The Mystery of Ministry
We are beginning this new year by looking at the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 3:1-12. The authorship of this letter is disputed — tradition holds that Paul wrote the letter, but many biblical scholars believe it was likely written by a student of Paul’s in the late first century. For our purposes today, we will follow tradition.
Scripture: Ephesians 3:1-12
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.
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The Mystery of Ministry
We have spoken at FaithElement often about how Paul retells the story of his call to the ministry in every letter that is attributed to him. Today’s passage is no different. One reason Paul continuously reiterates his call to the communities he engages is to convince others that that he is a legitimate apostle because of his encounter with the Risen Christ. I also think Paul retells this story over and over again to convince himself. Paul confesses his own awe at this mystery of the gospel that has called him and is compelling him to share the gospel. Paul’s call is a miraculous mystery in his own eyes and it is that amazement that continues to push him in this work that he does.
The ultimate moment of God’s mystery being revealed in the world is in the incarnation. In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus makes the gospel message available to the diversity of all people. He believes that our celebration of the incarnation is carried out in the church as we live a life of unity even with all of our wonderful diversity of participants and beliefs. The more unified we can become as the church the better we will exhibit the love and mystery of God in the world. We all have to be willing to work together, to lay down our weapons of language, and prejudice, and politics in order to more fully live into this mystery to which Paul is calling us.
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The Mystery of Ministry
I hope 2018 has gotten off to a wonderful start for all of you. We are beginning this new year by looking at the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 3:1-12. The authorship of this letter is disputed — tradition holds that Paul wrote the letter, but many biblical scholars believe it was likely written by a student of Paul’s in the late first century. For our purposes today, we will follow tradition.
Paul writes this letter to Gentile Christians and Gentiles curious about Christianity in Ephesus and is interested in helping these new followers of Christ to understand more deeply what Christ did for them in his life, death, and resurrection. Paul wants that understanding to compel them to live a selfless and selfless life as Christ did.
Our passage today is rounding out a beautiful section of the letter in which Paul is explaining how the work of Christ has broken down the walls that have divided the Jews and the Gentiles, and that it was Christ who made it possible for all to be a part of the family of God. He calls this a mystery.
In verses 7-12, Paul continues to write about this mystery, but in a self-reflective kind of way. Paul acknowledges in these verses that he did not choose to be a minister of the gospel, but rather the gospel chose him to be its servant and minister. This mystery is something that has guided all of Paul’s ministry. Because of his background of persecuting Christians, Paul has always expressed in his letters his awareness that it is a mystery that God called him, but nonetheless God did. That experience changed the course of Paul’s life and he has been God’s servant sinse.
When we spoke about this passage on the FaithElement podcast, Bert, David, Daniel, and I all shared the stories of our own calls to ministry. As we did, we connected with this idea that we did not choose the gospel, but rather it chose us and it compels us in the work we do. For many of us who follow Christ, the sense that we have been compelled by something larger than ourselves to choose this path is very real.
We often say in jest, “God works in mysterious ways.” Yet, it is a more true statement than our flippant words might suggest. The truth is, God calls to all of us. God is drawing all of us toward God’s self and the truth is that that is not something we understand. In a world in which science can explain most of the things to us about how the world works, we still do not understand the mysteries of God. Paul does not try to explain God’s mystery to us, but rather he says it is the thing that compels him and will compel us all to be more faithful, kind, and selfless people. It is that mystery that calls us all to share with our communities the ways we have experienced God and the ways God’s love makes room for us all to belong.
May you, in this next week experience God’s mystery in your own lives.
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