This morning I’m going to reveal a secret to you.
It’s only a secret in the sense of being something that has eluded notice. Not hidden, just something that has been overlooked. But I think this “secret” will really speak to you.
Oh, and I’m not going to apply the verse for the day until the end. You’ll see why.
Some people think of the Church as the building. Words and common usage being what they are, that’s probably natural, of course. But while the church may HAVE buildings, the Church is not the building in which it meets. The Church is the people God has made alive in faith. The ones who have received the gift of grace, and decided to follow Jesus. We are the church.
You’ve likely heard that before. But it’s a statement that can be easy to gloss over. It’s kind of like the question, “Will you marry me?” The words themselves are simple, but the depth of what they convey is staggering. It is an offer to give everything you are and ever will be, all you have and ever might possess to another because you are convinced they will cherish them. It is a proposal to intertwine your lives together in a tapestry that has yet to be fully designed. Just four words. But those four words can change your life forever.
The image of a tapestry is a good one, actually, when we consider the Church.
A tapestry is woven from two distinct parts. First there is the warp, which is the inner core around which the other threads are woven.
The warp is the foundation. The tightly-held strings upon which the final image is built. The warp is completely covered in traditional tapestry weaving, providing the inner structure for the weft. The warp is the necessary core of the structure, without it the weft is a jumbled mess.
The weft is woven around the warp. The weft is the yarn used to create the final image on the tapestry. Or, to be more accurate, the yarns. Because multiple yarns with multiple colors and shades are needed to create the final, beautiful image. The weaver selects just the right color and shade, ties it in from the bottom and pulls it through the warp to the top. In and out, in and out; the image is crafted slowly and deliberately.
One day Jesus and His disciples were speaking about what the people’s understanding of Him was, who the people said He was. After some discussion, Jesus asked His disciples who they said He was. It was Peter who replied and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” When Jesus responded, He used the word “church” for the first time in His ministry. He said the fact that He is the Messiah would be the rock upon which He would build His Church. He actually called it, “My Church.” It is His. It is built upon Him. It is built by Him.
HOW the Lord Jesus builds it is the operational question. In our Communion, the CEEC.CHURCH we would say there are four key elements He uses. These four elements are the warp of the tapestry, providing the inner structure.
SACRAMENT is the first and core element; the first warp, if you will. The worship order in heaven is sacramental., according to what God Himself told Moses upon the mountain. Moses was not to deviate from the pattern shown to him upon the mountain, because it was based upon the true tabernacle in heaven. The “warp” of the sacraments reveals the presence of God through apostolic order, liturgy and rites, symbolism and signs, well-established orthodoxy, the leadership role of bishops as the apostles appointed them, and an historic and apostolic view of the Church. We receive the sacramental sign of baptism as a seal of His ownership. We abide in Christ by sharing in HIs body and blood through the sacramental table.
Jesus was sacramental. Judaism, as it was in the time of Herod’s Temple and as it remains even today after its destruction, is a sacramental religion. Moreover, the sacramental and liturgical elements, which have carried over into the Christian sacramental expression—the vestments, the liturgical modalities of prayer, and the seasonal observances of specific feasts—were prescribed and ordained by none other than God the Father Himself. Not only that, but we clearly see from the book of Revelation that these elements continue to play a part in our future worship in heaven, which demonstrates that God has not abandoned His love of things sacramental to reflect His glory.
SCRIPTURE is the second element, our second warp. Because the new covenant revealed in the scriptures is the reason we exist on earth, the scriptures call us to be evangelical. This warp emphasizes salvation by grace through faith in the atoning and victorious death and resurrection of Jesus. It calls for personal conversion, public baptism, recognizing the authority of Scripture, and a transformed life. A defining ministry characteristic is the responsibility of each follower of Jesus in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Jesus was evangelical. His Kingdom message was unmistakably based upon an appeal to the Scriptures and a need for spiritual rebirth. Jesus insisted to Nicodemus, “You must be born again!”
SPIRIT is the third warp of this heavenly tapestry. His Holy Spirit empowers the life and worship of His Church through the free expression of the gifts He gives us. The person of the Holy Spirit, especially seen and visibly demonstrated in expressive praise, miraculous signs and wonders, and practical and powerful teaching are manifestations of life in the Spirit and the mark of a New Testament view of the Church. A defining ministry characteristic is the supernatural ministry of the Gospel, emphasizing personal experience with God through his Word and power.
Jesus was charismatic. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form when He was baptized by John, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke all bear witness. It was Jesus, after all, Who walked through the wall of the upper room in Jerusalem and instructed those gathered there to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you remove His use of miraculous spiritual gifts from the pages of the four Gospels you are left with an empty shell of a message, not a powerful vehicle of transformational impact.
SERVICE is the final warp providing the inner structure for the weft. All that God has done for us has been done to enable us. His Spirit empowers us and sends us into the world. His Scriptures provide the message we carry, that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. His sacraments establish the basis of His ministry to His Body.
Jesus taught that He came to serve, not to be served. He called His Church to express His love by the way they served.
And around these four warps are woven you and I, expressing the life of Christ within us. It is diversity that makes the tapestry beautiful; a tapestry of a single color is a boring one indeed.
The weft fills in the spaces around the warp. Different yarns passing in and out, up and down. Now seen, then not as they pass underneath the image. As we “fill in the spaces” with our service to God the tapestry comes together. Our participation in the sacraments, our expressions of His Gospel, our employment of the gifts of His Spirit all fill in the gaps between the strands of the warp, and the picture takes shape. Our lives fill in the gaps and make up what is lacking in the ministry and afflictions of Christ. Lacking only in that Jesus Himself left the majority of the world unreached by His personal ministry, choosing instead to use our hands and feet and voices to finish the task. We are His Body.
This tapestry is a masterpiece. Yet at this stage, we only see the tapestry from our side, not His. On this side of heaven, though, we stand behind the tapestry and see only the knotted ends and frayed edges of the image God is creating. If we could get “on the other side” of the tapestry, we would see an incredible image of absolute beauty. But we live on the underside where painful circumstances and God’s purposes remain unclear. God’s tapestry is being woven together with both light and dark colors, moments that are joyful sometimes and sorrowful at others.
In fact, if we can make out a picture at all when looking at the wrong side of a tapestry, it’s often totally ambiguous and there’s usually a lot of loose ends, knots and meaningless elements. In fact two people, looking at the same tangle behind the masterpiece, might think they ‘see’ totally different things.
Today’s verse says WE ADORE YOU AS THE ONE WHO IS OVER ALL THINGS.
Our God is OVER everything. He is the artisan on the other side of the tapestry. He sees the picture, we see knots and strings of yarn.
The story is told of a girl who went outside at night and was looking up at the stars. Her father came out to join her. As he arrived, the girl said, “What we can see of God’s creation is so beautiful and amazing. I wonder what it looks like from the right side.”
The secret that I want to reveal to you this morning is this. The final image on the right side of the tapestry is CHRIST.
CHRIST displayed in every moment of ministry through His Body.
CHRIST seen in the balance and diversity of everyone through every age He has ever used.
CHRIST expressed in the Eucharists we have shared.
CHRIST demonstrated to a lost world through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
CHRIST felt in every act of love and service.
The final image on the right side of the tapestry is CHRIST.
So, you may wonder, if you look at the tapestry that is the Church and see it filled with the threads of Sacrament, Scripture, Spirit and Service – what could possibly be missing?
Here’s a two-letter clue … C H _ _ C H