The Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
New Revised Standard Version
When I was a junior in High school I was sitting in worship listening to the sermon but not really listening.
I was thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
It may be… I cannot recall now, that something in the sermon caused me to be having these thoughts.
So I was having these thoughts—mainly about being a high school history teacher.
But then it happened.
Another possible life choice came into my thought process in the form of a question.
What about being a pastor?
When that question came into my consciousness—-it scared me to the core as nothing had scared me before in my short span of 16 years on the planet…except perhaps my adolescent fear of committing some sort of fashion faux pas. But— as it turns out—-ALL OF US in 1972 were committing fashion faux pas!
This thought of being a pastor came from out of nowhere it seemed—–it was a shocking idea and I quickly dismissed it as too difficult and frightening.
Long story short…six years later I was headed to seminary.
Recently a friend was telling me a remarkable story about a time she, to her astonishment, picked up a man standing on the shoulder of Interstate 35 headed south somewhere between Des Moines and Kansas City. Actually she didn’t pick him up right away. She drove past him and kept driving for an hour but she could not stop thinking about that man. A prayerful conversation with God ensued about that figure standing on the shoulder of I 35. That prayerful conversation compelled her to turn around and drive back to pick him up.
It had been now two hours since she had first spotted him. Had not anyone else seen him? Maybe, she thought, maybe it was meant for her to REALLY see him.
She offered him the front seat. He quietly expressed his preference for the back.
She asked, “Was there a specific destination he had in mind? Kansas City was fine. Not a lot of conversation on the road until they arrived in Kansas City.
She asked him if he wanted to be dropped at a shelter. “Do they have rules there?” he asked. “Yes I think they do.” “Then I’d rather not.”
She happened to have gift cards in her car from Applebees and from Walmart. She offered them both to him. He declined the restaurant option but accepted the WalMart option and she, as I recall, took him to a Walmart where they parted ways. The entire experience, as she told it to me, was graced by something sacred going on with her and in her, something Holy or, let’s call it God. God, she had realized, put that man on the side of the road or at least CAUSED HER to notice and wonder in her heart…is there a call from God to me here? She never mentioned to me the story of the Good Samaritan but I am sure she had heard it many times. What she did mention was that by the time she dropped him off at WalMart—-she was VERY grateful she had picked him up—–the stranger had turned out to be an agent of God’s working in her heart in a very good way—as if she had experienced a kind of visitation.
Mysteries abound don’t they?
These voices, these questions, these crazy notions, these surprising thoughts that come to us
Like stars suddenly appearing in the night sky.
Should we be frightened? Or should we, like the Magi of the Nativity story, follow and investigate?
Maybe we do both.
And so, with trepidation, we follow and investigate.
With trepidation we ponder. We pray. We give it time. We stay open.
And sometimes we realize that indeed——-God is in this somehow
With a call to us. With a mission. With a lesson to learn. With an insight to expand our world view or our faith.
Our friend the irrepressible Paul, in our reading today, is celebrating and singing with all the breath in his lungs that he has experienced such a mystery……and as it turns out it’s one of the most world changing insights into God’s purposes ever revealed——-
“The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
This mystery, now revealed to Paul, compels him to envision the Jesus movement as much more than a movement within Judaism. What Paul has come to see is that in Christ God has opened God’s house to all of humanity.
“The mystery was made known to me by revelation/grace that was given me by the working of his power…”
In other words…he is saying that this was not HIS idea.
And that’s what we mean by revelation.
It’s something new and surprising—–something we could not have conceived in our own thought process.
A Divine Visitation.
In ways historic and world changing and in ways subtle and very personal, by revelation we have come to be here today.
And in ways yet to be REVEALED, God’s purposes for us, meaningful and life giving, are unfolding.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for us?
Seriously—-there are ways to enhance our receptivity to revelation.
Listening to sermons is one—–lucky you
There are MANY other ways to enhance our receptivity
The question is—–dare you?
All too often we bemoan our imperfections rather than embrace them as part of the process in which we are brought to God. Cherished emptiness gives God space in which to work. We are pure capacity for God. Let us not, then, take our littleness lightly. It is a wonderful grace. It is a gift to receive. At the same time, let us not get trapped in the confines of our littleness, but keep pushing on to claim our greatness. Remind yourself often, “I am pure capacity for God; I can be more.”
Macrina Wiederkehr via Academy for Spiritual Formation
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