Ephesians 3:1-13, Epiphany A, Preached 19 November 2015

A Reading from Ephesians, the Third Chapter:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely //

you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me //

for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 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. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of God’s power. Although I am less than the least of all the Sovereign’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to God’s eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Sovereign. In Christ and through faith in Christ we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Holy Wisdom, Holy Word.
Thanks Be To God

As I read this text, I was brought back to one of my favorite books of years past:
“Will Grayson, Will Grayson.” I’m going to give away a bit of the plot – so if you’ve not read it yet, there are a few spoilers; it’s been out for almost 5 years, so I’m just going to assume that you’ve read it if you wanted to.

In this text, the two authors switch between the two main characters, each named Will Grayson. One lives in Evanston, and the other in Naperville.
There is one scene in this book, which reminds me of the essence of Epiphany, and the essence of our text today:
Will Grayson and will grayson – who don’t know each other, travel into the city of Chicago, with the hopes of meeting “Isaac” a online friend and potential romantic interest. When they arrive, they meet each other rather than Isaac. In our commemoration today, we remember that day when the Magi came to see the young Jesus, before he fled the massacre of all newborn babies in the region.

Now, these two texts look very different, and feel very different, but hold on with me for a bit. I’ll pull them up and together.
Paul writes to the churches in and around Ephesus to encourage Christian unity among all of the Christ followers there. But even more than encouraging Christian unity, in this passage, Paul points us back to Jesus Christ, and the Epiphany.

The Epiphany celebrates the time when the doors to God’s commonwealth were opened to gentiles, as well as Jews. Even as a child, Jesus opened the doors for the outcast and stranger, revealing himself as God to the nations beyond Israel.
So in today’s text, Paul encourages Christ followers by showing them how particular and special their encounter with God is, including Christ opening the door, to Paul’s particular call as an Apostle to the Gentiles, then to the call, to take this message to the principalities of this world.
Our world is hurting,
As a baseline, we look for people who are not like us,
People to be the Other.
Because, when we have an Other, we can look at ourselves as normal, welcome, and part of the family.
But, God models a different way of being.
In the Epiphany, God takes God’s story,
and opens up the cast of characters to
a whole new class of people excluded for centuries.
God calls us to continue considering the people who are excluded, pushed outside the margins.

 

In the past, this was the welcoming of women to the clergy,
Then it was the welcome of gay and lesbian people in to churches, and then to clergy.
Sometimes, it’s the people of color who have not had a seat at the table.
Sometimes, it’s the person on the street, who is afraid to walk into the church, because of economic conditions.
Sometimes, it’s the person who can’t walk in our front door because of particular mobility challenges.
The question then becomes: Who is on the outside?
Who is God opening doors to?
How can we join God in this work?
This week is filled with people on the outside:
State governors are attempting to prohibit people fleeing war and terror from entering their states.
Transgender people remember their 271 known kindred murdered in the last year.
People whose families have rejected them are pushed farther away by family-centric narratives of Thanksgiving.
People of Color are dying without justice, and are missing from our churches.
What should we do?
Where is God moving?

God calls throughout the Sacred Text for a welcome to the stranger – to those fleeing from harm.
God, who transgresses gender, mourns with those who are killed, and offers cities of refuge for those who live in fear of death.
God, who is called both Mother and Father, is a parent for those who have lost family.
God, who celebrates people, and who mourns with those who mourn sets out a large table for those who have been pushed away.

Friends and Colleagues, where does God set the table for all of God’s people?

In the story of Paul, he had to transform his understanding of Judaism, so he could become a person who intentionally reached out to the Gentiles, and saw the new ways that God was working in the world.
In my first story from Will Grayson, Will Grayson, we see an answer: Both Will Grayson, and will grayson lived in Illinois, in suburban Chicago, but to meet this stranger – to see the uncovering – they left their safety net. They travelled from the suburbs, into the city – to Grand Avenue. They did not meet the person each one was expecting there, but they met each other – and well, I’ll give you the broadest spoiler of them all – that was a very good thing. God keeps speaking to us – to go find the margins, to make our home outside our areas of comfort. Come, join me as we journey to the places God is calling each of us