“My life has been a tapestry,” sang Carole King. I first heard that song as a college freshman. A dear friend introduced me to the magic of King’s artistry, and I treasure the song (and the album) to this day.
A tapestry is a good picture of Ephesians three. God pulls it all together in Jesus. In love and by grace we are the one people of the one God.The church filled with the Holy Spirit is now the “holy temple in the Lord.” Through us, this good news confronts the powers of this world. We do that by living as God’s work(s) of art. We see the purpose of that artistic work in these verses from chapter three. We are God’s living tapestry.
The mysterious message of God’s inclusive love comes “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” The phrase “rich variety” translates a wonderful Greek word–“polupoikilos.” It’s fun to say! It means “many-colored” or “variegated.”
Including everyone was always God’s plan. God’s one big family shows the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places who’s in charge. These rulers and authorities “in the heavenly places” represent the powers which stand against God in the cosmos. And these powers are done for.
We confront the rulers and authorities when we are one in the Messiah. In Jesus’ name and through his Spirit, we tell the powers that Jesus is Lord and no one else is. We speak truth to power by being an authentic community, united by the Spirit rather than by a common enemy or by using one another to deal with our own self-interests.
We are the Church—the one people of the one God. We are the Church—filled with color and diversity. The very existence of such a community is fair warning to the rulers and authorities that something new is on the way. Our young people are experiencing that in a powerful way this week at the churchwide youth gathering. We are God’s living tapestry.
Here’s an example. Recently, we partnered with Mosaic in Western Iowa to hold a Mental Health Awareness Sunday. The highlight of the day was called “Kicking the Stigma of Mental Health.” We used our church parking lot to hold a game of kickball. If you didn’t stick around to kick around, you missed something special.
Youth and adults from our congregation, people from our neighborhood and community, people served by Mosaic, and Mosaic staff spent an hour of kicking and catching (or not), laughing and teasing, and just being God’s people together for all the world to see. We resisted a culture that wants to hide people away and ignore our needs for quality mental health services and support. As we played together, we gave evidence of another way to live and love.
I watched our young people enjoy being church together in many-splendored diversity. I was a bit teary as some of our younger folks also learned how to use the experience to serve and learn, to grow and mature in the context of Christian community. This was just one example of the variegated vitality that Paul urges upon us. We are expanding that welcome as we begin a support group for those who wrestle with issues related to mental health.
We are God’s living tapestry.
We are at our best as church when we are multi-colored, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-talented. Because we are God’s work(s) of art, we live out the beauty of this tapestry in our witness and work as the Church. We do this as well in our lives as individual followers of the Messiah. We do it to be a sign of what God wants for all of Creation.
It’s important that we make that radical inclusion real in our own congregation and denomination. It’s hard to call the world to account if we can’t even make it happen in our own house. That’s why we are practicing inclusion here.
Start small. Sit next to someone at worship you don’t know well. Talk to someone at coffee you don’t know well. We don’t do this on our own. The Holy Spirit equips you and me to be the church. “This was in accordance,” Paul reminds us, “with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.”
We know all human beings bear the image of God. We celebrate diversity as God’s gift to us and not a threat to our own existence. We rejoice to be part of a country whose ideal includes welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse” of distant teeming shores. We are called to raise questions when the values of radical inclusion are suppressed.
The church lives as an alternative to fear and exclusion. By our very existence as an inclusive community, we remind the rulers and authorities that they answer to a higher power. Sometimes we will suffer as a result. We are not going to be protected from persecution, nor should we expect that. But when we live as God’s one big family, embraced by grace and empowered by love, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s God’s work of art.
In early June, 2018, our churchwide Bishop Eaton issued a letter along with twenty other religious leaders urging the current administration to stop the forced separation of migrant families at our borders. I’m grateful for that statement and to be part of a brave and relevant church. It’s hard to be a sign of God’s love for all people and to be silent in the face of such practices. Our bishop spoke up for us, and I’m thankful.
We are God’s living tapestry. Next time we’ll hear about God’s abundant power to get the job done in us, among us and through us.