Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission Lectionary Reflection All Years, Second Sunday After Christmas, New Testament Lesson

Ephesians 1: 3-6, 15-19a

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.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.)

Reflection on Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a: by the Rev John Gibbs

What might be the purpose of this series of lectionary comments from the MEESC? On one hand, it would be counterproductive to preach about the environment every Sunday. MEESC does not expect that to be done. On the other hand, given Western theology's centuries-long neglect of the created environment, it would be the point of wisdom to perceive and acknowledge the presence of the world within the message of a multitude of biblical texts. Over time we could then present a counter-balance to that "nature-neglect."

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a is a case in point. The theme of this text is not the creation, but the purpose of God through Christ in the Church. But the scope of that purpose is much more inclusive than the Church, for God's electing purpose began "before the foundation of the world" (1:4) as "a plan for the fullness of time" (1:10), and that purpose does not conclude until it "gathers up all things in him [i.e., in "the Beloved" who is Jesus Christ (1:5-6)], things in heaven and things on earth."

In an age of anxiety when "the center does not hold," this cosmic view of redemption speaks most to the point of our need. We need to know that our best efforts do not merely rearrange chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The "grace and peace" (1:2) that came to Christians at Ephesus, and that has come to your congregation and mine, have their source back before the world began. They come from beyond this world, and for that reason the world cannot take them away.

Redemption and forgiveness are not merely an individual matter, for they come from the interconnecting of all things under God's purpose. The Christian's life is not lived in a vacuum, but within the Church and beyond that within the midst of all things. It matters to the cosmos whether God's People proceed with "faith" and "love"(1:15) and "hope" (1:18).

Whoever wrote this letter (probably not the Apostle Paul) starts the letter with the same cosmic context that Paul points to in Romans 8:19-39. Said Paul: nature and "the children of God" are bound together in groaning, eager longing, and expectation of redemption. Said the author of Ephesians: the "spiritual blessings" (1:3) that are given to "God's own people" (1:14) serve God's purpose for "all things" (1:10, 22). Indeed, our capacity to "hope" depends on our grasping the cosmic scope of God=92s work, namely: "the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe" (1:19), a power that "fills all in all" (1:23).

When our liturgy takes us on this second Sunday after Christmas beyond the cradle of incarnation, it quickly moves to the outer edges of time and space where "a plan for the fullness of time" is unfolding. Our worship is on behalf of all God's creation, and our hope is placed in the One who is sovereign at the cosmic and not only the personal level.

The Rev. John Gibbs, a retired theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 1998. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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