For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.—
(Ephesians 3:1-13, ESV)
This past Tuesday morning, I was sitting in Jules Bistro, downtown on West St. Germain Street, right there next to the Paramount Theatre. They’ve got this storefront with floor to ceiling windows, with tables right there at the front, which gives you this view of the sidewalk and city street, and of 10th Avenue South as it winds its way underneath Division Street, and you can see Lake George and Eastman Park beyond, and imagine students as they begin streaming into Tech High School as classes begin.
I sat myself down at a table, right there by the windows, with the sun streaming in. I ordered a Cubano, scrambled eggs, and toast from Lauren (I later found out she is a Cru student who has visited Calvary a few times), as she made her way busily through the cafe, serving the few of us who had made our way in that morning.
And I laid out my bible, opening it to Ephesians, along with a blank notepad and a pencil. And I began to read Paul’s letter, looking out at cars streaming by as people made their way to jobs and appointments, imagined them carting their kids to school or daycare, watching a stream of humanity bustling along the sidewalk, observing as people pulled into parking slots, and plugged meters, and made their way into the cafe — singles, three girlfriends, a married couple, two professional women — who sat at tables and placed their orders, and began chatting about the things you would imagine them chatting about, the things you chat about. Family. Business. The normal, day in and day out rhythms of life, as well as the things that grab the attention of those around the globe.
A conversation about a man walking into multiple mosques, with hate in his heart and violence gripping his mind, as his vision of white supremacy and nationalism—racism in its most ugly and virulent form—drives him to unleash hell as a twisted and demented executioner, ending the lives of men and women, boys and girls.
A conversation of a daily news story, such as that of elected officials—the rulers of our day, placed in power by the people, to protect and serve people, who cannot see their way clear to recognize that a human life inside the womb of a woman, a life proven so by medical technology that registers a heartbeat, along with pictures where one can see hands moving and thumbs being placed in mouths to be sucked—these rulers, these judges, are moving to block a fetal heartbeat bill that will protect that which is clearly life, clearly human, calling it unconstitutional.
Conversations about the rising tide of conflict and division in our culture, people in wars of words, and ideals, and not just out there in society, but in our closest relationships, in our living rooms, between those we love, relationships that are strained to the breaking point, with so many people yelling, and so few people actually listening.
I sat in a cafe, surrounded by these nitty gritty conversations, between very real and ordinary people, along with snippets of conversation over global issues, pushing my mind to ruminate on these large sweeping issues, and the everyday, ordinary ins and outs of our lives.
All with an open Bible in front of me, with Paul speaking of things that have cosmological and universe-impacting (literally) significance, using soaring language and communicating truly majestic and towering theological concepts, and I wondered: What do these two things have to do with each other? What relevance does this ancient text have for all these people, with all their routine, ordinary, daily challenges and burdens, and all the massive cultural problems we feel overwhelmed by, what difference does Ephesians make, if any?
I felt really challenged by this question. Truly, I did. I’m not making this up to give you an interesting story.
You know, just because I am a pastor, and a preacher, dear friends, doesn’t mean I don’t struggle in the same way I think you do to see how the text I read in Ephesians is readily applicable to the swirl of humanity, with all its burdens, that surrounded me in that cafe Tuesday morning.
And then this thought occurred to me, brought about by the sun getting high enough over the buildings so that it started to stream into the cafe window onto the pages of my Bible. It was something that C.S. Lewis had written about Christianity, and his belief in its relevance. He said this,
“I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun has risen,
not only because I see it,
but because by it, I see everything else.”
That’s what we want, isn’t? To clearly see and understand in the face of the challenges we face, small and large, individually and societally.
Maybe I can put it as a question:
What sun of revelation, if you will, will rise on the landscape of our realities to make things clear and reveal the way forward?
Who will lead us?
Who will be the messengers,
revealing the unknown,
clarifying the obscure,
solving the puzzles,
taking what is hidden, and displaying it clearly?
Who will, by their message, at least in some measure, demystify these things that challenge us so?
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
Preparation For Holy Week
If you were here on Sunday, then you know that we will not be leaving Paul’s letter to the Philippians as the text for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.
One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human.
In the unsearchable counsel of God's will for the world, he has so designed that salvation will come through the church, that body of people gathered by the power of his Holy Spirit.
The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two
I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
Why Should I Read The Bible?
Most days I love waking up, coffeeing up, praying up, and then gobbling up the Bible. But not every day. I’m just like you in that. I need reminding about why the Bible — God’s Whole Story — is an important part of my day, for every other part of my day.