ephesians week two
Another word that we revisited was the word "flesh" as in "following the desires of flesh" (Ephesians 2:3 - New Revised Standard Version). It helped us to remember that in Paul's world this refers less to bodily desires and more to what is taken to be worldly wisdom, common sense, the way things are. The various translations helped here: "our selfish inclinations" (Cotton Patch Version); "You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live" (The Message); "you drifted along on the stream of this world's ideas of living" (JB Phillips); "when you were living by the principles of this world" (New Jerusalem); "keeping in step with this world's 'present age'" (The Kingdom Translation - NT Wright). All of these trying to find the current English equivalent of "following the desires of the flesh". The gospel, says Paul, is a different way of life that runs counter to the way of life that is taken for granted in the world. It sounds like Jesus speaking to Peter when he says: "You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things" (Mark 8:33).
We had a lively discussion about the metaphor of the church being a building in which Jesus is the cornerstone or keystone (the Greek word can mean either). Some preferred to think of Jesus as the cornerstone - the place from which the whole building takes shape and is built around. Others liked the image of Jesus as the keystone that holds the whole building in place, at the top of the arch - the stone whose odd shape caused the builders to reject it as useless but then discovered that it is essential to the entire structure (Psalm 118:22). We noticed that in the first century thinking of the church as a building was unusual since such structures did not exist. The church was a movement, a people, a way of life but not at all an actual location. Now when we think of church the idea of actual buildings is the first thing on our mind. Recovering the metaphor takes work for us. Recovering the church as a movement, a people and a way of life seems essential in our time and helps to make sense of our little congregation's journey away from owning property and "having" a church. None of our studies of Ephesians take place in a church because we don't have a church. One takes place in a restaurant, another in a home and the third in an office. Finally, what we found surprising in this metaphor was who the church is meant for. We often think of the church as a place for us. But in this metaphor the church exists as a suitable dwelling for God. In a people formed by the work of Jesus Christ in breaking down the dividing wall of hostility between insiders and outsiders (Ephesians 2:14) God finds a place of residence (Ephesians 2:22).
Well, there was more, much more. But this gives a taste of the conversations on chapter two. I had forgotten that it was a passage from this chapter (Ephesians 2:19-22) that I offered as a gift to the congregation when we celebrated the completion of the Doctor of Ministry degree back in July of 2002. A google search later and I found that sermon still posted online. It is at A Gift to University Hill Congregation.
Now, on to chapter three.