Sunday Sermon 6 January – The revelation
Readings: Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-112
So have you had any major revelations recently? I’m not talking about a sudden realisation that you are getting older – or that you have to pack up that Christmas tree as it is 12 days since Christmas day today and Christmas as a season is officially over!
I’m talking about revelation! Seeing the light maybe – like the wise men who followed the light of that star!
For Paul – in the reading from Ephesians – the revelation he received was the unveiling of a mystery. Verse 6 tells us the details:
6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
For Him – as a Jew and a Pharisee – he needed a revelation! Like Peter needed a vision when it came to changing his mind about associating with Gentiles.
You have to understand that they had nothing to do with Gentiles! Like we in our own way don’t associate with people who are different.
This was a radical shift – and the shift is seen at the time of Jesus’ birth – the wise men – the magi who come to worship Jesus – are Gentiles, perhaps Gentile kings – and they are worshipping a Jewish baby.
What really grabs me in the Ephesians reading today is verse 12:
12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
The NRSV gives us this translation of verse 11 and 12:
3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,
3:12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
I prefer this version.
The key word which resonates with modern people is the word ACCESS.
Think of all the times you get the message ACCESS DENIED – on your modern phone, internet, on an ATM – if you don’t have the right password access is denied.
In Christ we have access to God! Great news! And Paul expands this by saying – “with boldness and confidence through faith in him!”
The idea that non-Jewish people could have access to God is radical! And we are non- Jewish Gentile people too!
This is stunning news – …we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.. . This is the mystery that was revealed to Paul – the revelation from God that shifts the foundation of everything.
Paul also says this in Galatians 3:27-28 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
All these barriers come tumbling down!
And – sadly – we keep putting them up again! We create new ones or reinterpret the ones we read about in Galatians 3.
The idea that God wants people of all backgrounds and cultures to be part of his family should not be a major surprise for us. It does not take a revelation to figure out the basics. If you think about it – the fundamental teachings of Jesus are about breaking down barriers.
Think of his teaching in a nutshell –
- a new commandment I give unto you – that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34 – repeated in John 15:12 & 17)
- He reinforces the Old Testament teaching – love your neighbour as yourself. (Lev 19:18 repeated in Matt 19:19 & 22:39 and Mark 12:31)
- He takes it further by telling us to love our enemies. (Matt 5:44 & Luke 6:27,35)
And the most famous parable that undergirds his teaching? I’m not sure what you would choose – I would say the Good Samaritan.
A friend of mine wrote about this from a different perspective this week. In short, Jesus was a great story teller. The idea of someone walking from Jerusalem to Jericho is absurd. That they would get mugged is quite likely.
The real issue is the question that churches like to pose – who are our neighbours exactly? And the contrast between the failure of the religious men to help with the kindness of the Samaritan is radical! More than that, the Samaritan would have been expected to finish the guy off.
They (Jews and Samaritans) would have despised each other. My friend concluded:
A “good Samaritan” is NOT simply someone who does something good. A Good Samaritan goes the extra mile for someone whom he himself could legitimately despise.
And his application:
1. Find and serve your enemies.
2. Visit your prejudices and repent of them
Some great challenges for the New Year then?
As we celebrate the amazing access we have to God – let’s not be selfish! We have a treasure that is meant to share – the Good News of Jesus.
Let’s really ask God to shine a little light on our lives – revealing to us a new sense of urgency to be obedient – and to reach people that are on His heart.
- To deal with our prejudices
- To step out into new adventures as we reach people who are different this year.
- And as we reach out to people we don’t like or who don’t like us – and serve them.
A WORD ABOUT PASSION
Here’s a thought. Paul is writing from jail. He’s in jail for proclaiming what had been revealed to him.
That’s passion. He writes this profound letter from prison. And – to top it all – this whole letter is not an essay on theology. Yes it is an essential letter for us to understand what we are meant to be as the church.
These passages are in the context of a prayer –are bracketed by prayer.
That’s what made him who he was. That’s his heart. He was compelled to share the revelation that God wanted all people in His family – and that he made this possible through Jesus. Hence his prayer and his appeal for his readers’ prayers for him!
HERE’S MY NEW YEAR’S VISION and DREAM!
Are we going to politely listen to another 52 sermons this year untouched?
Going from here saying – well that was interesting?
Or will there be an impact on our lives, our lifestyle, our passion and our prayer life – which is the same thing as our relationship with God. A revelation! Will we get it? Will you get it??
Is your view of God big enough to grasp the potential for real transformation of yourself and this community.
Read Ephesians 1:15- 19 – does this not grab your attention? People’s prayers reveal their passion!
And then read Ephesians 3:13- 21 – and get a sense of the expectation Paul had as he prayed.
And the letter ends with his teaching on the armour of God:
It ends with this in chapter 6, verses 18 to 20:
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Being in Jail did not deter Paul when it came to passion to proclaim this revelation!
Roll on 2013!
May God speak to you and fill you with a taste of this passion and excitement!