Revelation and Reconciliation - Sermon on Ephesians 3:1-12

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The mystery of Christ not only declares that we are reconciled to God by the divine grace of God's son, Jesus Christ, but we are also reconciled to one another. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

January 3, 2016 - Epiphany Sunday 

"Revelation and Reconciliation".  Text is from Ephesians 3:1-12


Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God. 

What bright morning star leads three foreign astrologers to the manger in which the newborn Christ lies? And what an amazing and odd story that we celebrate on the Epiphany; because these three men were not of the Jewish faith, no, in fact practitioners of acts that the devout Jew would find offensive, the divination of things to come by virtue of the skies.  So why include this story of the arrival of these three wise men from afar to bear witness to the newborn king? This is an account three pagan Gentiles bearing gifts to be witness to the one who is to come and lead all into glory and reconciliation with God. 


Indeed, it is a tale of revelation, of God showing the people of the world, that this Christ is here for them to reconcile his children, the world, the whole world from darkness into the light of Christ. 

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is writing as a prisoner for Christ Jesus, but is he referring to his situation, that he has been locked up on account of his teachings and beliefs or is he talking about another sort of prisonership, on behalf of Christ, That he is a prisoner in order that he may continue the commission to people like those of Ephesus, who he has never met but he is surely interested in conveying the good word. 

Reconciliation Statue -- 15th and East Main Streets Richmond (VA) 2013

In fact there are some very interesting prepositional statements that we encounter here in the epistle wherein Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ, of sharing in the promise in Christ, of good news about the boundless riches of Christ and finally, faith in Christ Jesus that gives access to God.  

Paul first lays out this mystery which apparently had remained a secret from humanity until the recent years, and he explains this great mystery in fullness, that the people of God are no longer simply the people of Israel, or rather the great mass of people of God chooses for salvation include both Jews and Gentile among them. Indeed, God's love for his children is all-encompassing and God's promise in Christ is to be inherited among all of humanity, whether they be the original inheritors of his covenant to Abraham or not. 

Paul writes about his own journey as a servant, and underscores his humility, because as we know Paul was one of the greatest of persecutors of early Christians and someone who himself, having received an epiphany on the road to Damascus, blinded by the light of the spirit and quickly taught to become a man who shares the good news and brings the light of Christ to new places rather than someone who seeks to destroy the unity of God's people.  As Paul describes: the news of boundless riches of Christ which are, as Paul writes herein, available to both Gentile and Jew alike. That the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob is the one true God of all people, the only God and bringer of salvation for all. 

And finally, Paul tells us that this saving grace for all the people is not, in fact, a new thing but one that was done with a divine purpose, one which God always intended but only now revealed through the life, death and resurrection of God's son, Jesus Christ. 

Even though we read this letter as it was written, some 60 years after the birth of Christ and some 30 years after his ascension, we also cherish it for what it teaches us in the world today about living in reconciliation. Because in the church here in the United States, when we talk about reconciliation, often what we are speaking of is our reconciliation with God almighty, the mother/father of us all, who created us and is always creating.  And it is true, for we may, as individuals be a part of that ever expanding and beloved creation. But what is revealed by this divine epiphany found in Ephesians is that the mystery of the ages means that we are at the same time reconciled to one another, this great cloud of saints and sinners, that all nations and all races will come to the table and feast together on the salvation that God in Christ Jesus has in store for us.

So we look at that in regard to the work that God sends us to do. There is no denying, that you and I each, individually have a relationship with God. It might not be obvious to one of us. We might be uncomfortable with individual prayer, we might wish God to speak to us clearly and without ambiguity when we seek answers rather than getting responses from the world around us that we might chance to miss. But whether or not we feel it, God has a relationship to each and every one of us personally and individually. 

But when an understanding of the Gospel of reconciliation is left between the individual and God, we commit a sin of omission that reduces the community found in church to a mere gathering place of people with like interests rather than the holy come-together that it is meant to be. Reconciliation is the coming together of all people. It is a reconciliation of all people, Jew to gentile, American to foreigner, baptized to non-baptized, faithful to questioner, believer to non-believer. 

Reconciliation is a means to underscore the great change, that we as a church have to admit, particularly in the Western World, that our saving work has often left other, marginalized people out in the cold. That this sin of racism that all too often has been promulgated in the name of Christ needs to be actively and intentionally dismantled in order and that we may adopt a more rigorous standard of reconciliation to one another. We are called as his new disciples to share bread at a table that seats everyone with others who may not be like us, who look different and often smell different. 

And the reconciliation that God calls us to has sent to us in his son a calling to put down our resentments toward our fellow parishioners, to love one another as God loves us and to seek out those we have wronged and make amends, to look to those to have wronged us and see if we can offer forgiveness.  God's desire for unity in the church calls us to join in the spirit of reconciliation and have awkward moments that turn into moments of growth and love that we may be the holy gathering he calls us to, the body of Christ Jesus.

It is in this great gathering of the witnesses to the work of God in the world, by the power of the holy spirit that the mystery of God is revealed: that God's love is for all of God's people.  The church itself, which is a participant in the revelation of the holy mystery of Christ, that it is not up to individuals to determine who is a part of salvation but that God chooses the opportunity for all of humanity. 

It is up to God's congregation to pay attention to one another, to pay attention to who is being marginalized and who is being excluded, to invite and welcome each other in to the great gathering of God's people, to accept the commission of God's Holy Spirit among us and the love that God provides us for each other. 

We are called to follow that bright star that God has set out for us, and, discovering the miracle that has been born by the wondrous love that God has for all of God's people in order that the world be reconciled to God and that nations be reconciled to one another, that we are able to proclaim the good news about our messiah, born humbly to be king of love and mercy and rescue humanity from death that we may all know the light of God's love today, and evermore. 

Amen.

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on January 3, 2016 8:39 PM.

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