ephesians week one
Our three groups each found themselves at once appreciating the text even as we were somewhat confounded by it. In the conversations we wondered about the language of being "destined for adoption", chosen "before the foundation of the world". This had echoes of the doctrine of predestination that we often struggle to understand. When we began to see this letter as something like a love letter rather than a book of religious principles we began to think of this destiny as the way in which an adoptive parent might speak to a child who had been without a family. This is the language of deep love and affection for one who has been given the message that they are of little worth and who may think that whatever love they now receive is some kind of an accident or even a mistake. Those who are the recipients of the letter to the Ephesians are told that they/we are not fated to be abandoned but are, rather, destined to be loved by the God who "lavishes" (vs 8) grace on them/us.
The three groups also found themselves wondering about the imagery in verses thirteen and fourteen concerning being "marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people". It was helpful to be reading from a variety of translations (eg: New Jerusalem Bible, The Message, The Cotton Patch Version, The New Revised Standard Version, The New International Version, The Kingdom New Testament, The Phillips' Translation & The Moffat Translation). Comparing these various attempts to translate the Greek into contemporary English we came to understand this passage as using the metaphor of a down payment. It is saying that God has put a "sold" sign on each of us, saying purchased by God, who has pledged to redeem - to pay full value - for us. The letter seems to be trying to say, in many different ways, that the church is a community of foundlings who think that they are of no great value but who, in God's eyes, are precious. It is this group who are twice urged to live their lives "to the praise of God's glory". That is, we are to live as a people whose lives witness to God's great power to redeem broken, de-valued lives into precious, beloved children in the adoptive family called the church.
There was more, of course, but time is short. We are glad for responses to the text of Ephesians and/or to these comments. Feel free to post your comments, thoughts, insights and/or questions here.
Now, on to chapter two.