Sermon for Pentecost 5, Year B
Based on Eph. 1:3-14
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
“God’s Mystery Revealed”
Our passage from Ephesians is A LOADED ONE! For starters, it’s ~ believe it or not ~ one VERY LONG SENTENCE in the original language of the Greek New Testament. It’s also a LOADED passage because of the spirit in which the author was in when he wrote it. One cannot help but detect a deep sense of rapture within the author as his words are full-to-overflowing with a beautiful hymn of praise to God and to Christ.
Another reason why this passage from Ephesians is A LOADED ONE is because of its CONTENT. There are far too many different ideas and images in this passage for me to go into great detail today. Therefore, we will concentrate upon two verses ~ nine and ten: “With all wisdom and insight he 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.”
NOW THAT, IN ITSELF, IS A LOADED STATEMENT! What ~ many of you might be asking ~ does this flowery language really mean? The meaning actually is rather MIND-BOGGLING! We are basically told that God has revealed to us; God has helped us to understand; God has shown us God’s eternal will and purpose through Jesus Christ.
What was hidden for centuries ~ what remained God’s eternal secret was made known by God at the right time. This eternal plan of God’s salvation was made known at the right time when Jesus Christ came to share it with us. In the fullness of time, Christ will gather up ~ Christ will unite heaven and earth ~ the entire universe, all of the creation will have Christ as its head. For the Christian, God in Christ has given all of history a meaning and a purpose. The writer of these verses is saying: “Life has meaning and purpose because of Jesus Christ. What Christ has done, is doing, and will do makes a difference for my life and the life of all creation.”
However, not everyone has been able to see, understand or accept this truth. For example, according to William Barclay, G.N. Clark once said: “There is no secret and no plan is history to be discovered. I do not believe that any future consummation could make sense of all the irrationalities of preceding ages.” And Andre Maurois says: “The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny mud-heap spinning in infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea.”
Desmond Tutu, in his book, Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches, cites the following encounter in relation to God’s meanings and purposes for us: “Anthony Bloom, the Orthodox master of the spiritual life told the story of a simple Russian country priest who was confronted by an eminent scientist. This chap trotted out apparently devastating arguments against the existence of God and declared, “I don’t believe in God.” The unlettered priest retorted quickly, “Oh, it doesn’t matter ~ God believes in you.”
That is precisely what the author of our verses from Ephesians is saying to people like Clark, Maurois and that eminent scientist. That is also what God is saying to us ~ especially in our most sceptical and doubtful moments. The writer encourages us by stating: “God believes in you. All of history has meaning and purpose because Jesus Christ is leading it to a final goal. Each life is important and does make a difference because it participates in this marvellous process. Each life helps out by moving closer to God’s final goal in which Jesus Christ shall unite heaven and earth. By believing in this we in part experience the eternal right now,” the author assures us.
If we really believe that in Christ we are redeemed; we are saved; we are the new creation; if we really believe that through Christ’s life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection all barriers of division are removed; then we are able to be a people of profound, inexhaustible hope. We are able to see and work for the removal of everything that divides ~ everything from dividing church life and faith and worldly life to divisions of age, sex, race, culture, economics, politics and more, are removed in Christ.
We no longer need to worry about our personal future or the future of the whole creation, with all of the threats and problems of despair, meaninglessness and brokenness. God, in Christ is, RIGHT NOW, in the process of restoring, renewing, reconciling us and the whole creation into a wonderful new creation. As God’s children, this too is our meaning and purpose in life; this too is our privilege, our work, our goal ~ to be that salt, that light, that faith, hope and love in the world, which Jesus has equipped us and commanded us to be.
As Francis Gay has observed: “When worries fears and despair grip us and tend to keep us awake at night it might help us to recall the story of Bulstrode Whitelock who was British Ambassador to the Hague in the 17th Century.”
“One night he was tossing restlessly in bed, anxious about the problems of his work and his country. An old servant heard him and approached: “Sir, may I ask you a question?”
“Certainly,” replied the Ambassador.
“Did God govern the world before you came into it?”
“Undoubtedly” came the reply.
“And will God govern the world when you have gone out of it?”
“Then Sir, can you trust God to rule the world while you are in it?”
The tired Ambassador turned on his side and fell fast asleep.”
May we, like that servant, be God’s people of hope in this world by living as faithfully as we are able to under the rule of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For it’s under his rule in our daily lives that we discover the purpose and meaning of our life. It is under his rule that we participate in that marvellous process of being gathered together; of being united with all heaven and earth in Jesus Christ as the new creation through our baptismal covenant. For all of this thanks and praise be to our God!
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