Who We Are – The Church

Childrens drawing of happy family and house

Paul finishes his Ephesians 1 prayer with this: And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (1:22–23)

Paul says that Jesus is Lord of all—and at the end of the day that is all that really matters. Jesus has the power of authority. Christ has been seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. He’s far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also the one that is to come. And he put all things under his feet.

Jesus is in charge. It may not always seem like it, but our perspective very well might be like that of a questioning three year old. We’re called to trust in Jesus, in his love for us yes. But also in his power to rule as Lord and king.

Christ’s enthronement over evil Paul refers to Ps. 110:1, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”

Jesus has been given control of everything, even the angels and demons, which are real. Even, who is Satan is real. 1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan is real and is lion ready to devour you. In our own book here, Eph. 6:11, Paul writes that the spiritual dimension is not to be forgotten is and very present in our lives. We cannot resist Satan in our own strength. But if we first submit ourselves to God so that the power of God demonstrated in the exaltation of Christ above all rule and authority flows through us, the devil will flee us as he fled from Christ as the conclusion of his temptation in the wilderness.”[1]

But Jesus has control over it all, every conceivable intelligent being. Every plant and animal, every vegetable and mineral. Jesus created all these things. God had given Adam dominion over the earth and its creatures, which has been limited though not abdicated by the fall. All of these have been distorted, polluted, and exploited. But they all also rest in Jesus, who will one day set everything right. Not only is Jesus Creator, but he is Redeemer of all things. Remember Ephesians 1:9–10, “Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things on heaven and things on earth.”

Creator. Redeemer. Lord.

The culmination of this whole lengthy prayer is Jesus Christ’s headship of the church. Jesus is head over all things. God gave him as head-over-all-things to the church which is his body. For he whom God gave to the church to be its head was already head of the universe. Thus both the universe and church have in Jesus Christ the same head.

There is a relationship between heads and bodies, isn’t there? Little kids can draw some pretty funky pictures of people. They’ll have the basic body parts, almost like a stick figure. You might get four or six fingers. You’ll get legs and arms out of proportion. Heads are big or small and bodies are all different sizes.

However, you don’t get headless bodies or bodiless heads. They can’t exist without each other. You can have a full life without many things, as unfortunate and debilitating as they are. But if you watch the Para Olympics, you can see that people can do so much, achieve so much and conquer so much.

But you can’t do that without a head. You can’t do that with just a head and no body.

What’s interesting about this is that heads need bodies and bodies need heads. And the church is Christ’s body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

We often talk about how God doesn’t need you. He can exist without you. The Trinity is its own community, and filled with love.

However, this passage is one that speaks of how God does need us. The body needs the head. And the church then becomes the fullness of God.

Think of it another way. One of the metaphors the Bible uses for the church is that she is Christ’s bride, and he is her groom. You cannot be a groom without a bride. You can be many things just fine without a bride, but a groom isn’t one of them.

Jesus loves the church. The church is Christ’s body. The church is Christ’s fullness. This is an exalted position to the church, one of the highest in the Scriptures.

This is one of the reasons the church has been attacked throughout history. And it’s one of the reasons the black church has been especially attacked. When we think of the attack on and in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 19, 2015, we have to realize this is just one instance in many when black churches have been attacked, burned or bombed. These attacks on the church didn’t just happen a long time ago (though many of them did) back in the 1950s and 1960s. They happened frequently in the 1990s, and they’re still happening. The Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, was burned to the ground right after Barack Obama was elected President in November, 2008.

People have this instinctive intuition that the church stands for something. They may not know what it is, but it stands for something. The black church has always known that. It’s why their churches are so important in culture and society.

How many of us in white churches have feared that we’d be shot or blown up or burned just because we were Christians coming to church? How much have we considered the awesome courage of our brothers and sisters to worship God in church week after week in the midst of such hatred?

Christians, we are the church. We’ve failed so many times. Christ’s body isn’t quite what he wants it to be yet. Christ’s bride is unstable. She has huge issues. She’s failed and been unfaithful. She’s wandered and gotten off the path.

And she’s loved.

If you are here and love Christ and his bride, then you are welcome among us. If you’re skeptical about it all, you’re welcome among us. If you’ve been hurt by Christ’s body, you’re welcome among us.

I’m sorry the church has not been as she should be. I’m a part of the problem. I am perhaps the problem. Let’s follow Christ, the head of the church. Let’s seek out a unity in our diversity as the body. Let’s work together and appreciate each other as we follow Christ the head. Let’s be changed and transformed and invite others in this glorious story and status as we find ourselves in Christ.

Why does Pastor Raul go down to Cuba to train pastors? Why do the Cuban pastors and Christians risk everything to gather to worship Jesus together? They get something, don’t they? They are in love with Jesus and his church.

Most of us don’t risk that much. Our lives and livelihood and houses aren’t on the line. We most likely won’t be jailed.

But we do risk. We give up sleep or money or a fully lazy day. That may not be much, but it’s not nothing. We give up some weekends at the lake. We give up a get together or two in order to come confess our sins and hear God’s forgiveness. We give up Sunday morning television to come hear sermons that may or may not seem relevant.

We risk because we’re saying something to the world—that we believe this stuff, or are trying to or wanting to or interested in. We’re saying that maybe just maybe Jesus is real, and he did live a perfect life and die on the cross and descended to hell and was raised on the third day and will return to judge the living and the dead. Maybe just maybe the holy catholic church is real and important in my life. Maybe just maybe when I take the body and blood of Jesus by faith, I’m connected into the body of Christ spiritually and really and mysteriously. Maybe I can walk today or this week or this life without guilt and shame in freedom because I’m in Christ. Maybe just maybe I can have hope because God chose me to be his and gave me all this in Christ. Maybe faith, hope, love, power, and inheritance matter in my life today. And maybe I can have the eyes of my heart opened to new, deeper and better understanding about the love of God for me, and I can be thankful for him and his work to draw me to himself.

Maybe. It’s a risk, but it might be worth it if we do it together as the body of Christ.

[1] Boice, 42

Doug in library