2015-07-12 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“Cosmic & Concrete Blessings”
This week we continue with the writings of Paul…it’s Paul or a member of the “University of Paul” writing from a prison cell (or doing prison cell visitation with Paul?)…it’s the early 60’s CE and Paul’s gallivanting and fervent “down with religion, up with Jesus” message has landed him in jail for blasphemy and ignoring threats of the leaders of the land. He counts it all joy to be captive for the sake of his Saviour, and his joy and desire to make Christ known has him writing letters to the churches that he loves…
Ephesus is a church that he knows of but he’s only heard of…it’s not one of his church plants, so he sends a more general “summarizing” letter, this time hoping that it might not only be for the church of Ephesus, but be shared with churches in the wider regions as well.
To get ourselves in the mood for Paul’s letter today, pause and think of the best letter you’ve received lately…and I’m going to ask you for more….think of the best letter (or email) that you’ve received lately that blessed you + invited you to pass on blessing to others.
Examples anyone??? [ I think of my family reunion letter…a letter of affirmation and encouragement…but I still need to show up….and pony up…and do I feel mad about that? Do I feel “put on”? No! I’m joyfully setting time and resources aside to be with those that I love…to put on display the love I have for my family….that’s pretty awesome!]
So…Paul starts off this letter and he starts to gush…to his church families…
It’s reminiscent of the glories and mysteries of Creation…
It echoes the glorious beginning words of the gospel of John…
Paul gets all cosmic, wild and wonderful on us – –
“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….just as he CHOSE US IN CHRIST before the foundation of the world…”
“He DESTINED us for adoption as his children…”
“He freely BESTOWED upon us grace in the Beloved…”
“We have FORGIVENESS – – his GRACE is lavished upon us…”
—– EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING??? Chosen before the foundation of the world?
Destined to be a child of God?? Grace freely bestowed upon us??
Forgiveness….grace….lavished upon us????? Oh ya! Oh ya! Drinking from the fire hydrant of God’s grace and mercy…
Why aren’t people beating down the doors to get into this place and hear that message?
Baby you’re a firework!!
Some call this poetry…some call it Paul painting a picture…whatever best helps your imagination….stop and BASK in it…no matter what kind of peak, plateau or pit you have come from or feel like you are in in this moment…let’s allow the living word…this living letter…to paint a portrait for us where we re-connect to “who we are as humans”…. Created w/ care & compassion, fearfully and wonderfully made….blessed and part of God’s history and present story here and now…
BASK….but as with any kind of basking….there’s life to do…dishes that need to get washed, laundry that needs to get cleaned…e-mails that need to get sent because the subject line included the word “urgent” in it….
* * * * *
Paul doesn’t want this bevy of blessings to be secret knowledge for insiders…he’s seen and knows what religious secrets and insider-ism does to faith…so his further details in the letter prompt the hearers to get the message out!
This isn’t just good news for the chosen few…this is good news for the world and the universe!
“With all wisdom and insight God has made known to US the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a PLAN for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL THINGS in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Hide it under a bushel? No? Sounds Jesus-esque does it not? Perhaps akin to a city on the hill cannot be hidden…
You, fledgling, oppressed, persecuted, downcast church…you can’t be hidden!
You beam with blessings from the cosmos! And there’s a PLAN, not just for you, but for all of this…ALL THINGS [everything around us] will be gathered up, in Christ…
These words and promises were good news for the early church as they felt the empire of the age pressing in on them, literally throwing them to the lions and burning them at the stake…and 2000 years later, don’t many us both inside and outside of the church wonder how we will ever survive against the empires and the evils of the age? We might not be thrown to the lions, but we are ravaged by the ROARING & relentless ways of the world…
We might not find ourselves burnt at the stake, but there are ways that the world persecutes us, and takes it toll on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being…
Think of the news bits that you’ve heard this week.
Does it feel like our world is on its way to bliss and heaven, or do we feel like we are going to hell in a handbasket?
God’s promise for both believers and unbelievers is here…
“A PLAN…for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” [v. 10]
* * * *
Ok…so Paul blows our minds with this cosmic spiritual blessings talk….he tosses us into outer space to fathom the hugeness of God…the gigantic-ness of his blessings and his never-ending wealth of energy to call us God’s beloved in the beloved…
And then he pens these words that tell us to not just be all narcissistic about it, but to remember that these blessings and fulfillment-plans aren’t just for us “called & chosen – insider Christ followers” but for the whole world and the universe…
But what does Paul want you and me to do?? Cuz you know there’s got to be a catch…[paul’s a man o’ action]…how does Paul want us to get caught up in God’s plan?
Well….friends of God….the cosmic, “got the whole world in his hands” God….needs us (not in a needy way…but in a “join me and restore the cosmos” kind of way!)
“so that….WE…who set our HOPE on Christ, might LIVE for the praise of his glory.”
V. 14 “God’s own people…to the praise of his glory.”
Or as Jesus put it…
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
* * * * *
Ever heard of that phrase “What piece of work s/he is!”…
Let’s redeem that phrase today….
For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
(The U of P quotes, 2:10)
Let’s be that piece of work….individually and corporately.
Piece of Work Baptist Church = POW Baptist Church.
The preacher Edwin Searcy (University Hill Church, UBC) puts it this way:
“Imagine the shape of a congregation that is marked by its consistent focus on what God is doing in its midst….and in the midst of a troubled earth…we shift from receiving blessing…to being a blessing.” (FOTW, p. 235)
→ Q: Can we pause and imagine?? Look at your insert…listen to the Spirit….
>>> What is God doing…
What is God doing in the midst of a troubled earth?
We shift from receiving blessing….to BEING blessing…
Know that your not alone…the prayers of the saints pray for and with us!
* * * * *
A closing prayer….Paul praying for us….
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
→ And we too, can pray for a hope-filled future….
Brian Mclaren prayer:
A PRAYER FOR HOPE
Living God, lead us, by your Spirit, deeper into life.
Help us love you, ourselves, our family and neighbors, all people including our enemies, and this beautiful earth…
being filled more and more with the love that is who you are.
Help us not surrender to the temptations that could easily harm us and others.
Instead, help us face our challenges and come through them stronger than ever in the days ahead.
Help us set wise goals, solve solvable problems, and engage wisely with predicaments that cannot be solved.
Help us learn with curiosity and live reverently with mystery.
Help us work wholeheartedly and contribute in our own ways to the common good.
Grant that a year from now, we will be more of all that is good and true to who we can be, and less of all that diminishes the potential of our lives.
In the name of Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and to your glory, living God,
Amen. (Brian McLaren)