Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
TEXT: Ephesians 1:3-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us … (Ephesians 1:3-6, NRSV)
I recall a comic strip from not that long ago which had a mother bringing her young daughter to church—which evidently was not something they did regularly. Afterward, as they were leaving, the little girl asked her mother, “What does ‘ah-lay-loo-ya’ mean?” And the mother said, “It’s Latin for ‘yippee!’”
Well, “alleluia” is the Latin form of the Hebrew “hallelujah,” which means “Praise the Lord!” So really, that mother wasn’t so far off the mark. “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” These are expressions of praise and joy—and in common parlance, they are pretty much interchangeable with “Yippee!” or “Yahoo!” or even “Wow!”
Wow! God is wonderful! The opening passage of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is about saying exactly that. It’s one great big “Wow!” Paul describes the big picture of God’s plan for the world, and then he exclaims, “Wow!”
Sometimes we lose the “wow factor” in our response to the gospel. Maybe that’s because we’re so used to it. If we’ve been part of God’s people for a while, the message becomes so familiar to us that we begin to take it for granted. Maybe we forget how extraordinary it is.
Or perhaps we have not heard the message stated with the kind of enthusiasm—and the kind of clarity—it deserves. So let me try to expand a bit on the words of Paul—and, hopefully, get that wow factor back in.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Wow! Blessed be the name of God! All praise and honour to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has gathered up all the spiritual blessings of heaven—everything that you might have imagined would be kept for only the holiest of saints—God has bundled them all up together and given them to us in our union with Christ.
This was not a new idea on God’s part, even though we knew nothing about it. It was God’s plan since before he laid the foundations of the world. Even before time began, God had us in mind. Before the first dinosaur left its footprints in the mud, God was looking forward to our arrival.
God knew what we would need, and he was getting it ready, so that—from the day of our birth—we would be surrounded by his divine love. Only love can truly set us free to be the people we are capable of becoming, and there is no love so life-giving as God’s love. God wanted to immerse us so completely in his love that it would soak into the very pores of our skin. God wanted to plant the seed of his love in our hearts so that it could germinate there, and grow there, and then burst forth into our lives and bloom, and bear fruit for him in our lives. Imagine that—our lives considered good enough for God, who is holy and perfect!
Think about it! Billions of years before our grandparents were born, God set the wheels in motion for us to be adopted as his own children. And he planned to do it through Jesus Christ, his beloved Son, his Word—his Love—made flesh.
Why? Well, maybe because God knew that we would understand him better if he came to us with a human face. Maybe God knew that we would only be able to recognize just how over-the-top this love is if we saw it in a person—in a flesh-and-blood human being that we could relate to. And it worked, didn’t it? Because the divine love that we’ve seen in Jesus far surpasses any other love we’ve ever known. Christ’s love for us was limitless. His desire to reconcile us with God was unstoppable. That’s why he paid the ultimate price on our behalf, shedding his own blood in order to reclaim us for God’s family. And he did all of that even though—at first—we refused his offer.
We turned our backs on God so often and so completely that Jesus could easily have given up on us. He could have said, “Well, I tried to get through to them but they were too stubborn to listen.” No one would have blamed him if he’d washed his hands of us and walked away. But he didn’t. His love was so extravagant—and his generosity was so utterly reckless—that he just forgave us for everything! He forgave us, and he kept right on going, putting his life on the line to save us from the consequences of our own bad behaviour. To him, even death by torture was a price worth paying to make sure we would not miss out on God’s love. Yes, “in him we have redemption through his blood, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7-8).
God can see and understand perfectly what we could never get our heads around—but he decided to let us in on it, to give us a window into the mystery of his divine plan. God just seems to love doing things like that. It must be one of those things that you can’t get any real pleasure out of if you can’t tell anyone. So God decided to make it plain to all of us by giving us a preview in Christ. If we look at Jesus, and consider who he is and what he is about, we actually begin to see God’s whole plan for the entire universe.
God in Christ—God in everything; that’s the plan. This is how it will unfold when the time is right: God will bring all things perfectly together in Christ. The reconciliation of everything—from the depths of the earth to the farthest reaches of heaven—is all accomplished in and through Jesus Christ. And we’re not talking here about a token reconciliation—about a few lame platitudes written down and never really put into practice. No. We’re talking about the birth of something totally new—a great cosmic communion of boundless love. We’re talking about the kind of love we see so wonderfully expressed in Jesus himself.
Imagine that love filling every corner of the universe. Imagine everything and everyone being consumed by love for everything and everyone else. Well, that’s the plan; and God has given us a glimpse of it already. In Christ Jesus, we see it beginning to take shape. And you know the best thing about this plan? It’s just as much about you and me—about each and every individual—as it is about the universe as a whole.
“In Christ we have obtained an inheritance …” (Eph. 1:11a). In Christ, we are identified as God’s beneficiaries, and our future is secured. If God had gone to a lawyer and drawn up a will, it would have your name on it—yours, and mine. “To these ones, I leave everything I have to give.”
God’s plans always work out, and right from the beginning we have been a part of those plans. It makes no difference whether you were one of the first people to follow Jesus, or whether you just decided to do it 10 minutes ago. It’s the same for us in the 21st century as it was for those in the first century. The message of God’s rescue mission reached us, and once we accepted the offer and put our trust in Christ, we became part of him—just like those first 12 disciples. We were “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13b).
Our future is signed and sealed, and you can trust that it will be delivered. God never puts his name to anything without following through on the whole deal. Your life in the Spirit right now is a pretty good down payment—but there is far, far more to come. Everything planned for God’s people will be yours—a life overflowing with the glory and splendour of God. All joy, all peace, all love, all wonder, every blessing of heaven bundled together and wrapped in the glory of God will be yours for all eternity.
Wow! Hallelujah! Yippee! Blessed be God, for ever and ever. Amen.