A Great, Big, Huge,
Positive Affirmation About Our World
a sermon based on Ephesians 1:3-14
by Rev. Thomas Hall
One of the great positive statements of
Christian literature comes from the book of Ephesians. This book contains no conundrum, no
puzzle to be solved. Youll find no controversy, no squabbles, no deep questions to
which it responds. Paul the Apostle-or a later disciple who wanted to sum up the teachings
of Paul-wrote this letter as a way to offer a thumbnail sketch of a life times worth
of Christian teaching. Paul could have written this during a stint in the local Caesarean
jail; makes sense. He would have had plenty of time to think about Christian faith. But no
matter where or whom put the final touches on this letter, the words of Ephesians are
magnificent. They are the result of mature and well-thought out statements about the
In the Greek text, our entire passage is one long sentence that meanders through
participial phrases, parentheses, and semicolons. But look at what Paul says in that one
sentence! He thanks God in a lyrical outburst of praise for all that God has done for us
in Jesus Christ. We dont even have time to stop for a second to catch our breaths.
He floods us with a deluge of affirmations which are our affirmations.
First, we are blessed! Christmas has come early for Christians! Yet not the same kind
of presents that were used to getting. No wild silk ties or recliner chairs or Aunt
Marthas "footprints" couch covering. These "spiritual blessings"
have to do with the quality of life and relationships.
Secondly, we are chosen! My first reaction to being chosen was to recall those
sweltering summer days in Fairmont, Minnesota when we picked teams for sandlot baseball-we
were picked on how good we were. I usually got stuck out in left field and batted last.
But God chooses quite differently. Remember how God chose his team? His team was called
the Israelites. Of them God said,
"It was not because you were more numerous
than any other people . . . for you were the
fewest of all peoples. And it was not because
of your righteousness; for you are a
God said that the team was chosen even though they were stubborn and puny! So God takes
the initiative to claim our lives for Gods purposes. But I suspect its not
because of our shining qualities either. When God chooses humanity, God has a special
purpose in mind, a special task or mission for us to do. So God solicits our help and then
through us chooses to call others to join the team. God has chosen Christians to be a
special kind of people, morally pure and covered with his love.
Third, we are adopted! When I act in a way that my daughter interprets as strange, she
tells her friends, "Im adopted." God, however, adopts us as family
members. Commentators suggest the God-adopting-us blessing as being another example of God
taking the initiative in human beings. Adoption requires someone more powerful deciding to
bring someone powerless into a relationship-in the hope that a growing, healthy, family
relationship will result. Paul says that is something about what God is up to in our
Fourth, we are forgiven! Sometimes the three most important words we need to hear in a
worship service are, "You are forgiven." In Christ, God has set us free from the
enslaving power of evil-thats what we act out in our Sunday services across the
globe. We re-dramatize episodes of Gods liberation of our lives. Thats what we
do at the Table this morning: we remember, we re-enact the part of the story where God
liberates us from sin in all its evil forms. "We may not be perfect," Paul could
have said, "but we are forgiven."
Fifth, we have an inheritance! Not only are we adopted, but were given a family
inheritance ahead of time! There are forty million bumper stickers out there on our
highways proudly adorning Lamborghinis, motor homes, and Harleys: "Im enjoying
my kids inheritance now!" So are we, says Paul.
Sixth, we are marked people! Etched deep within our psyche, we carry the seal of the
Holy Spirit; this mark ensures us that were Gods special possession. God too,
carries a mark that recalls our unique relationship with God: "I have written your
name on the palms of my hands . . . you are mine." The scars in the hands of another
recalls the same message to us: "you are mine."
But Paul hasnt quite finished yet. While our minds approach overload with
affirmation stacked on affirmation, the writer closes with one final, gigantic
affirmation. The statement sums up the entire book of Ephesians. It is the greatest thing
that God has done for Christians. Hear this affirmation read in free translation:
God set it all out before us in Christ,
a long-range plan in which everything would be
brought together and summed up in him,
everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. 
What a mouthful! What an affirmation!
Paul, a bow-legged, spindly little guy arches his toes and calves to peer out of his
prison cell window. From that vantage point, he sees a tragically divided and disordered
world. He beholds a daily scenario: a slave owner kicks another human being as if she were
an empty beer can; Paul is aware of the age old cycle of violence that exists between men
and women-a relationship in which one becomes the abused and the other the abuser; a cycle
that continues for years behind closed doors. He sees a serious rift between human beings
and their environment; he sees fellow human beings killing each other on battlefields, and
beyond that he envisions another diabolical warfare extending to the supernatural realm of
spirits and demons. But in the furthermost horizon he witnesses the greatest tragedy of
all-a great gulf that divides men and women from God. And he knows that the gulf must be
bridged before any other divisions can be healed.
Thats what makes Ephesians so appropriate to us as we enter a very uncertain and
frightening millennium. Division is the single greatest fact we have to deal with. And it
runs deep. Like Paul, we can look our from our stained glass windows-or look in through
them-and see the walls that separate us from each other. We see glaring gaps between
parents and children, between African American and Caucasian, between Palestinian Arabs
and Palestinian Jews, between laborer and corporation owners. We have a growing rift
between us and our natural environment, and a division in our inner life that has split us
apart like fissioned atoms. In economics, politics, in our society, among our races, in
our environment, and in the human soul, we live in a totally divided and fractured world.
Yet to this very totally divided and fractured world-in the first and twenty-first
century-Paul addresses his great affirmation about Gods ultimate purpose to unite
all things in Christ. Paul says that disunity is not inherent in the scheme of things. God
created a universe; we created a poly-verse. But God is not satisfied to leave things that
way. The gospel tells about Gods intention to reverse the process, to restore the
original unity of creation; and we have been tapped on the shoulder to help. But can we
actually believe that this Jewish carpenter, this teacher of Galilee is somehow the goal
of all history, the Agent of all this healing? Can we see Jesus as the cohesive power that
will heal all our divisions and unite the whole creation in its obedience too God? Can we
believe Pauls gigantic affirmation?
Suppose we do believe it? Suppose we take the apostles word that God, who
presides over this divided world is working to heal its divisions and unite all things in
Christ? At the very least well appreciate what the book of Ephesians is about and
why this letter is so upbeat and positive. Well discover the sheer joy of looking at
life from Gods perspective and not just from our small windows and silos. Ephesians
dares to direct us to what God is up to, what God has done, is doing, and what God intends
to do. And well discover that over against the biggest single fact in our
world-disunity between human begins, environment, and between God-Ephesians sets the great
fact that in Jesus Christ, God has revealed an eternal purpose to bring unity out of
disunity, order out of chaos, harmony out of disharmony, and peace out of strife. This is
Pauls great affirmation. And this is our great affirmation. So stay tuned! Amen.
 Eugene Petersons version "The Message."