19 August 2019Ephesians 1:1-14
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. (v. 3)
Psalm: Psalm 30
Despite the assertions of verse 1 it is unlikely that this text was ever a letter, that it was written by Paul or that it was addressed to the church in Ephesus. It is more likely to have been a sermon for general use in the churches in Asia Minor written by a disciple of Paul's who was concerned to summarise and apply his teaching, perhaps whilst Paul was in prison in Rome, or after his death.
The issues addressed in this 'sermon' are outlined towards the end – the need for Gentile (non Jewish) and Jewish Christians to find a way to live together within one church, and the need to distinguish genuine Christianity from other teachings which were elitist and other-worldly in their focus. In some ways, then, it is odd that the main text (from verse 3) starts with a hymn of praise to the God "who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". Using an adversary's language and turning it to one's own purposes, however, is an effective form of argument (as anyone involved in a domestic will testify), and the hymn of praise to Father, Son and Holy Spirit which runs from verses 3-14 echoes both the forms of praise given to God in synagogue worship (the 'berukah') and the reciting of the mighty acts of God which forms the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in our services of Holy Communion (see the Methodist Worship Book for a series of examples).
As there, so here, the purpose is to evoke praise and to write us (the hearers) into the story. The story is that God the creator is also the one who wants the redemption of all things; that God has made known this mystery in Jesus Christ; that at the end of time, all things will make sense in Christ, and that in the meantime we have the Holy Spirit with us as a pledge of all these things. By believing in God and by receiving the Holy Spirit, a new 'we' has been created out of the chosen people of Israel and every other known ethnicity.
- How would you sum up the Christian story?
- The Jew/Gentile question no longer divides the Church. What are key divisions about today?
- Might praising God together help us find our common place within God's story?