A Rich Inheritance
Sermon based on Ephesians 1:15-23
by Rev. Randy Quinn
comes as no surprise to you, but I donít speak Greek. I donít read it, either.
Since the New Testament was written in Greek, most of us rely upon translators
to tell us what Paul writes in his letter to the church in Ephesus.
Thatís part of why I like to use a variety of translations when Iím studying a
text Ė and why I take the time to read what scholars have to say before writing
One of the things I was
surprisedto learn in my studies this weekwas that our text today Ė the entire
passage Ė is one long sentence in Greek.I tried reading it in a couple of
different translations; and there was not one I found where I could read it
aloud with only one breath.
I know some people who take
multiple breaths in the same sentence because the sentence is so long; but
generally itís because they are excited about something and donít know when to
put an exclamation point on it and stop talking.
Paul was apparently so exuberant
that he didnít know when to stop talking!
He is excited about what God has
done Ė and is doing Ė in Ephesus; and he is excited about what the church is
doing in response. That church has become for him an example of what he has
been preaching throughout the Roman Empire Ė it serves as a model of the church
as the Body of Christ, through which Jesus is seen at work.
Since we recently moved our
Christmas letters last year included our new address for more of our friends
than we might normally mail them to. I donít know if the letter we wrote fully
captures it, but there was an excitement in our letter that reflected our joy
and delight about living in Hiawatha. As Iíve said to you before, we are really
happy to be here. It may not be the same kind of excitement Paul is feeling as
he writes, but there are some similarities. When we came here, for instance, we
could see immediately that Christ is at work through this congregation (Eph.
1:15). There is also a remarkable sense of unity among the church members in
terms of purpose and mission.
But there is more to Paulís
exuberance than that. I know because of the format of this letter. It doesnít
follow the standard format of letters in that era Ė unlike most of the other
Our letters typically start with
the date and a greeting; ending with a signature line. Even our Christmas
letters follow a fairly standard format of a greeting, followed by a recounting
of the yearís events, followed up with a summary. (You watch this year, I
suspect more than 90% of your Christmas letters will follow that same pattern.)
Paulís letterstypically follow a
different pattern, but they are consistent with the format of his era. They
begin with a statement of who it is from, who it is to, and then a prayer of
blessing for the recipient(s). Then follows the main body of the letter
followed with a closing greeting and benediction. In writing Ephesians,
however, Paul takes a ďdetourĒ at the very beginning of the letter. He gives an
extended blessing to God between the introductory greetings and the prayer (Eph.
If you read through it, you can
almost hear the excitement in Paulís voice. There is awe and mystery
interspersed with jubilation as he recites the goodness of God and the wonder of
grace (Eph. 1:3, 7-8). From there, he turns his attention to the church. And
in response to what he knows about God he gives thanks for the church.
First he looks upward to the God
of heaven and celebrates Godís love.
Then he looks outward to the
church as it expresses Godís love.
No matter which way he looks, he
sees signs of grace. And that grace fills him with joy, profound joy. He canít
help himself. He gets carried away with it. He launches into this one long
sentence celebrating and praying that Godís wisdom and power and love and grace
will continue to blossom and bear fruit in the church.
Maybe itís like the experience of
falling in love. Many of us can remember what that was like. (Some of us are
still in love and know what itís like.)
But I think part of Paulís
response is even bigger and better than that.
Itís more like the joy our family
had three years ago when our grandson, Trace, came home from the hospital after
spending the first four months of his life there. (Trace only weighed 1 pound,
2 ounces at birth Ė and his life was very fragile throughout that early part of
Paulís joy may also be like the
joy we have experienced more recently, as recently as this past week, in fact.
Iím thinking about the recent
story of answered prayer in our own church family, the story of Claire.
Some of you know the nitty-gritty details; some are only marginally aware of
what has been happening in her life. Let me review her story briefly.
Claire celebrated her first
birthday last month. The next day she was found to be anemic. By the end of
the week, she was diagnosed with one of those rare and frightening diseases with
a long name Ė so long that even medical people refer to it by the initials,
There is no treatment for the
disease, although the primary symptoms can be mitigated.
In simplified form, Claireís blood
producing cells quit producing blood causing her anemia and compromising her
immune system. The only treatment available is the temporary fix of providing
new blood for her via transfusions. (The family is now even more interested in
encouraging people to donate blood, by the way.)
Apparently a viral infection that
went unnoticed by her family caused her bone marrow to ďshut downĒ for a while;
and for the next several weeks, the only thing her family could do was wait with
patience and hope that her body would begin to make the blood cells essential
for life to continue. Their only recourse was to continue to offer blood by
transfusion Ė and to lift her up in prayer.
In the process, they learned the
truth that her life was in Godís hands. (Thatís true for all of us really, but
we tend to forget that.)
The in-between time was filled
with anxiety, as we all learned to rely upon Godís grace, to trust in Godís
power, and to surround ourselves with Godís all-encompassing love.
Last week there were hoots and
hollers as we all received the exciting news that Claireís blood counts were
going up rather than down!
Thatís the kind of joy Paul had in
mind when he began to pray for the church in Ephesus. Itís a prayer of
celebration;itís also a prayer that the lessons learned may continue to
influence our lives and our behavior.
As Claireís mother, Jodi,
reflected on this prayer of Paul, she observed that indeed she feels this
experience has allowed her to gain wisdom so that she Ė and we Ė may know Christ
better. And there is no doubt that her heart has been enlightened because she
had learned the essence of hope.
That is not to say that the past
few weeks have not been filled with doubts and worries and anxieties. But there
is a tremendous joy in the final outcome Ė a joy that we can remember whenever
we face anxieties or doubts or fears in the future.
read for you again what Paul said:
ďI 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, according to the working
of his great power.God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from
the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,far above all
rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to comeĒ
as we baptize a different little girl, we are claiming that prayer for her as
well as for us. Paulís words could easily become ours as we offer our prayers
for Kamryn and her family Ė prayers thatshe and her family will have the eyes of
their hearts enlightened, to know the immeasurable greatness of Godís power in
itís also important to remember what Jodi has learned. In her words, ďyou have
to believe that there is something bigger than yourself and your family that is
is expressing exuberance because the church haslearned those lessons Ė and he
offers a prayer for us that we may continue to remember themas we continue to
reveal Christ to the world.
has a plan and we can trust Godís guidance to bring us joy and hope.
that is a reason to celebrate.
be to God.