Sermon: Pentecost 8B, Sunday July 15, 2018
Ephesians 1:3-143 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.11 In him we were also chosen,[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
The world is a brutal place. It is now, and it was in Jesus’ time. It is brutal because people can be brutal. From the first murder recorded in Genesis, that of Abel at the hand of his own brother, Cain, to all that is happening in Syria and Turkey and in our own cities and towns, life can be very brutal. A few years back in Geneva, UN human rights expert, Ben Emmerson named human rights violations at the hands of ISIS and etc these last years as occurring on “an industrial scale”. (June 22, 2015, (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16122&LangID=E))
This hurts. People hurt. How telling it is that Jesus hurts too? Jesus obviously knows the pain of injustice and violence personally. We hear it today. His cousin, John the Baptiser. John was brutally killed for no noble reason. Jesus knows unjust, innocent suffering and its dark grief.
Here’s what we know. Jesus feels as we feel. He knows loss. He knows grief. He knows brutality. When he stands outside his best friend’s stinking tomb he hurts to weep. When his own blood stains his own body as he is brutally ridiculed, tortured and crucified, and his public shame complete – he drinks this violence to the last drop.
And because he knows our pain and stays the course through it with love unyielding, there is another story to tell alongside this grizzly tale. There is a grand story of light and love at work among us, even in the unfair, unjust brutality we know and fear in our day.
This other story is beautifully proclaimed by another man who knows the pain of life. he also proclaims this story of love and life from an unjust brutal prison cell to a community he loves. Paul dictates a letter to his trusted friend and co-worker Tychicus from a prison cell in Rome toward the end of his missionary work.
His beginning words to his people in Ephesus lift us out of dark damp despair of any kind. These high words lift us out of human brutality, fear and the many, many questions that feel like a prison at times.
This is two hundred Greek words strung together without a comma or full stop in 1:3-14! So much to grasp, so much to see – all compressed into these 11 verses!
Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ (1:10)
1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
A brutal world blessed. A dark mind enlightened by grace. Dead person Spirit filled. Heaven here, not just at the end or far away. Heavenly spiritual life in life today, not just tomorrow.
1:4 …just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love, he destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ according to his good pleasure and will. .
Family. Divine family. Holy friends, we are. All his choice of you; his awareness and commitment to you. You; an adopted child; one of billions. You are fully known and fully ‘in’. You have his name; his family name. When suffering comes we call on his name and remember ours – ‘Son, Daughter”, “bride”, “beloved”, “child”, “church”, “holy, blameless, accepted”, “people of the Way”; “Christian”, “Baptised”.
1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins…
Once we were dead in self worship; unable to find the family or the Father. When suffering comes all we had was us; our skills, our pep talks, our self-help, our best guess. But now we can do better than guess. We can trust. Wan seek and we can receive that glorious gift above all gifts – forgiveness with all its hope and possibility and joy.
And as many a mate or parents has said “A man needs a plan”, and so does a woman and so does God. it is a grand plan and it is here – even if it is mysterious stuff!
1:9 God has made known the mystery of his will that he put into action in Jesus.
Our life in God, beyond our own is a mystery. Like anything a bit mysterious, this plan can only be received in good faith. This mystery into which we have been baptised and called is lived only by faith and trust. By trusting what the Lord Jesus does and says we are lifted into his story beyond our own.
1:10 Now God has put a plan in place for the fullness of time. That is, the plan will come to fulfilment in his good time. But what is the plan?
I worry about the world, and I am anxious about my place in it, and our place in it. From a prison cell, or a community surrounded by many gods of self to families falling apart to a fight with a friend, there is this plan that will bring fulfilment of it all. Like a band or orchestra searching for that final resolving note, we will resolve. he will resolve it and us. The tune will eventually be sweet and complete.
What’s the detail of the plan?
1: 10 …to “gather up” all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
God is a gathering God. Like a bower bird or a collector of fine things, the Lord is the God who gathers friends like shoes. God is collector of people. God welcomes strangers in and adopts them as his own kids. Jesus the Son is the gate, the door through which the Father welcomes us and adopts us into his large house. Jesus is the shepherd too who finds the sheep and brings them on home.
Friend, in your questions, your suffering, your pain and your worry about the world and your own family, the truth is that all that is alienated, disjointed, lonely, hard, unfair and doubtful will be sure. You and I and we as a church community are always being put back together, like Humpty Dumpty’s shell. That is what our God does. he is always gathering, planning, working, drawing us in, inviting us to know and love and be known and loved.
The world may be brutal, but it is still the Lord’s, and the Lord of Church has a plan to end the brutality and sadness.
No more talk of ‘the church dying’ or you ‘dying’ as if there is no plan of Jesus in you and ahead of you. Only pray, trust, thanks, words of witness to his presence and you hope as a result.
Sense hope rising again today – for whatever has squashed it lately or a long time ago. Hear the hope and give the thanks. Be free from prisons and darkness and pain in Jesus. He is hope and light and love.
Hope, mysterious hope! Hope against all hope! You can because there is a plan and a God who is working the plan.
I’ll invite again……Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ” (1:10)?
Let the Spirit give hope rising for your today and tomorrow. that is faith and that is life.
Lord Jesus, lift us up into your hope rising that we be patient, confident, loving people of yours where you have placed us.