Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Sometimes the Church is called God's family. St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Now, you know that in an earthly family there are several members, but they all form one body — the family. And there must be a head to the family. Well, the Church is God's family, and Jesus Christ is "the Head of the body, the Church." Yes, Jesus is the Head of the family of God, and we are the members. In your baptism each one of you was made a member of Christ. Now a member is part of a body. Your legs and arms are members, your eyes, your ears, your feet, and your hands are members, and you call all those members together your body. So each one of us in holy baptism becomes a member, a part, of a body which, because it belongs to Christ, is called Christ's Body, that is the Church. Every living body must have a head, so the Church, which is a living body, has Jesus for its Head. When we speak of the Universal Church we do not mean only the Church on earth. St. Paul speaks of the whole family in heaven and earth. Some of you have relations abroad, in New Zealand and Australia. But if I ask you how many you are in family you will always include those who are thousands of miles beyond the sea: you are one family, although so widely divided. Some of you have seen brothers and sisters die, some of you wear mourning for father or mother, whom you remember as worshipping God in church. Well, do you suppose that the brothers and sisters and parents are no longer members of God's Church, that they dropped out of His family when they died? Surely not. We are baptized into a faith which tells us to believe in the resurrection of the dead and everlasting life after death. You have read in your Bible what holy men and women did in the Church on earth: how St. Paul and the other apostles preached the gospel, and many of them died for Christ's sake. Well, St. Paul and the other holy people are still in the Church, still worshipping God, only in another place. If you were to watch a long procession of people climbing up a mountain by a winding path, part of the procession would be in sight, and another part would be out of sight high up on the mountain. I want you to understand, my children, that God's family, the Church, is one united body, and that even death cannot even separate us from it. We say something about this in the Creed. Directly we have said that we believe in the Holy Catholic Church, we go on to say that we believe in the Communion of Saints. These two, the Church and the Communion of Saints, are very closely connected, in fact, we may almost say that they are one and the same thing. If we are to understand what the Communion of Saints means (and a great many people do not understand) we must get at the exact meaning of the words. What does Communion mean? It means common union, or fellowship, or oneness. Two friends who are very fond of each other are in communion. They understand each other, they enter into each. other's feelings, they have "two hearts that beat as one." The organist in church and the person who blows the bellows are in communion — one cannot do without the other. The musician cannot play a tune unless the organ blower fills the bellows, and the blower cannot produce any result unless the organist touches the keys. Have you ever seen a boat race? Well, the boat's crew are in communion, each member of the crew depends on his companions; unless the crew keep together, and row in the same time and stroke, the boat cannot go properly through the water. It is the same with soldiers marching — they must keep step, they must be as one. You see, then, that communion means fellowship, oneness with another. Next, what do we mean by the Communion of Saints? The name saints simply means holy people; so when we say that we believe in the Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints, we mean that all the members of Christ's holy Church are in fellowship, or communion, with God and with each other. First, then, all members of the Church who are trying to lead holy lives have fellowship with God. Do you remember what St. John says in his first Epistle, "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ"? You know, too, that the words with which we end so many services are, "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all." But is it possible for us poor weak people to have fellowship with God? Yes, when we try to keep God's commandments we are in communion with Him, His will and our will are at one. Next, all members of the Church who are trying to lead holy lives have fellowship, or communion, with each other. They may belong to different nations or countries, they may be separated by thousands of miles of sea or land, and yet they have fellowship. They are all members of one body — the Church. They have one and the same Spirit, Lord, Faith, Baptism, etc.
(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,