Below is my sermon for Sunday, August 13. It is based on Ephesians 1.1-14. We will be using Ephesians for a sermon series for the rest of August. An audio version is above.
We are going to spend the rest of August with our text being from the letter to the Ephesians. I’d encourage you to take time and read the whole letter. It isn’t that long; only 6 chapters. It probably is only 3 or 4 pages in your Bible.
I also encourage you to read it because it is a very general letter. Unlike almost every other letter, it doesn’t address any local or individual concern. There aren’t any issues you have to read between the lines to figure out. This is a very generic letter. One of my professors said it was almost a form letter.
That is what makes it good to read. It is a straightforward, basic explanation of what it means to be a follower of Christ, what we receive and what we are to do. It reviews theme after theme: God, Christ, the church, our means of salvation, Christian behavior, and spiritual struggles.
The first chapter explains what it means to be in Christ. And to explain that, I’m going to refer to parts of high school English or composition classes that many of us have forgotten if we even retained it.
In most sentences, you have the direct object and an indirect object. The direct object does something that effects, or acts upon, the indirect object. The Packers beat the Eagles last Thursday. The Packers are the direct object. They acted upon the Eagles, who are the indirect object, by beating them.
In this part of the letter to the Ephesians, once you get past the initial greeting, and the statement that God should be blessed, in each sentence and statement, we have the same direct object, God, and the same indirect object, us. All of this part of the letter describes what God has done for us, and on our behalf.
Before the world was created, God planned and picked us to be holy, another word for righteous, another word for justified, and blameless, another word for forgiven. God has provided every spiritual blessing for us. God has adopted us to be God’s children.
God chose us. God has blessed and showered us with blessings, but has done all of these things through Jesus Christ. God (direct object) has acted upon us (indirect object) through Jesus. We have received these things because we are “in Christ.”
So, what does it mean to be “in Christ.”
If you ran into someone last Friday morning, and they asked you how the Packers did the night before, how would you respond?
Some of you might have said, “They won.” But, most of you would have said, “We won. We beat the Eagles.” You would have said that because you have a connection, an affinity, a relationship with the Packers. You celebrate when they do well, you mourn when they do not. You are in them, they are in you.
We are in Christ. But there is a different relationship between what happened to Him and what happens to us.
Part of living as members of God’s family, adopted and inheritors, means to live AS members of God’s family. It means to act as we are called to act, and to speak out and speak up when we don’t.
As I wrote this message yesterday, I was following the horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia where a protest by white nationalists, white supremacists and Nazis turned violent. Then it turned deadly.
While I struggled on what to say, I saw the statement from the Virginia Synod of the ELCA, and I share it with you.
As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we stand against all forms of hatred and discrimination. We believe that cultural, ethnic and racial differences should be seen and celebrated as what God intends them to be – blessings rather than means of oppression and discrimination. We are a church that belongs to Christ, where there is a place for everyone. Christ’s church is not ours to control, nor is it our job to sort, divide, categorize or exclude.
The ELCA’s social statement, “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture” states: “Racism—a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice—is sin, a violation of God’s intention for humanity. The resulting racial, ethnic, or cultural barriers deny the truth that all people are God’s creatures and, therefore, persons of dignity. Racism fractures and fragments both church and society.”
We stand in solidarity with clergy and community members who will gather August 12 in Charlottesville to reject the hatred and discrimination of white supremacy.
To be in Christ means to share God’s love with everyone, and to reject hate to anyone. You cannot be in Christ and hate others. To be in Christ means to be on the side of the oppressed, and the marginalized.
Racism takes the privilege of power and uses it to hold down, and beat down those who are not like them. It is when the white culture reacts to any challenge to their way being the only way, and reacts by proclaiming their entitlement. It is taking up the flags, slogans, mottos and actions of defeated and disgraced causes like the Confederacy and Nazis, and trying to use them as implements of terror.
Being in Christ is deciding which side you are on. The side of love, or the side of hate.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran Pastor, who died fighting the Nazi movement in his country wrote, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel of injustice. We are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
May God have mercy on those who live with hate in their hearts. May God protect those who live in systems of oppression and abuse. May God call all who live in Christ to stand up, speak up and act as one of God’s own.
God’s love is for all and forever. Amen.
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.
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