Summary: Living effectively as Christ's disciples in the world means remembering who we are, whose we are, and why we are!
[“Like a Girl” Commercial, 0:00-0:56]
So much of how we live and work in this world depends on how we view ourselves. I share that Proctor & Gamble “Like a Girl” commercial (which aired during this year’s Super Bowl) because it is a perfect example of how our perception of our self changes the way we behave. And the fact of the matter is that the same is true in our lives as Christians.
This morning, we begin a four-week series on the letter to the Ephesians. Like many of the Epistles in the New Testament, the letter to the Ephesians was written to a new community of faith, a young church which was seeking to live into its identity and find its place in the world. As we join together now as minister and congregation and embark on a new journey, I want us to take some time in the coming weeks to study this letter and to hear the words of assurance and instruction for Christ’s church.
Perhaps some of what was useful to the earliest church will also be useful for us. And maybe we can find in this letter some wisdom to help us live more fully into our Christian identity; to be confident in who we are and in our roll as Christ’s disciples.
When I was a youth growing up at First United Methodist in Oak Ridge, I regularly joined my peers on retreats, or mission trips, or choir tours. Before we would embark on these journeys, the Youth Director would often gather us together for a departing prayer, and after closing the prayer, before we would climb into the bus or van, he would say to us, “Remember who you are, whose you are, and why you are.” That was, of course, his nice and more dignified way of telling us to behave ourselves. And to be honest, it was many years of hearing him say that to us before I really realized what he was saying. But when I did finally understand his words, it became something I looked forward to with each departure; a reminder of my value and worth in Christ, and my purpose in serving him.
It is this same sort of declaration that we hear in these opening words from Ephesians this morning. And I don’t know your thoughts on the matter, but for me, it is so comforting and reassuring to hear this reminder of God’s claim on my life through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen again, “Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding.” Quite simply, everything that is bad in us is taken away, and in Christ Jesus we are made new! Just let that soak in for a minute; it’s nothing short of amazing!
Friends, we cannot be effective workers in God’s Kingdom if we do not first have confidence in our status as beloved children of God; as people made new in Christ’s love. So as the writer opens his letter to the young church in Ephesus, he begins with a reminder of God’s gracious claim on every person there, a claim which extends even to us, even now! I think it’s fair to say that from time to time, we all struggle with doubt and shame. We question our self-worth and our ability to fulfill God’s calling upon our lives. And even if that’s not something we deal with individually, perhaps we are concerned about our church—we despair and worry about the church’s future. And this happens because, like those young girls influenced by the world around them, the culture (or you might say, “The Devil”) tells us that we are too weak and insignificant to really make a difference in the world. Despite our knowledge of God’s work and blessings in our lives, it can be difficult to trust in God’s belief in us. So it is, all the more, we need to hear these words to Ephesians this morning, we need to be reminded, and to always remember, that we ARE the blessed, chosen, adopted, and forgiven sons and daughters of God.
But here’s the thing, it’s not only about us. These opening words to the church in Ephesus remind us of that truth as well. Think about it this way. When you were a young child and you stood at the edge of a pond, and there was a rock there, what would you do? You’d throw it in, right? And would that rock just slip under the surface of the water without a trace? Of course not. It would hit the water and create a ripple of waves that would extend out across the pond for many feet and several minutes. Being a disciple and working as the church means not only that we are secure in our identity as the beloved of God, but also that we are engaged in making a difference for Christ in the world. God’s claim in our lives has to mean something, it has to ripple out into the world, touching the lives of others with the same blessing, forgiveness, and grace! God’s blessings should never just hit us and then slip beneath the surface, it should change us, and it changing us, it should touch and change the lives of others with God’s love. We aren’t chosen for our own sake, but for the sake of what God wants to accomplish through us.