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Sermon by Sam Wigston

Ephesians 4:1-16

Once upon a time, long, long ago in late 60’s and in the 70’s I discovered I was an idealist.  This was even before I discovered the church.  I, like many of you, including Sharon I’ll bet, got caught up in the belief that a new world order was just around the corner.  All we had to do to usher in this new world was say the correct Mantra (mine was shrrr-ing); believe in the right ideas, sing the right songs like Pete Seeger (We Shall Overcome), Bob Dylan (Blowing in the Wind), John Lennon (Give Peace a Chance), Marvin Gaye (What’s Going On) and the new Aquarius world would be ushered in.  Some of us were flower children, some dropped out of society, some dropped acid, and I took a teaching job at a Hutterite Colony. 

Always wanting to be part of the excitement that was sweeping the land and our lives in the 60’s and 70’s but yet also having one eye on the reality of the world, my first careen choice was that of teaching.  Two years into the school system in the County of Leduc Alberta I saw that I was drifting further and further away from the ideals I believed in and the world I wanted to help usher in.  So rather than continue to be part of that establishment (the traditional teaching establishment), I decided to try and find another better way to make the dream of a new world a reality yet still hedge my bets by remaining a teacher.  Most of us here remember the ‘commune’ movement.  Thousands of  young people, perhaps you too Sharon (?), decided that they would turn their backs on the world as it was and just leave it and move ‘back to the land’, join a commune. 

Again, I was very torn between these two worldviews.  It seemed as if as a teacher I had joined the established world order and then I could enjoy it’s material blessings while trying to avoid it’s manifest curses but there was still within me the desire to turn my back on the consumer, consumption, confrontational world: to find a place to teach but not in this world.  And so I applied for and got a job no one else wanted as a teacher on a Hutterite Colony. 

Now for those of you who know nothing about the Hutterites…  the Hutterites were an adult Baptism movement and revolted against the world religious views that were predominant in the 1650’s.  A hat maker named Joseph Hutter started expressing his dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church of his day in the 1600’s and like so many others of those times who started our mother churches soon gathered a following.  An avid lay Biblical scholar he searched the Bible to find that one line or phrase that would best define what he believed in.  That line is found in the New Testament and is, “that all shall be held in common.”  Fast forward now about 400 years and see me as a young idealist with many  new ideas as to how the world should change but also wanting to not stray too far from the toys and baubles it held out to me.  Teaching on the Hutterite Colony I thought would give me the way into ‘communal’ living.  Hutterites hold all things in common.  You don’t even own the clothes on your back. They are farmers and all land and equipment and property of every kind is held in common- owned by everyone.  How naive I was.

And so I moved to the colony but fortunately I had to live separated from the 100 Hutterites on this colony.    But I really thought I had found the nirvana of all the ideals and beliefs I had heard spoken about, read about and sung about.  I had found how to separate from the world of commerce and acquisition in a perfect Communist society that had survived for over 400 years.   By the middle of my second year of teaching on the colony I had come to see that even though ‘all things could be held in common’ certain differences would always separate people; that in practical terms even in this highly organized, highly disciplined community there were substantial differences between people, usually of power- the commodity available. 

But I think this time on the colony did lead me another step closer to another occupation, the one I live now.  The Book of Ephesians is all about the creation of a world that does not have the brokenness we now experience so much.  The Book is an essay on how to bring together what I was searching for and what you too are searching for- a unity of belief and behaviour.  We humans are all, at least all that I have met, able to generate the correct ideas that will not only save us as a planet but that will make life on earth so much better but we have real and concrete problems in our behaviours.  It bears repeating, our beliefs and behaviours generally do not have the unity God calls us to.  I believe now in hindsight that I was, in my younger years inspired by songs and by ideas I was being exposed to in university and in protests against the war in Vietnam, trying to find a way to bring my beliefs and behaviours together.

The brokenness around us is self-evident and seen in many ways.  We have another war going on in Afghanistan.  We have the possibility of a flu pandemic this fall.  The economy almost went into a complete depression a few months ago.  We have too many people for the earth to sustain. We use too much of the earth’s resources.  The ice caps are melting.  We are in a mess. 

We know this.  It is self-evident and very, very few, if any, are still in denial about the state of the world.  We are now I believe pretty much able to figure out what changes need to be made but too often our (mine also) behaviours do not live what we know in our heads and hearts- our beliefs. Paul wrote to help a community facing the same dilemma- how do we bring our beliefs and behaviours together?

Soon after my disastrous Hutterite teaching experience I rejoined the existing world order but did not stop looking for some help in bringing my beliefs and behaviours together.  It was then I found the church and I found the Bible.  Paul says in our passage today “I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel.  I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands.”  It sounds so simple to hear   an admonition such as this but if we don’t constantly come and hear this admonition, well, we wander away, away from the path that we know we should travel.  It is in the church that I found several things I could not even find in a highly dedicated Christian commune.  In the church I found a very varied community.  I found the freedom to be me but also the opportunity to live and work closely with others different from me.  In the UCC I found a vibrant thinking community. I found a community that wanted to engage the world, not retreat from it.   I had to belong!

How can we walk or even run on the right path. Paul is very clear also.  “You were called to travel on the same road, to stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.  (For) You have one Master, one faith, one Baptism, and one God.”  It is as strong and committed church communities that we can ‘stay the course’.  Alone we cannot do this, together we can.  Each bring their own gifts, their own uniqueness but together we are sooo strong; together we are a force to be seriously reckoned with!

The writer of the Book of Ephesians provides us with the dream of a new world.  We have the ability together to bring our beliefs and behaviours together.  We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.  Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe, it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes to what is described in Ephesians as ‘God’s plan worked out by Christ’.

Today our anthem was the beautiful ABBA song, “I Have A Dream”.   It is inspirational in tune, in presentation and in its words. 

‘I have a dream, a song to sing

To help me cope with anything.’

This reinforces the understanding that we have a dream that will not disappear as long as we can sing it.  A man whom I am a large fan of put it another way.  He said,

We shall over come… someday

Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand… someday

Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.

We shall live in peace… someday

Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.

We are not afraid…today

Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.

 

  Amen.

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