Monday Mull (Ephesians 2:11-22)

So, I was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. It’s home to the most divisive team in the National League, the Saint Louis Cardinals. (The most hated team in the NL is still the Cubs; the most divisive team in baseball is the Yankees, obviously.) It is the birthplace of toasted ravioli, the St. Paul sandwich (look it up if you dare), and provel cheese, which if you’ve never had it, you should avoid at all costs. (What if we made cheese… from rubber…)

And, most important to this post’s purposes, Saint Louis is home to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Gateway Arch National Park.

Honorably borrowed, and cited, from The Riverfront Times, another Saint Louis institution.

Growing up in Saint Louis, you know things about the Arch without remembering how or when they entered one’s memory. The middle section of the Arch is a keystone, and because the Arch is a catenary curve, like this–

Thank you, Wikipedia

–the Arch can stand of its own accord. It’s a long-time architectural feat; it is neither magical nor mundane. But it is the center piece of the Arch, the keystone, that holds it all together.

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Christ is described as the cornerstone of the Church. And I get that–cornerstones are laid first; cornerstones are the marker by which every other stone, brick, and object is placed in the construction of a building. But in the text, there’s this drawing together of us and them, of those far away and those who are near. Of those we already love, and those we may struggle to as we become more like Christ. And while sure, we can build up and out, I prefer to think we are linked–unable to stand on our own, without Christ as keystone-as-cornerstone, as best as a keystone can be a corner, since catenary curves don’t have… corners…

Here’s to mixing metaphors mathematically!

Monday Mull: Ephesians 1

Pleroma is the word, I think, in Greek.

Last week, I posted about the entirety of Ephesians; that, coming off a week’s recharge and reset, I was scrapping my initial sermon series for the next three months and preaching just Ephesians through September, and then taking another week off.

And since then, I’ve read introductions from four different scholars, and started building a notebook on Ephesians. If I had more time, I’d thoroughly study Colossians and then Ephesians, but I can’t, I didn’t–I was in fact typing notes to hand-write later, which also seems dumb in hindsight. Writing things out helps me learn, and–

I’m digressing. Pleroma is the word, I think, in Greek, meaning “fullness,” as in what fills something, or makes something complete. The jelly in a donut. The air in a balloon. The gas in a tank. In chapter one of Ephesians, not only is Christ filling the universe, but the church is the body of Christ so using that transitive property, the Church is filling the universe.

What a terrible job we’re doing. We should be ashamed. What is the church filling the universe with? I can’t even go further today–this world is very, very, very broken, and I worry it is past the point of no return.

We’re about to reopen schools as COVID cases skyrocket. Teachers can’t strike in many states, or they face loss of license, or jail time, or a variety of consequences. So we are sending them in to viral hotspots, to infect and be infected–and once again, we put our children in harm’s way and why hasn’t the church just folded because we stopped bearing witness to justice a long time ago. Sandy Hook should have prompted something, right?

I’m sorry, Universe, we’re more like a tumor than fuel right now.

The Rest is Commentary: “Paul’s” “Letter” to “the Ephesians” (Ephesians 1:1-2)

A Letter (which is really more of a circular) (or maybe, a sermon manuscript). (It doesn’t address direct community problems–it’s more a declaration of devotion, a celebration of divine action).

of the Apostle Paul (which is more in the style of the Apostle Paul, written in his name by a devoted follower, or friendly student, or big fan). (Maybe even first Pauline scholar, in order to introduce Paul’s theology and praxis to the third generation of the church.) (I mean, maybe, it is by the Apostle Paul but his style totally changed as did his theology and he wrote it right before he died, but probably not). (Like, it’s disputable, debatable, unprovable.)

to the Ephesians (but only because on one early manuscript someone wrote in “to the church in Ephesus); (it messes up the grammar and people have written pages about Saints and Faithful without a physical place to break up the phrase). (Also, Marcion the heretic thought the letter was to the Laodiceans); (other early church leaders were like, “yeah, okay, ‘Ephesians,’ right.”)

Monday Mull: Ephesians

I know, it’s the Acropolis, and that’s in Athens, not Ephesus.

One of my favorite things to do in ministry is to plan, build and then execute sermon series. Another is to work ahead, and have a working, but flexible, plan at least six months out.

I need the flexibility. COVID, having never left, is back here in Wichita. And while I’d like to do a series based on Faithful Presence: Seven Disciples That Shape the Church for Mission, by David Fitch (which is a great read, so good, in fact, that I’ll link to it), we are probably going to be on digital duty for a while yet, until people start acting the least bit interdependent for one another.

So I’ve punted the Faithful Presence series, and the secondary stewardship series I had ready for September. I’m now working* on an outline to preach Ephesians the next thirteen weeks.

Ephesians, along with Colossians and 2 Thessalonians, are disputed letters of Paul. If they were written by the authentic Paul, it was late in his ministry–grammar is completely different from earlier, authenticated writing, and his theology… uh, evolved? Shifted? I’ve realized I have avoided these three letters just on the matter of disputation; I’d rather get really deep into Ephesians, and see what happens.

So there we go. That’s the mull–go read Ephesians, and tell me what you think. I’m going to do the same.

*I’m on vacation through tomorrow, which–awesome! And I’ll begin working in earnest, probably on Friday and Saturday, too, to get this series ready, planned and prepped.