“Soar”

July 26, 2015
Jonathan Rumburg
Ephesians 4:1-16

Introduction

The restaurant Chipotle pulled its pork.  Off the menu, that is.

Chipotle stopped serving pork at most of its restaurants because one of its suppliers violated animal-welfare standards.

Chipotle promises that it serves “food with integrity,” and this means that if a supplier doesn’t treat its animals according to Chipotle’s ethical standards, then the restaurant will not use that supplier.

A spokesman for Chipotle says that the decision was “rooted in our unwillingness to compromise our standards where animal welfare is concerned.

In the highly competitive fast-food business, you have to respect a company that will not compromise its standards to make a buck.  Pulling pork from the menu might have cost Chipotle a ton of money in some regards, but the company has grown in other regards because customers really do prefer food with integrity.

I liked Chipotle long before this story—but I like it even more since this story.  And I think the church could take a lesson from Chipotle because in this case, what’s true for Chipotle is true for the church.

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          “There is one body and one Spirit,” writes the apostle Paul to the Christians in Ephesus, “just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Notice the word “one,” repeated seven times in three verses.

One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.

At the heart of integrity is oneness— meaning you are whole, complete and undivided, with one set of core values.

A church with integrity is not going to show love in one situation and hatred in another, just as a restaurant with integrity is not going to demand animal welfare in some business dealings and ignore it in others.

What all this means is that people really do prefer to eat and worship in places that have integrity.

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          Of course, just as those who eat out want good tasting and filling food, churchgoers also want good music, good preaching, fellowship and faithfulness.

Therefore, the message “church with integrity” on a sign or a website is not going to cause people to rush through the doors.  In fact, it might make them suspicious, in much the same way that few are likely to trust a place called “Honest Bob’s Gently Used Cars.”

At the end of the day, being a place of integrity—whether it’s a restaurant or a church, requires deeds, not words.

And in our text for today, it is the Apostle Paul’s intent to teach that lesson while offering a “how to do it” as well.

Move 1

So how can the church act with integrity?

To answer that question we must first ask another question: What sorts of deeds are involved in being a “church with integrity”?

The apostle Paul suggests that we live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

If we perform these actions, and also practice “speaking the truth in love,” then we will grow up “into Christ, from 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 into love.”

This is a vision of integrity…

The body of Christ joined and knit together, with each part working properly, building itself up into love.

This is Paul’s vision of the church, a community that is the physical presence of Jesus in the world today.

Paul wants us to be a church with integrity, one that is whole, complete, and undivided.

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          Steve Ells, the CEO of Chipotle, knows that integrity is key.  He laughs when asked if their mission of “food with integrity” is the key to attracting customers.  He responds saying, “I don’t think so.  I’ve never seen anyone come into a restaurant saying, ‘I want to eat food with integrity please!’”

Instead, Ells knows that customers care about taste, value and convenience.  However, once folks enjoy a Chipotle burrito, customers are interested in why the food tastes the way it does.

The reasons for that is that Chipotle focuses on fresh ingredients, including organically certified beans and avocados.  It relies on “naturally raised” meat that is antibiotic-free and hormone-free.  The restaurant dropped trans fats from its cooking before it became faddish to do so.

Sure, it offers a narrow range of meal options at relatively high prices, but the quality is uniformly good.

Ells continues his talk about his restaurant saying, “At Chipotle we’re actually cooking.  If you walk into the refrigerator, you’ll see fresh onions and peppers and raw meat that isn’t tenderized or treated in any way.”

Again, integrity requires actions.  Words alone, such as the motto “food with integrity,” is just not enough.  Same for the church.

Move 2

So now that we have a vision, how do we do it?

Well, according to Paul, our work begins with “humility and gentleness.”

These are countercultural virtues in a world that seems to reward aggressive self-promotion, with people constantly bragging about themselves on Facebook and Twitter.

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          I just returned from our denomination’s General Assembly that was held this year in Columbus.  A pastor colleague who had been at the Assembly posted on his Facebook, “Drove 18 hours, arrived home in time to shave, put on suit, and went straight to church for a funeral where I preached with clarity and passion.”

Well now pastor, aren’t you special!  But where is your humility and gentleness?

Servant leaders train others to preach the gospel, not assuming that the worship of God requires them to drive all night.

Servant leaders offer their insights with deep humility, not bragging that their preaching is full of “clarity & passion.

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          A church with integrity has leaders who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—of course.  Paul speaks of Christ giving gifts to individuals so that they can perform all of these functions.

But leaders are to exercise their gifts with humility and gentleness, in order to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

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          Next comes patience, another virtue that is in terrible short supply these days.

The entire fast-food industry is grounded in our desire to have hot food delivered to us immediately.

In similar fashion, Jiffy Lube offers in-and-out oil changes, online stores promise same-day shipping, box stores are offering a shop online-pick it up at the store that day options.  And now Amazon is talking about same day delivery, and using drones to make it all happen.

We are addicted to speed to the point that we have no patience for anything.  But God’s work in the church takes time, and it requires patience.

Paul tells the Ephesians that they are coming “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.”

Unity.  Knowledge.  Maturity.  All of these qualities take time.

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          Finally, we are to bear “with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

There are a lot of issues and hot topics these days—ones that are coming into the church—race issues, sexual orientation issues, gun issues social justice issues— and there are going to be Christians of good faith on both sides of them all.

But when faced with contentious issues, Paul instructs us not to attack each other, not to undermine each other, not to try to gain victory over each other, but, instead, to bear with one another… in love.

Let us speak and discuss and work together—even if we have differing views—with love.  This means that we speak the truth that has been revealed to us by God, but we do it in a loving manner, without belittling or beating up the people who disagree with us.

Churches that have as a core value love for all are churches of integrity.

Move 3

As I mentioned, I just got back from the General Assembly, which is always a great event.

This year’s theme was simply: “Soar”

The theme came from Isaiah 40 where it says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.”

I liked this theme for a lot of reasons.

I like the idea of putting our hope in God, once again, or maybe like never before—so we can soar.

I like the idea of renewing our strength in a world that can easily rob us of it—so we can soar.

And I love the idea that when we do these things, God will see to it that we soar, as if on the wings of eagles.

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          Yes, we as a church are wading into the deep waters of tenuous hot topic issues where dividing lines are clear, but we must do so with “humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace… speaking in love.”

As members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we are striving still to be a church of integrity despite the differences we have among us—and that it is our differences that can spur our God given mission on to great success.

We as a church are striving to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, and we do it not by fear, not be hate or judgement, not by giving into those who shout the loudest.

We do it with integrity, as those who, in all things, seek to be like Christ Jesus.

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          A church with integrity does this because there’s nothing more important than being the undivided body of Christ in the world.

Because the truth is, people are drawn to a church that makes every effort “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Conclusion

For Chipotle and other “mission-minded” companies, success comes from staying focused on core values, no matter what challenges arise.

The same is true for a church that remains committed to the core values of: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and speaking the truth in love.

That’s a church that can maintain unity of the Spirit and oneness in Christ—a church with integrity.

And a church with integrity will soar!  Amen.

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