Following the end of the Easter season and the Ascension-Pentecost-Trinity sequence, today we return to our trip through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You might remember that the first three chapters of Ephesians have been grandly theological, setting out what God has done all the way from the plans he made before the world was made, to redeeming us from death and hell by the precious blood of his Son.
The second half of this letter (chapters 4 to 6) is intensely practical, unfolding the implications of our salvation in areas of church life, social life, marriage, parenting, work, speech, prayer and spiritual struggle. These are the matters we begin to explore today, with the issue of the church’s unity (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Many people wonder why, when we say the Creed, we express belief in the “holy catholic church”, when in fact we are not Roman Catholic. The answer is that “catholic” really means “universal”. We believe in the universal church, which is to say we believe that Jesus ultimately has only one church, where all true believers are gathered together as one. There is only one church, because there is only one God, one Saviour and one Spirit.
The term “Roman catholic” is really a contradiction in terms, because it is trying to say that you’re not part of the universal church unless you’re part of the institution headed up by the pope (although nowadays, most Roman Catholics probably don’t believe that). The truth is that no institution represents the universal church, but people from many different denominations belong to the one true church of God. The only head of the church of God is Jesus Christ himself (Ephesians 1:22, 4:16, 5:23). He rules his church from heaven by his word and Spirit. In his wisdom, he has chosen to use many church institutions for good, but none are essential (not even Sydney Anglicans!).
When the Anglican reformers broke away from the medieval Roman church, they held onto the word “catholic”, because they didn’t want to give up the important theological claim that we belong to the one and only true, universal church of God.
- Dedication Sunday (27th June) is a few weeks away. It marks the anniversary of this building, 156 years ago. We’ll be having a special combined service at 10.30 am (no regular services at 8 am and 10 am) followed by lunch together in the Parish Room. This is always a great event. It will be especially good, since we were not able to hold it last year due to COVID.