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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Today’s Reading | Ephesians 1:1–10

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (NRSV)

Ephesians begins with prayer. To be more precise about it, Ephesians begins with a berakot, a prayer common in Jewish liturgy but one that has fallen out of use in Christian liturgy (Verhey and Harvard, Belief: Ephesians). A berakot is a special form of prayer that typically begins with the words “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe.” Here Paul has adapted the berakot for his purpose of proclaiming the gospel.

But though he expands the blessing for his particular context, Paul still begins and grounds the letter in prayer. Before he offers any ethical teaching or talks about church controversies or gives the readers specific work to do, he first prays and invites that church to join him. He blesses God for who God is and for all that God has done and will do. Perhaps Paul hoped that framing this letter with a blessing, a prayer, might make the community of faith more open to hear what he had to say.

That posture of openness often happens in prayer. Martha Moore-Keish writes, “God is around, beneath, before, and beside us all the time, but if we never actively stop to notice this, to call out a breath of thanksgiving or petition, lament or praise, then we live falsely, pretending that we live as independent beings. Prayer requires our attention so that we might have our eyes opened to the way things really are,” (Belief: Ephesians, p. 57). I imagine Paul began with prayer specifically so the Ephesians would first remember who and whose they were as some of God’s covenant people. All other actions and decisions, all other counsel and admonitions, would come later, after their eyes were opened to the way things really were.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You breathed creation into being and lovingly formed all people in your divine image. May I begin my day remembering who and whose I am. And may all of my decisions be formed in response. Give me the eyes to see the way things really are. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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