We did it! We survived another Christmas season. At least until we all have heart attacks when the credit card bill comes later this month. Still, surviving the roughly 47 day secular holiday season from the first Christmas carol plays on Lite Mix 99.9 on November 9th through to Christmas Day is a feat enough, but add to that the Church’s 12 Days of Christmas, and you’ve really done something! Now here we stand, on the Feast of the Epiphany, ready to celebrate a new season when what do we have, but those pesky Wise Men from the East, who have been paying homage to Jesus in Christmas crèches for months now. Thankfully, we heard their story on Sunday, and having already preached on the Magi, I don’t feel compelled to go back to Christmas and rehash it all, so instead, I’m going to try to make sense of Paul’s convoluted message to the Church in Ephesus.
The Ephesian Church is like every other church that has ever existed, it has had its struggles. No one knows for sure what all the conflicts in Ephesus were about, but certainly the question of how to integrate Gentiles into a largely Jewish community of faith was one of the bigger ones. This letter, then, is intended for those Gentile Christians who have made it through the hard times, and are looking for what God has in store for them next. They are in need of an Epiphanic Event, hoping that God will reveal his will for them. Here in the third chapter, Paul encourages them to not lose heart, and to look at the example of his life.
You might recall that prior to his conversion, Paul was not a big fan of Jesus and his disciples. We first meet Paul in the seventh chapter of Acts as he holds the coats of those who stone Stephen; looking on approvingly. From there, with the blessing of the Jewish leadership, Paul began a harsh persecution of the church, dragging men and women to jail for following the Way of Jesus. Two chapter later, while en route to Damascus to inflict more damage there, Paul is struck blind by Jesus himself. In the hours that followed, Paul’s eyes were opened, figuratively and literally, to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul’s epiphanic moment came when Jesus chose to personally reveal himself to him, and from that moment on, Paul couldn’t help but seek to continue to reveal Jesus to everyone he met. Because Paul had a revelation, he spoke a revelation, and every time someone heard the Gospel and believed, Paul passed on the responsibility of revealing God, of sharing the Good News of Jesus to the new believers. Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus as a steward of the Gospel, compelled to share the Good News of God’s love for everyone and everything God has created.
Paul’s words to the Ephesian Christians are just as important for us today. We continue to live in a world that doesn’t fully know the saving power of Jesus’ love. For Paul, it is the church’s primary responsibility to share the almost incomprehensible mystery that God loves his creation so much that he sent his Son to restore everything to right relationship. As stewards of the Gospel, the Church corporately, and each of us individually should feel compelled to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet. As followers of Jesus, we’ve already had our epiphany; we’ve come to know the power of his grace. Our job now is to share that epiphany, so that others might be able to have epiphanies of their own. This isn’t necessarily easy, of course. Paul ended up in jail because he couldn’t not tell the Good a News of Jesus. We might risk embarrassment and rejection, but as stewards of the gospel, that risk is well outweighed by the rewards of helping a lost soul find their place in God’s never failing love. May this season be an opportunity for you to share the love of God with a world that so desperately needs it. Happy Epiphany!