? That’s hardly St. Paul’s vision in Ephesians 4. A life worthy of our calling is one in which we bear one another in love, and “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” St. Paul follows with his most famous litany regarding our “one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.” We are to find our place in the Body of Christ, some of us apostles, other prophets, other evangelists, many probably more than one role. And in that unity we are to grow up in every way into Christ, no longer little children in our faith.
Christian unity is simply part of the gospel message. If our God is one who has broken down every barrier that separates person from person, then we in the Church are living within that new reality. Our gospel witness is greatly damaged when the world looks at our disunity as Christians, our strife and division and inability to read scripture together, and wonders how it could be true that we are following “the Prince of Peace.” Let us rededicate ourselves this day to being knitted together by Christ into one body, which “promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in Philosophy at Stanford University and a student leader for the Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry at Stanford. Michael attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, CA.