Tradition holds that Paul wrote Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome. His experience as a prisoner underscores the contrast between bondage and freedom found throughout his teachings. It also establishes a contrast between isolation and community, between individual believers and the church. Here in Ephesians, Paul reminds his Gentile Christian audience that they are not only heirs to God’s promises but “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise.”
We often focus on the shortcomings of the church. How imperfect and all too human it appears! Many of us know people who have been terribly wounded by a church experience, which may have soured them on the Christian faith altogether. Yet this very fragile institution, Paul insists, retains cosmic importance. The church is the culmination of history and the fulfillment of creation, he writes, because it is in and through the church that God’s plan, hidden for ages, can now be revealed. The church imparts the wisdom of God’s creation. The church is the final stage of God’s “eternal purpose” in Christ.
For all its imperfections and faults, the church of Jesus Christ remains holy and blessed as God’s chosen vessel and best strategy for a world brimming with hostility and distrust. The church’s task is to identify God’s wisdom “in all its rich variety” and make it known. Yet we are unaccustomed to thinking of the church as being in the “wisdom business.” How can local churches be more explicit and more diligent in seeking God’s wisdom? And how can they confront the principalities and powers of our day with God’s wisdom in all its rich variety?
O God, source of all wisdom, help your church seek knowledge, that it may share your truth with the world. Amen.
The beginning of the New Year reminds us of God’s love for all peoples through the celebration of Epiphany. Isaiah uses imagery of a wedding and a garden to declare that the beauty arising from Israel will go to all nations. The psalmist praises the Lord on behalf of everything and everyone on the earth, including men and women from all peoples. Paul proclaims that Christ fulfills the expectations of Israel; he is the open door for all to become children of God. In Luke, Simeon and Anna speak prophetically over the infant Jesus in the Temple, declaring him the light to the Gentiles. God’s promises made in love are fulfilled in love.
• Read Isaiah 61:10–62:3. How are you daily becoming Zion, a person of justice?
• Read Psalm 148. How does your connection to God connect you to creation?
• Read Galatians 4:4-7. How confident are you that God listens to your prayer?
• Read Luke 2:22-40. When have you experienced sacrifice as gain rather than loss?
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