Christmas 2B (1/4/2009)

Holy and Blameless; a Sign of God's Glory

Lessons:     Jeremiah 31:7-14     or Sirach 24:1-12     Psalm 147:12-20     or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21     Ephesians 1:3-14     St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18

Prayer of the Day:     Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

There has always been a bit of a mystery about the book of Ephesians. To some it seems more like a letter. To others it seems more like a liturgy or a hymn. The words "in Ephesus" (1:1) are found in later manuscripts, but are omitted in the oldest copies we have of this text. If it was a letter, it may originally have been a "circular letter" (circulated from city to city, and eventually ending up in Ephesus, where the salutation was added). There is even controversy as to whether the author of this book was Paul, or one of his later followers. As well-loved as this book is, we can't say that we know much about it that is certain. Yet it holds a strong presentation of the essential message of the Gospel, and it includes numerous words of encouragement - for those who were struggling to stay faithful in the early generations of the Christian movement, and for those of us who read Ephesians in our day.

If the true author of Ephesians is the Apostle Paul, this weekend's passage gives a clue as to why Paul had such a passion for the Gospel, and for living in a way that honored God. These verses resound with affirmations of how God has blessed the author - how God has gifted the author to live with faith and hope. God:

  • Blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (v. 3)
  • Chose us before the foundation of the world (v. 4)
  • Destined us for adoption as children (v. 5)
  • Has given us redemption (v. 7)
  • The mystery of God's will has been made known to us (v. 9)
  • Has granted us an inheritance (v. 11)
  • Has marked us with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit (v. 13)

For any who wonder why Paul was willing to risk his life in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, this brief passage ought to clear it up. No matter who originally penned them, these words are obviously grounded in Paul's deep sense of gratitude for all the ways in which God had blessed him.

And we, in turn, are to:

  • be holy and blameless before him in love (v. 4)
  • live for the praise of his glory (v. 12)

God does not bless in a vacuum. And blessings are not just for the sole benefit of their recipients. We who are people of faith have been blessed to be a blessing. If, indeed, we have been chosen by God, blessed by God and empowered by God - we have also been called by God. Called to be holy and blameless, motivated by love. Called to live in way that gives glory to God.

What's more, God has given us everything we need to thrive in this calling. We have every spiritual blessing. We have been redeemed by Christ, and need not waste time and energy worrying about our salvation. We have been chosen and adopted by God to be part of this family of faith. We have been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We have been taught the mystery of God's will. God has called us to live in a way that is holy and blameless, and that glorifies God.

Paul lived with this mindset, and soon found that with God, nothing was impossible. Perhaps Christians today might learn from his example. As we struggle with a weakened economy, a society that is increasingly secular, and an environment that seems to be growing in hostility towards the church... as we live in challenging times, it is our connection with God - our reliance on God - that empowers and enriches our Christian witness.

With the writer of Ephesians, we give thanks for these blessings, and dedicate ourselves to faithful living. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Text:

  • What sort of image of God is portrayed in this text?
  • What must the author have experienced with God, to be motivated to write in such a way?
  • How did that experience influence the author's understanding of life?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  • How has God blessed me?
  • What do I cherish most about the role God has played in my life?
  • What does it mean for me live my life in a way honors the God who has blessed me so richly?