Become a Body Builder: The ordination of Rev. David Podsaid

Become A Body Builder

Ephesians 4:1-16


One of the pieces that has made its rounds on the internet is a facetious and fictitious report from a pastoral search committee. In this piece, the search committee had interviewed several biblical characters for the position. Let me share a few of their findings with you.


Adam: A good man but has problems with his wife. Also one reference said that he and his wife enjoy walking through the woods nude.


Noah: A former pastor of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic building projects.


Joseph: A big thinker, but also a braggart. He believes in dream interpretation and has a prison record.


Moses: A modest and godly man, but is a poor communicator. He stutters, and sometimes flies into a rage and acts rashly. He left an earlier position under a murder charge.


David: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his body guard’s wife.


Solomon: A great preacher, but he has a serious problem as a womanizer.


Elijah: He us prone to depression and collapses under pressure.


Hosea: A tender and loving pastor, but our people could never handle his wife’s profession. She is a prostitute.


Jonah: He refused God’s call into ministry until he was forced to obey after being swallowed by a great fish, which he claims spit him out on the shore. We hung up.


Amos: Too much of a country hick. Backward and unpolished. With some seminary training, he might have promise, but he has a hang-up against wealthy people.


John: He says he’s a Baptist, but doesn’t dress like one. May be too Pentecostal. He tends to lift both hands in the air to worship when he gets excited. You know we limit to one hand. He also sleeps in the outdoors, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.


Peter: He is too blue collar. He has a bad temper and has been known to curse. He had a major conflict with Paul in Antioch. He’s an aggressive evangelist but a loose cannon.


Paul: A powerful leader and fascinating preacher. However, he’s short on tact, unforgiving of younger preachers, and has been known to preach all night.


Jesus: Has had popular success. He grew his audience to over 5,000, but then offended them until only 12 were left. He seldom stays in one places very long, and he’s single.


The truth is, no pastor is perfect. There’s no such thing as the ultimate pastor. We all have flaws and shortcomings. We all make mistakes and bad decisions and say stupid things sometimes. But we are called by God to serve as pastors and teachers. In Ephesians 4, St. Paul encourages us all to live a life worthy of the calling we have received from Christ, and he challenges us as Christian leaders to help those under our care to live worthy of their calling, just as we are to live worthy of our calling. Christ wants to work through us as leaders – pastors and teachers in his church – to build up HIS body. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:1-16.


How many of us work out in a gym? Why do you do that? Some of us work out because we want to get and stay healthy. Some of us work out because we want to build a certain kind of physique, to look a certain way. Others work out because they want or need to be strong, or agile, or fast. But in one way or another, everyone who exercises is doing so to build up their health and to build up muscles to perform certain tasks. Even long and lithe runners build certain muscles to run farther and faster. But the specific exercises you do, the classes you take, or the machines and weights you use depend on your goal for that session. You’re working on something specific. So the question I want us to wrestle with this morning is “What are the ministry muscles God is building in us as his body?” Muscles which Christian leaders, pastors and teachers, must pay attention to and seek to build in themselves and in the people they lead.


The first one is love. Look at V. 2. Today, in many ways we’ve replaced the word love with the word tolerance. Everyone’s all about tolerance, which I think is kind of a way of saying “Live and let live.” Just let people be who they are. You know, “You do you.” But God calls us to something much deeper than tolerance, than merely tolerating one another. God calls us to love one another.


The word for love here is agape. It means to love someone or something based on real appreciation and high regard for them. We sometimes refer to it as unconditional love. This kind of love isn’t just an emotion. It is an act of the will.  It’s the ability to have an unrelenting goodwill towards the unlovely and the unlovable, towards those who do not love us in return at all, even towards those we really don’t like. It is loved that truly seeks what is best for the other, regardless of feeling or sentiment. Sometimes it means saying hard things because of love. But hard things don’t necessarily need to be said harshly. Hard things, disagreement, correction, can be handled in a spirit of humility and gentleness.


You see, the love muscle that God is building in us is a humble, gentle, and patient love. Now, when Paul was looking for a word to use here, for humility, he had to use a word that was coined by Christians themselves, because the ancient Greeks had no word for humility that didn’t have a sense of disrepute, cowering, and ignoble attached to it. The key to understanding humility as Paul intended it is to realize that it focuses on our thinking. It has to do with our minds – with  what, and who, we spend our time thinking about. Have you ever been around someone who thinks only of themselves? Someone who always has a story to tell but it’s always about THEM, about THEIR life, about THEIR experiences?


C.S. Lewis defines humility not as thinking less of yourself, but as thinking of yourself less. For several years I had the privilege of serving on a church staff with a man named Mel Larimer. Mel was an outstanding choral conductor, an outstanding musician. He directed choirs at Alma High School, Traverse City Central High School, Olivet College, and the National Music Camp at Interlochen, before ending his storied career with a long tenure at Albion College, his alma mater. He then “retired” to Traverse City where he directed the choir at First Congregational Church for many years. He was a giant in the world of choral music who rubbed shoulders with some of the finest musicians and vocalists in the world. And Mel was always busy. But somehow, whenever you talked to Mel, you had the distinct feeling that he was, in that moment, really only concerned about you, about how you were doing, about how things were going in your life. And he would stop and really listen. He really wanted to know. I never once heard Mel talk about himself, about his accomplishments and achievements and talents, and they were many. Mel simply wanted to know about you, whoever you happened to be. He was the model of true humility for me.


And our love is gentle. Some translations use the work “meekness” here. When many of us think of meekness or gentleness, we think of weakness. But gentleness isn’t weakness. Gentleness great strength under great control. Aristotle wrote often about gentleness. In his thinking, gentleness is the midpoint between the two extremes of never getting angry about anything and getting angry about everything. A gentle person is one who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. So a gentle person might be someone who is angered by the wrongs and sufferings of others but never moved to anger by personal insults and wrongs suffered at the hands of others. Great strength, but under great control.


And our love is patient. Some translations call this long-suffering, and it’s a word that, in the Bible, has two primary meanings. First, it describes someone who will never give in, who will endure to the end. Patience means a lot more than just “waiting well,” which is how we tend to view it. Patience means having a spirit that never admits defeat, that can’t be broken by any disappointment or discouragement, no matter how large. Patience looks a lot like endurance. It pictures a person who hangs on to the end, no matter what. This is the person who continues believing God, trusting God, hanging in there with God no matter how hard, difficult, or painful life gets. Patient people don’t necessarily enjoy their suffering and pain. In fact, they probably hate it and try to seek some means of alleviating it. But they never quit. They never give up. Their walk may slow to a crawl, but they’re still moving.


But that isn’t the only sense of the word. Biblical patience also includes patience applied to our relationships with others. It is being able to endure, specifically the ability to endure rejection and injury from other people. Patience is the ability to endure attacks from other people and keep on loving and forgiving long after whatever natural human ability endure and forgive has been spent. It involves having the power to take revenge on someone but refusing to do so. This is patience not with people who are easy to love, but with people who are aggravating. Many churches deal with church splits. Some occur over significant issues of theology, but most are over much smaller matters. One such split actually went to court as each faction in the church tried to kick the other out. The government court handed the issue over to their denomination, so they called an ecclesiastical court, and one faction eventually won over the other. Sadly, when someone researched the split, he was able to trace it back to an elder receiving a smaller piece of ham than a child at a church dinner. That perceived slight, certainly not intentional and also not significant, started the whole thing. Of course, nobody knew that. What might have happened if humble, gentle, and patient love marked the people in that church?


The second ministry muscle God is building in us is unity in diversity. Look at Vv. 3-6. We live in a world that specializes in building walls, not bridges, but Paul urges us to lead toward unity. And this is a unity that is centered on nothing less, no one less that Christ himself. “ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all …” Paul urges us to lead toward a unity that acknowledges Christ as the center. Our oneness, our unity, grows out of the oneness, the unity of the triune God. It is a unity of purpose, of mission, of growth toward Christlikeness.


But it ISN’T uniformity. We often replace growth toward unity with growth in uniformity. Uniformity is sameness. When athletes wear a uniform, they all look the same. Unity, on the other hand, ASSUMES diversity. Look at Vv. 11-13. There is diversity in giftedness. We aren’t all good at the same things, but together we cover the bases. And we don’t all look the same or sound the same. Revelation 7:9-10 says that in the end, the body of Christ will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Our unity doesn’t come from everyone here having the same skin color or national or cultural background and perspective. It doesn’t come from everyone having the same political perspective or voting for the same people. It comes from our common commitment to Christ, and to Christ alone, IN THE MIDST OF OUR DIVERSITY in other areas.


Build the muscle of humble, gentle, patient, but never weak love. Build the muscle of unity, not sameness. And lastly, build the muscle of growing maturity. Look at Vv. 13-16. And that maturity is nothing less than “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” That is what we are GROWING toward. That means we have a growth mindset, not a perfection mindset. We acknowledge that we are all growing and that growth isn’t a linear and constant progression in an upward direction. Growth is messy. Sometimes we stumble and fall. Sometimes we mess up on accident. Sometimes we mess up on purpose. But we repent, and we help one another up, and we keep growing toward “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” “That person is FULL of Christ. That’s what that means. The question I most often ask myself is, “Does my wife think I am as Christ-like as my congregation does?” And I can promise you the answer is no. She knows insecure me. She knows proud me. She knows angry me and stupid me and lazy me. But when the person who knows me better than anyone else on this planet can look at me and say, “I see more of Christ in you,” I know I’m growing.


Every Christian, every follower of Christ has a ministry. Bob, you have a ministry just like I have a ministry. Every one of us has a ministry. But some of us are set aside, called to vocational ministry. And in that calling we are called to become body builders, but the body we are building is not our own. It is the body of Christ. And the muscles we are building are humble, gentle, and patient love; unity in diversity; and a growing maturity in Christ, toward “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” And that is a high calling indeed. Let us pray.