This is the manuscript for my sermon on Sunday, August 20, based on Ephesians 2.11-22. The audio files for all 3 sermons are above. In each one, I strayed from my manuscript to differing degrees.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
That the early church succeeded makes no sense.
The entire movement was based upon Jesus, what he said, what he did, and who he was. When he ascended into heaven, growing the faith was left to his followers. However, time after time after time, they showed that they didn’t understand what he was doing, and what he was teaching them.
They faced official opposition from both the political and secular arenas. The leaders of the Jewish people looked at them as heretics and those who betrayed the faith. The Roman authorities were unconcerned until even mentioning that Jesus was divine or had authority brought charges of treason against Caesar.
Then, as they tried to tell others about what Jesus said and did, and who he was, you begin to mix those who were outside of the Jewish culture and traditions into their community. In proclaiming the Good News, they had to navigate the mixture of different practices, traditions, ethnicities, and values.
If only we could understand and appreciate the challenge they faced.
That is what is being addressed in the text we have today, how do you bring different groups together. We start with those who are Gentiles, defined as not being Jewish. Gentiles aren’t a specific nationality, or certain group. They are not Jews. They are THEM.
The writer defines them in three ways:
This is a thoroughly arrogant definition. It takes the case that there was no hope, no love for the world outside of God’s Chosen, the people of Israel.
You were defined by what you weren’t. Jews were circumcised as part of the covenant with Abraham, which promised Abraham’s decendants would be blessed to be a blessing. You were outside of Israel, so Christ didn’t come for you. You were outside of Israel, therefore, you have no hope and (are) without God in the world.
What this arrogance fails to realize, is the purpose for the blessing of Abraham. What God wanted to have happen was for Abraham’s descendants to be a shining example of how to do things the right way. To have nations come to Israel, and ask, “How is it that things go so well here?” “Well, let me tell you. It is all thanks to God. We have followed God’s commands and things go well for us.”
But the people of Israel never obeyed God. And God withheld the blessings. But God would nudge the people back onto the path. These nudges came in two forms, either from an unexpected source in Israel; the weak, the powerless, the poor, or from outside Israel, from a woman, a non-believer, a military leader. From these unlikely, often rejected sources, the people of Israel drew closer to God, but continued to think their unique blessed nature was only for them, only from them, like a manifest destiny.
But now, after Christ, the Christians, coming from this Jewish mindset, are realizing, that the blessings of Jesus Christ are for the world.
This passage, while specifically addressing the non-Jews, the Gentiles, was also to explain to the Jews that Christ came for the benefit of everyone, Jew and Gentile.
What goes unsaid, but should be understood, is that the Gentiles are equal inheritors to the gifts of God through Christ as are the Jews. There is no advantage, there is not separation by class or tradition. All are one in the Kingdom of God.
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
This was an easy lesson for the Gentiles to learn. It was hard for the Jewish Christians to accept. Many of the problems discussed in other letters in the New Testament address issues that some Jewish believers thought that the Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians.
That teaching was rejected, but some still continued to teach it.
So, what does this say about us today?
Some cultures, some traditions, some ethnicities believe that the blessings of God are just for them. That they have some unique claim to God’s love, that they have a direct connection to God’s favor. That they are better than others.
That is a presumptuous, arrogant lie.
One group of people, however you want to define them, by whatever ethnic, cultural, sociological criteria, is not inherently better than another. Because no one, no group, has done anything worthy of claiming superiority.
If you look at the explanation I read earlier about how Jews and Gentiles receive the same benefits, look at what they did to earn, or win, those benefits.
Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Zero. Goose egg.
It was all done by Christ; through his blood, he is our peace, he broke down, he abolished, he reconciled.
Jesus Christ, direct object, has acted upon us, both Jew and Gentile, indirect object, by giving us grace – an unmerited gift of God.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace.
There is not higher status in God’s eyes because we have all fallen short, but we are all redeemed the same by the Son of God.
The protests by white supremacists, white nationalists and Nazis continues to befuddle me. They spew hate and claim as their signs of superiority, the flags of two causes that were totally and decisively defeated.
I implore you to share love and claim as your sign of submission, a symbol that appeared to represent defeat, but ultimately reflects the ultimate victory, the cross of Christ, through which we have won all.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
ONE in Christ
on Social Media
Our Savior's Facebook
Our Savior's / Emmanuel: 715-267-6142
Nazareth's Office: 715-229-2051
is at 8:00 a.m.
is at 9:30 a.m.
is at 11:00 a.m.