Summary: Some of us might have trouble believing that the big, eternal God would ever even notice little old me. But Paul, right from the start of his letter to the Ephesians, emphasized that God had chosen them to be his.
This is our third Sunday now focusing on the book of Ephesians. At last we're getting around to starting at the beginning. We have already peaked at parts of chapter 2 and chapter 3 because of special themes for Epiphany and Human Relations Sunday. But now we get back to a more orderly approach.
The first 14 verses of the book are some of the most complicated verses in the Bible. Verses 3-14 are a translator's nightmare because the twelve verses were originally written in Greek as one long, complicated sentence, and they didn't use punctuation then, so you have to really work to figure out where one thought ends and the next thought begins and what relates to what. Paul starts out right away focusing on God, offering worship to God, and it looks like maybe he got so excited about God that he forgot about keeping his sentences short and well organized.
In them Paul introduces most of the main themes which will be repeated in the letter. But this morning we'll just focus on a few things.
I suspect that many Christians see themselves as sort of on the edge of what God is doing. Sure, God is great and good and the Bible promises great things. Sure it works great for some people. But that isn't all for me. I know God loves me. I know there have been times when he helped me out. I want to serve him. But for me it will always be at a bit of a distance. I don't expect much from God. He doesn't have much planned for me. Those are for other folks, not me.
Do you ever have feelings like that? Paul was writing to new Gentile Christians, who didn't have a good Jewish upbringing like most of the first Christians. Maybe you are one of those people who never got to go to Sunday School when you were little, and you always feel like everyone else knows more of what's going on than you do.
Maybe you grew up in the church, but on the fringes and you wished you could be like those who were in the middle of everything. You feel like an outsider.
Maybe you are only just beginning to start thinking seriously about God, and you wonder if there is any hope for you.
Some people have the temperament where they feel warm and happy and trusting about everything. Maybe you were born with a temperament which is more questioning and naturally keeps at a distance and doesn't feel God's presence so easily.
Maybe you tried once, real hard for a while, but it didn't come together the way you had hoped. You feel like God let you down, or it just isn't meant to work for you. So you have settled for second best.
Then listen carefully to the first 14 verses of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Because they tell us that God offers you a great deal. Paul is writing to Gentiles, people who grew up in religions that we call pagan today, who knew nothing about the Old Testament, who were beginners in Christian things, who may have been wondering whether they belonged there at all. Listen to what Paul tells them.
And I would encourage you to have it open in front of you. You can find it on page 191 of your pew Bible.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. 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. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory."