A master letter writer, Paul offers a heartfelt and inspiring introduction to the church at Ephesus in today’s reading. Suggesting that he does not know them personally with the phrase “I have heard,” Paul is not prohibited from encouraging them in their faith, recognizing their love, and offering them the hope that faith in Jesus gives.
In an introduction to the book of Ephesians, a biblical commentator reminds readers that the main theme of the letter is “God’s plan to reconcile Jews and Gentiles, which was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus.”* Through Jesus, then, a world reconciled and made whole is not only possible but also on its way and made real through the love, devotion, and faith of followers of Christ.
Thanksgiving is the appropriate response both of the letter writer and of the people receiving the letter. Paul is grateful for the Ephesian church’s witness of love and faithfulness; in turn, Paul implicitly invites the Ephesian church to offer thanksgiving for the “hope to which he has called you . . . the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”
Gratitude begets gratitude, and in the presence of a faithful God is a faithful people, who are open, ready, and willing to continue Christ’s church for the sake of the world. This is our inheritance as followers of Christ today. Thanks be to God.
*The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (Abingdon: Nashville, Tennessee, 2003), 2090.
God of faithfulness and love, we are grateful for your presence throughout the ages, for your love shown to us, your hope given to us through Christ Jesus. May we be a people of gratitude and loving sustainers of your church. Amen.
The Bible uses metaphors meaningful in its time, and the image of a shepherd and sheep evokes protection, care, and safety. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God declares that all the scattered sheep will be joined together again. The weak and oppressed will receive special protection and justice from God. The psalmist says that the Israelites are the sheep of God’s pasture. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes the final judgment as separating the sheep (those who are his) from the goats (those who are not). The distinction is made in part based upon how they treated the weakest among them. Although the epistle does not use the imagery of sheep, it describes the promises of a glorious inheritance reserved for those in God’s flock.
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. What does it mean for you that God seeks you as an individual and as part of your faith community?
Read Psalm 100. In times of trial or pain, how do you gather with others to praise God?
Read Ephesians 1:15-23. How do you express gratitude to God and for your faith community?
Read Matthew 25:31-46. How do you sit with unresolved questions of faith? How does asking questions of the Bible strengthen your faith or your comfort in not having answers to your questions?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.