Summary: The church often seems really clutzy, but the way that we live together and love one another is really important.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the church seems a bit lame? There never seems to be enough money. There always seems to be somebody fussing about some really petty thing, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Sometimes it seems to take forever to get everybody agreed and working together to do something new. (New? Why?) Do you know the feeling?
There’s a collection of bloopers from church bulletins and newsletters that can express very well the image of bumbling triviality that the church often has.
Supposedly a church newsletter once actually ran this notice: “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”
“Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.”
“For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”
Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.”
“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
“Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.”
“The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.”
“The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.”
“The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.”
Is this really what the church is like, an endless stream of rummage sales, boring sermons, deteriorating choir members, pancake breakfasts and fundraisers, often on the verge of becoming a tragedy, all too often laced with the insincere smiles of “gracious hostility?” What a telling slip of the tongue that is, “gracious hostility.” Is that really the church of Jesus Christ? Sometimes those are all there. But can we do a better job than this of articulating what we are here for?
The Apostle Paul paints a very different picture of the church, a noble and glorious picture of the church having cosmic importance. Our text for this morning is Ephesians 3:1-13. Please stand for the reading of God’s word.
1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 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. 8 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, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our lord, 12 In whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13 I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
When you set out to understand a passage of scripture, one of the tricks is to watch for words or ideas that are repeated over and over again. If you recognize repeated ideas, then you probably have a good start towards understanding the passage.
This passage uses a lot of words for communication. There is a mystery of God that was “made known" to Paul by “revelation”. This mystery has now been “revealed” by God to his apostles and prophets. It’s Paul’s job to “make everyone see” God’s plan that used to be hidden in this mystery. And the church has a very important role in bringing this mystery out into the light.