Friday, March 09, 2018

Lent 4B

Ephesians 2:1-10

1You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved– 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

We're still in the slowed down forty days and forty nights of Lent that emphasizes repentance, walking with Jesus to the cross and to Easter, as we spring clean every aspect of our lives. Decluttering! Lent is an old word for the season of spring; the music tempo lento means slow. The fourth Sunday in Lent takes a short break from the overall penitential feeling as the liturgical colors change from purple to rose or a deep pink. Sundays in Lent all have designations based on the traditional introits or entrance prayers of the liturgy; Lent 4 is Laetare or "rejoice," from Rejoice, O Jerusalem."

On Lent 1 we considered God's covenant with Noah; for Lent 2, God's covenant with Abram/Abraham. Last week on Lent 3, we reflected on the Ten Commandments or Sinai Covenant God gave us through Moses.

The second reading for today is from the epistle to the Church at Ephesus. Despite the header that denotes the Apostle Paul as author, he almost definitely didn't write Ephesians. Back in those days, attributing your writing to a teacher or friend or someone else you admired was commonplace and not considered wrong in the least; in fact, it complimented the person you designated as author. Although the theology of Ephesians generally piggybacks on Paul's undisputed letters, some of the vocabulary and sentence structure is quite un-Pauline. However, in alignment with the epistles to the churches at Rome, Philippi, Galatia, etc. the insistence on our already being redeemed by God's grace at no cost to us makes Ephesians very Pauline and extremely Reformation central.

In the wake of considering specific biblical covenants on Lent 1, 2, and 3, today's Ephesians passage logically develops from God freely coming together in grace-filled covenant or agreement with humanity and with all creation.

I hadn't done any serious research on the Ephesus situation, mentioned I only knew the city was a commercial crossroads (like literally every prominent city then and now) and had a temple to the goddess Diana; Barbara filled in by telling us Diana was the main deity out of thousands! We went online and discovered Ephesus is part of present-day Turkey.

The Greek text starts out by acknowledging we were dead. Throughout this selection, "dead" is nekros, where we get words like necrology, necromancer, necrologist. All the explanations related to "in which you once lived" "once lived among them" aren't zoë or life (the name Zoë means life); they're peripatetic, going about our daily walk, our routine, our generic lifestyles. However, in 2:5 in a word that contains the zoë / life root, God makes us alive, quickens us (you may know the version of the Apostles Creed that talks about "the quick and the dead" rather than "the living and the dead"?); in 2:6 God resurrects us and seats us together with Jesus Christ.

In this entire passage from Ephesians, all the words about God's activity are grace and gift. With its emphasis on salvation and the Savior as gifts of grace, this text is strongly Reformation Central, yet it concludes by reminding us God has created us to do good works that are the result of his graciously choosing us and saving us. God even already prepared those good works that help transform the world to be our way of life, our daily walking about – peripatetic – routine, our lifestyle. Theologian of grace Martin Luther insisted he loved good works so much he'd like to be called the Doctor of Good Works!

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