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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ephesians – One in Christ, Many in the World

I’m reading the Epistle to the Ephesians over the next couple of weeks as I put together a sermon series at my church. “One” jumps out as a common thread through the readings.

This week I’m looking at Ephesians 1, specifically focusing on verse 10: “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive our sins. His shed blood washes us clean from the stain of original and actual sin. One of the reasons God has done this for us in Jesus Christ is to unite us with heaven – to bring together and make one heaven and earth.

Not “heaven on earth,” as wonderful as this earth can be.

Yosemite, Yellowstone, Hawaii, Greece, Kenya, the Himalayas – this earth is incredibly beautiful.

But it is only half of what God has made for us. Genesis 1:1 says that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Still, many have bought into the lie that this earth is all there is. Beautiful yes, but singular. Others have bought into something that is just as much a lie – that God is pleased when all they do is spend time in His creation. They tell us, “I can worship God there. I don’t need church.”

But God has sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, to forgive us and reveal the mystery of God’s will to us in order to unite both heaven and earth.

Heaven on earth doesn’t happen out there (the world), it happens in here (the worship service). Remember the words of the Communion liturgy? “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name saying, ‘Holy Holy Holy…’”

Arthur Just tells the story of a family in his parish. There was a young man, 12 years-old, who had died of cancer shortly after being confirmed. Pastor Just wasn’t quite sure what to tell the family at the funeral that would bring them comfort. Of course, he shared the comforting words of Jesus Christ – the Gospel of sins forgiven and the sure and certain hope of eternal life for all who have faith in Jesus. After the service the father talked to him and told him he knew all that but that he still – understandably – missed his son terribly. Pastor Just thought about it for a couple of days and then came Sunday. When Pastor Just came to the Communion Liturgy, those words resonated in a new way, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name saying, ‘Holy Holy Holy.…’” After the worship service he told the father that even though his son was not with them physically, each time they came to the Lord’s Supper they came together again. For their son was in heaven. And in the Lord’s Supper all who partake come together with heaven here on earth for a brief moment. We are united with the body and blood of Jesus Christ and those in heaven are also united with Christ (Romans 6:5).

Jesus Christ unites us as a family today and He unites us with all those who have gone before us and will come after us. Jesus Christ unites heaven and earth with His death and resurrection.

This series of blogs will continue to focus on why Jesus Christ does this and what it means for us. Next week we’ll look at the result of this – peace.

 

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