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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | 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. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. (NRSV)

One of my favorite things about Fourth Church is our proclamation that all are welcome. We state this clearly in our Sunday bulletin. We open our doors—for Sunday worship and for everyday meditation—to all. I have long believed that this is one of our greatest contributions to the life of our city.

By the time he wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul had come a long way. He had been a Pharisee and spent his time persecuting the followers of Christ. After his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, he changed his ways and became an evangelist for Jesus. At some point in Paul’s ministry, God instructed him to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles, which he did. It was for this that he was imprisoned.

So now, in prison for preaching the good news of the gospel to the Gentiles, Paul writes a letter in which he lets that church know that Gentiles and Jews are equally welcome in the new church of Jesus Christ. No more is there to be division—Jews on the one hand and Gentiles on the other. All are the same.

While this message had particular import to those Ephesian Christians in the context of their society, the message is a timeless one: the good news of the gospel was not the exclusive possession of any one group. The mystery of Jesus, which had not been revealed before, was revealed in his earthly ministry. The revealing of God’s grace through Jesus was not for one particular group but was for all people, regardless of their background. All were welcome.

Dear God, help us to welcome all people. Remind us that your grace extends to the entire human race. Help us to focus our attention on including people rather than finding ways to exclude them. Amen.

Written by Juli Crabtree, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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