|The Epiphany, 2016||January 6, 2016||The Epiphany||Isaiah 60:1-6|
|Second Sunday after Christmas, Year C||January 3, 2016||The Second Sunday after Christmas, Year C||Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2015||December 24, 2015||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20|
|Advent 3, Year C||December 13, 2015||Third Sunday of Advent, Year C||Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18|
|Advent 2, Year C||December 6, 2015||Second Sunday of Advent, Year C||Malachi 3:1-4|
|Advent 1, Year C||November 29, 2015||First Sunday of Advent||Luke 21:25-36, I Thessalonians 3:9-13|
|Christ the King, Year B||November 22, 2015||Christ the King Sunday, Year B||Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37|
|Pentecost 25, Year B||November 15, 2015||Proper 28B||Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:19-25, Mark 13:1-8|
|Pentecost 24, Year B||November 8, 2015||Proper 27, Year B||I Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12:38-44|
|All Saints’ Day||November 1, 2015||All Saints’ Day, Year B||Psalm 137, Psalm 6, Psalm 56, Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44|
|Pentecost 22, Year B||October 25, 2015||Proper 25, Year B||Jeremiah 31:7-9, Mark 10:46-52|
|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 18, 2015||Proper 24, Year B||Isaiah 53:4-12, Mark 10:35-45|
|The Feast of St Francis||October 4, 2015||The Feast of St Francis||Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B||September 27, 2015||Proper 21, Year B||James 5:13-20|
|Pentecost 17, Year B||September 20, 2015||Proper 20, Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37|
Pentecost 7, Year B
Sermon Date:July 12, 2015
Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 7, Year B
Word Cloud -Ephesians 1:3-14
Last week we talked about the perfect storm of events here in the United States in the past few weeks that have created dissension and tension in our nation and in our lives.
Right now, people seem to be divided on just about everything. I’m betting that you could even find people who , if challenged, would get into a shouting match over something as simple as which donuts are better—Dunkin’ Donuts, or Krispy Kremes.
Other people may even be too full of fear to take a stand on anything. Conspiracy theories have abounded this past week. As if the Chinese, the Russians, ISIS and Iran weren’t enough, computer glitches keep happening, and someone keeps stealing all of our personal information for some devious end.
We’ve lost our peace.
But ultimately, God’s grace is what we need if we long for God’s peace. God’s grace is sufficient for us.
Do you ever have trouble with your computer, and finally you just give up and have to start over and reboot it? Sometimes we need to reboot in order to recover God’s peace in our lives.
Today’s passage from the letter to the Ephesians helps us, as the body of Christ, to reboot and to enter into God’s grace.
The letter begins with the writer’s greeting to the people—“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God’s grace makes God’s peace possible.
And then, after the greeting, comes the prayer of praise and thanksgiving that makes up the rest of the chapter, which begins with these words.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…”
Have you ever blessed something?
What exactly does that mean? Many things–
My trusty dictionary tells me that to bless something can mean to consecrate or sanctify, that is, to make something holy by a religious rite, as in blessing the bread and wine as we do each Sunday here at church.
To bless something can mean to request God’s divine favor for something, as in this grace at meals, which you can find in the Prayer Book on page 835—“Bless, O Lord, thy gifts to our use and us to thy service, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”
To bless something can mean to bestow some benefit upon something, in the way that your financial gift is a blessing for someone about to be evicted from his or her trailer.
To bless something can mean to extol as holy or to glorify, as in blessing the name of the Lord.
To bless something or someone can mean to protect or to guard from evil ,as in exclaiming “Bless you!” when someone is in danger.
And blessing something can mean to make the sign of the cross over or upon someone or something.
So the writer of Ephesians begins his prayer like this.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
At the very beginning, God is blessed, which is a very Jewish way of praying.
We have some of our own prayers that borrow from the faith tradition of our Jewish brothers and sisters. For instance, another grace before meals that you can also find on page 835 in the BCP goes like this.
“Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
In their commentary on Ephesians, Verhay and Harvard point out that blessing God was, and still is, “familiar as a form of thanksgiving in the Jewish community, familiar in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the liturgies of the synagogue, and in the prayers of the home” (page 41).
“Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe.”
They go on to say that “this formula of praise could accompany every action of the pious Jew from awakening to sleeping” (page 42).
Now I love this idea—I’m thinking about how revolutionary it would be if I spent my day acknowledging God’s blessedness and sovereignty in the situation at hand.
For instance, “Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you gave me this car to drive so that I can do Your work, and a place that can replace my brakes. Blessed are you, O Lord God, for making the money available to pay for this repair, and blessed are you, O Lord God, for giving me this afternoon of waiting, so that I can get caught up on some things that I wouldn’t get around to if I had my car handy.”
“Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, for giving me a house to clean and the physical ability to do it.”
You get the idea. The beauty of this way of praying is that over time, God becomes not only the God who created the universe and keeps it from descending into utter chaos, but God also becomes our closest companion throughout the day, a companion who is the source of our every blessing, a companion who keeps the chaos in our lives at bay, a companion who is with us as we do the dishes, and a companion who is with us even in the worst and most desperate times in our lives.
With God as our closest companion during our waking and even our sleeping hours, we can catch a glimpse of and maybe even feel for ourselves what it would be like to be holy and blameless before God in love, instead of being caught up in those daily worries and distractions and giving in to those constant temptations to be full of fear or to become divided from one another, temptations that are simply a part of what it means to live in this world.
The writer of Ephesians goes on to thank God for the glorious grace that God bestowed on us through Jesus Christ, because in Jesus we have redemption through his blood, and forgiveness of our trespasses– all because of the riches of God’s grace that God lavishes on us.
And then the writer says that “with all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.”
All things gathered up in Christ, redeemed by grace, filled with peace, full of mercy and rightness with God and one another. What a promise, a promise we hear echoed in one of the prayers for mission in our service of Morning Prayer.
“Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace…” (Prayer for Mission, BCP 101)
For what end?
So that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
When we step into the center of grace, God pours out love and mercy on us, washes us clean and fills us with the Holy Spirit so that we can live in goodness, so full of praise to God that the entire world can see what God has done for us, so that we can be clothed in God’s spirit, and reach out in love to the world.
John Calvin said that “prayer is the chief exercise of faith.”
So in the week ahead, exercise your faith through your own prayers of praise and thanksgiving, remembering that God has already gathered us up into the center of God’s love, and that, in the fullness of time, God plans to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
That promise is a reason to praise God and to give God glory and to live in hope.
So give God the glory by blessing God.
Now let us pray. I’ve adapted this prayer from a prayer for the evening in The Book of Common Prayer.
“Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe. Be our companion through the long day, be our companion as the shadows lengthen and the evening comes; be our companion as the busy world is hushed. Be our companion as the fever of life is over, and our work is finally finished. In your mercy Lord, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and the peace that only You can give at the last.”
The Book of Common Prayer , Grace at Meals, Page 835, Prayer for Mission, Page 101, and In the Evening, Page 833.
Verhay, Allen, and Howard, Joseph S. Ephesians. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 2001.