Today, we're diverting from our Lenten lectionary series. I wanted to share with you some thoughts on a reading we were required to meditate on as a team here in Central Asia. Our reading is from Paul's epistle to the church at Ephesus.
This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
— Ephesians 3:7-10 (MSG)
Paul finds himself in an interesting place. He's in prison. He doesn't know what's coming down the road. Yet, here he is writing to a church that is being shepherded by John–the Disciple whom Jesus loved. Like John does in his gospel, Paul begins his letter in a cosmic way. He presents the church with a cosmic God–a giant, big, consuming God.
“My task,” says Paul, “is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.”
No small feat. Especially for this one who only the paragraph before called himself the “least qualified of all available Christians.” Yet, Paul has come to an understanding of something very important. He has reached an understanding of the beauty of Sonship. God, the great Father, called this lost unlikely ragamuffin Saul. Changed his name to Paul. Taught him to be a son. Then, released him to be a father to churches all over Asia Minor. It is out of this place of Sonship that Paul moves into the ability to present such a cosmic view of God–His Father.
And here, in this passage, Paul makes an epic claim. A claim so big that we often read right past it. He says this:
Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
What?!? God's great epic of redemption is being made known through us messed up–but redeemed–ragamuffins to even the angels? These same angels who sit around the throne of God and worship 24/7?
In between their angelic glimpses of the glory of God, they're chattering away about this epic plan that God worked out from the dawn of time. Not because they've watched it transpire over the course of the millennia, but rather because these–unlikely–followers of the Messiah are making the glory of God known in the nations.
As Paul continues through this epistle, he moves from this cosmic view of God into lessons on how we should live in light of this cosmic knowledge. How do we treat one another, live with our spouses, raise our children, and walk out life as a Messiah follower. Finally, he warns us–and then prepares us–about the spiritual battle in which this cosmic epic is embroiled. “Stand,” he says, “and when you can't stand anymore keep standing.”
But, the message is clear, don't stand alone. Stand with the cosmic forces of God. Stand with the fellow ragamuffins who follow–clumsily–this strong God who invited us into the epic.