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Pieces of the Puzzle

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Open the Eyes of our Mind
O loving Master, shine into our hearts by the pure light of knowing you, open the eyes of our minds to reflect on your teaching, and put into us the holy respect of your blessed commandments. Lead us to set aside all that is worldly that we may follow a spiritual life, thinking and doing all things as it pleases you. For you are our sanctification and our illumination, and to you we give all glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Source of this version: Freely modified from  Prayers of the Early Church,  ed.  J. Manning Potts,  The Upper Room, Nashville, Tennessee, © 1953 (Public domain in the U.S.), also in Ancient Collects, William Bright, p. 6#1.
Ephesians 1:7–10 NIV
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
eph 4:
Ephesians 4:4–13 NIV
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Christianity is big. Really big. There are about 2.42 billion Christians in the world. 8 denominations that follow the Catholic tradition, broken in 20+ divisions forms. 16 major forms of Protestantism and hundreds of divisions. 2 major form of Anglican churches and 30+ divisions. 3 major forms of the eastern orthodox church, more than 30 divisions. 3 forms of the Oriental Orthodox church, just 10 or so divisions. And then the rest which are 10-12 major forms and 30 or more divisions.
Even if we were to try to explain each just the major divisions between the church’s it would take a ridiculous amount of time. If we try to explain every church and how they differ it would take more than our lifetime, because the list we started with does not include a denomination unless it has more than 200,000 people. So, we can add a couple hundred or more minor denominations to that list.
Now imagine being a person who knows nothing of Christianity. Someone who has never heard of God. How can they figure out all this? They look at Christianity and see a whole bunch of people who cannot agree on anything. Even if we live the ‘best’ Christian life possible when they stop and look at news; what do they see. A bunch of Christians attacking each other, pastors in constant battle with one another, people who cannot seem to agree on the religion and how they should worship. People that are focused on the differences and talk constantly about what makes them superior to the others. Does this sound like a church or religion that a logical thinking person would want to join? I can tell you I would not have if I did not find the right church for me. If I would have been a complete outsider, it would have overwhelmed me when if the first church I went to be a good ole’ southern Baptist church. The shoes coming off the dancing and singing would have left me ‘SHOOK!” Or maybe a Pentecostal church where people sing until they lost their voices. How about a Coptic church where the service is over 3 hours long and filled with ritual and Arabic? Or even a traditional roman catholic service where it is like hitting the gym, stand, kneel, recite some Latin, stand, sit, kneel. That is 1 rep. your will do 8-10 per service it feels like.
Even back at the time that Paul wrote this letter there were already many divisions within the church. If we can remember the letters to the Corinthians, we know that there were fights over which teachers they thought was best and who should they follow. Paul is giving the same kind of message here.
He starts with reminding us all in that we are one in receiving the redemption of Christ though his blood. None of us can reach heaven based upon our actions here on earth or our affiliation or membership in a specific church. Just coming to church does not mean you are automatically saved. It is through our belief in God that we receive this redemption. It is through that acceptance that we are all sinners and we can only be saved through the grace of God who through his son paid the immense cost of our sinful nature that we become Christian. This means that all who receive this grace are saved, not just those who receive the grace and go to LKCC.
He then expands upon the concept of use being saved in . There is one body; one spirit. One body in Christ and one holy sprit that are with God’s people. We are not a whole bunch of individuals with our own special version of the holy spirit, but ONE! This means that although we may have differences all who have received the Holy Spirit are in fact the One body of Christ.
And all members of this family of Christ have received grace as Christ apportioned it. We all have grace, but we may have received it differently, the Holy spirit might work in us differently. We may find ourselves called in different manners. Figuring out how God has called you is a complex task, and I am still not sure if you ever really figure it out fully.
Its this grace that bestows the gifts that God has given us to be whatever god has called us to become in whatever manor he has called us. We all may need to walk very different paths to reach the same destination and God is fully aware of that. He knows your destination before you even thought about setting foot on the path and he has selected the best route for you to be the best person you can be when you arrive.
Yet it is all these different paths that cause so much turmoil in the Christian world. It is important to understand that there are many false teachers and false churches in the modern world, but that does not make every member of that church a false believer. They ended up there because that was the first church they found, and it became their community. They were raised in that tradition and have never explored other churches. I was raised catholic and if that was the only tradition, I had ever known I doubt I would even be a Christian right now. However, God, knew my path and here we are 16 years later in a very different life than the one I was planning in my teens.
Therefore, Paul feels the need to remind us that we are all one body in Christ. Because we are all given different gifts and we all may worship a little bit differently. However, we are one body in Christ. We all believe in the same God and are saved by the same grace and sacrifice. We need to recognize we are brothers and sisters first and focus on what we have in comm8on, rather than tear one another apart over our differences. Our differences should be discussed so that we can help one another find the best church for one another. We should be sharing our idea, traditions, and worship practices so that we can each evolve into the best possible form of worship for our God. We should also be learning the traditions of our own denomination, because without traditions we can sometimes go astray.
This is where the idea of ecumenical comes from. Ecumenical is the practice of doing work with other Christian churches. The best example I can give that most of you would understand is Ark Aid. Ark Aid feeds London’s homeless, but it is not joined to a single church for volunteers, instead it takes volunteers for any church willing to help, we have had Baptists and Roman Catholics join us on some of the nights we have served there. This joining of the denominations to work together to further Gods work here on earth is often referred to ecumenical work.
If we instead focused on our similarities and ecumenical work, we would provide a very different view of Christianity for perspective Christians. We would truly show them a place where people work together to further the cause of the God they worship. Imagine the impact that could have on the lives of millions of more people. Furthermore, we might be able to keep people going to church by suggesting churches that better match them, rather than seeing them walkaway an do not return to church because they felt out of place at the church they first attended.
The church fathers who lived a long time ago also had a similar problem to what we face today. Many churches who are at odds with one another about their beliefs. The gathered together to create something that they hoped would bring people together rather than divide them. The creeds are a tool meant to remind us that we place God above everything, they are a statement of our faith in God. I learned on retreat that many of you have never seen or heard the creeds before, so we are going to start learning about them. Tonight, we will end with the apostle’s creed. The part that makes many people hesitate in speaking the creed is just a misunderstanding of what the words mean. We will reach a part that say we believe in the holy catholic church. Does not mean Roman Catholic, or even any of the other traditions related to Catholicism. it means universal or all. Many churches will change the word to be universal to clear up the confusion, however, I believe its better to keep it as it was and teach people the proper meaning of the word. If we did that more often and conformed to the secular world or modern understandings of words more often, we would have a lot less confusion about their meanings.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Let us pray
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