Monday Mull – Ephesians 3:1-13

So full and fair disclosure: I’m teaching a week behind what I’m preaching which is often written a week in advance. That is, I taught Ephesians 2:1-10 this morning, then preached (praught?) Ephesians 2:11-22, but I’ve been writing on Ephesians 3:1-13 this last week (and hope to finish it today).

Anyhow, with all these i’s dotted and crossed, let’s talk about how Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which was none of the three, has a section in which the author pulls big Pauline identity markers to… well, to do what?

Paul’s a prisoner for/of Jesus Christ for the sake of the Gentiles. Paul is divinely commissioned, had the mystery revealed by revelation, and joins the lineage of prophets and apostles, “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 heavenlies.” So this writer is putting a lot of Paul forward to boost up the work of the Church?

I get it, I do–Ephesians is considered the most ecclesial writing in the New Testament–one could read earlier chapters of Ephesians and legitimately ask if the author meant the church was to fill up the universe! And Paul’s ministry… excuse me, “Paul’s” mission is to remind the Church they’re good enough. That it’s not a mistake, or an accident, or a one-off that Christ is working through them.

And I like that. We suffer, but it is for glory.

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

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.

Monday Mull: Genesis 16:1-16

It is very hard to find attributable art of Hagar and Ishmael in which they are not, somehow, very Caucasian despite Egyptian and Semitic heritage. (Jean-Charles Cazin, Agar et Ismael; from Wikimedia Commons.)

Through July 5, I’m preaching on some of the names of God found in Scripture, and what we are saying when we talk about God, both in the general sense–how can we contain the essence of the Creator of the Universe in our ridiculous grunts and inflection–and in the specific.

Hagar is a slave to Sarai, the wife of Abram–Sarai will become Sarah; Abram will become Abraham; they are one thousand years old, or so, combined, and there’s fertility issues despite God’s promise to Abram and Sarai that they will be the progenitors of many nations.

And Hagar is given to Abram by Sarai–there is not any word of consent in the text–and Abram impregnates her–again we miss consent in this text–and then Sarai gets mad because she believes Hagar is getting uppity. And Sarai complains to Abram, and Abram tells her to do what she will, and Sarai “dealt harshly with her,” and Hagar bolted to the wilderness.

I guess I don’t have to write out so much in the Monday Mulls, but I’ve done only one other, so there aren’t really a lot of rules, are there?

In the wilderness, a messenger of the Lord sees her, calls her by name and asks her where she has come from, and where she is going–he does not tell her these things. And she’s sent back, promised to begin a line of multitudes that cannot be counted, and she names God.

She is the only person in the Hebrew Scriptures to name God–one could argue in the whole Bible depending on one’s Christology–and she calls him, “El-Roi,” the God who sees. God sees Hagar, not the slave, not the womb, not the person trod for the promise sought. God sees.