January 7, 2020
Scripture Ephesians 3:1–12
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ.
Ephesians 3:7-8 NRSV
The Letter to the Ephesians was written to congregations that were more established than during Paul’s time in the early church. Through the wording and phrasing of the writer, there is a sense of understanding of what is practical and conventional and what is not. That is the reason for the detailed instructions on appearances and behaviors that follow in the letter for particular situations within the congregations. So, many scholars believe that Paul greatly influenced this book of the Bible, one of the Epistles, but likely was not the author of it.
Clearly, in this scripture lesson today the emphasis is on God’s grace and the fact that this Good News is no longer something secret or held back from anyone. This is especially great news for the Gentiles who are open to learning about the Gospel and, so far, have been welcomed entirely as they are: without enduring purification laws or establishing a pedigree identifying a Jewish ancestor. God’s grace extends to everyone, and many people, including Paul, spent a lot of time and energy getting the word out so that the church could open itself to the whole world!
As stated in Ephesians, the Good News is available for everyone. And, forgiveness is open to all who believe. Everyone has the ability to approach God. And, we truly are the hands and feet of Christ. These topics are relevant because January 6th marks our observance of Epiphany, the traditional day when the Magi were able to locate Jesus in Bethlehem where they paid homage to Him giving Him extravagant gifts and worshiping Him. These so-called wise men were prominent Gentiles who likely lived in modern Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and possibly India. And, the significance of the event is the demonstration that Christ came for all the world: Jews and Gentiles.
Most mainline congregations hold that God loves all people, despite our actions and poor choices. None of us is truly worthy of that love or grace on our own. It is the gift of God’s power and mercy that allows us to humbly approach God and ask forgiveness. And, this is available to us because we are included in the mercy and love of God in Jesus Christ.