The Scripture reading on Sunday was from Ephesians chapter one. If you are familiar with it you know it is the chapter that blows you away with its high powered theological language. There's predestination, and chosen, and redemption, the mystery of God's will, forgiveness, our inheritance in Christ, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A tad bit intimidating. It's a theologians dream and they have written great and huge tomes on one or more of those theological terms. So, you could spend a year of diligent study on this one long Pauline sentence in verses 3-14. There is enough preaching material to keep a preacher busy for months. There is a lot of theological turf to fight over, too. Christians are territorial and most of us have staked out our positions on this chapter's big words. Chosen, does that mean God chooses some and not others? Does it mean God chooses us before we choose him (what about free will?)?
Predestination, and so how is that different from fate and does it mean some are predestined not to be in the family of God? What about free will?
How does the atonement work? What type of atonement view is the right one? How does forgiveness fit in?
How mysterious is God's will, what can we know and not know?
And we still have not gotten to the part of the sentence about the Holy Spirit, the pledge of our inheritance, and what that means.
As the Scripture was read, I was thinking about those great phrases and how divisive they have been for the church. Christians have fought and even died over their interpretations of those holy words! The churches in your area may have totally different approaches to one or more of the ideas in this chapter. In fact, you may have chosen the church you're in because of how they view one of those words (or did God choose your church for you before you did!) Did He lead you there? Did He know where you would fit in the best?
While the pastor talked about how Christians were divided about the weighty decisions of the Supreme Court and the state of South Carolina on the future of the Confederate flag as illuminated on Facebook this week, I was thinking about how divided we are on basic theology. So, it's not surprising we can't agree on social issues.
This Ephesians text begins with the word that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. In the middle it says God has lavished the riches of His grace on us. At the end it says we have all received the Holy Spirit, the down payment on our eternal inheritance with the saints.
When I tuned back into what the pastor was saying, I heard her say we can easily miss the Big Picture of what God is doing and our part in it. God's Big Picture is awesome and we get to work along side of Him. She suggested God might be better served if we were peacemakers rather than dividers.
All this pointed me back to an article I read by Marilynne Robinson in Christian Century this week. In it she wrote: "faith lives in the human world by the grace of God, because of the love and loyalty of God, and in the presence of God, which is free, indifferent to our anxieties, to our categories, and to our very negative judgments about the spiritual state of our neighbors."
Ephesians one is good news. May God help me to live it.