Inspired by Ephesians 1: 3-14
O God of all,
There is nothing lacking in you. I was taught this from the time I could take in words with their meaning. There is nothing lacking in you.
But here, in this ancient letter, you speak a fantastic festival of gifts that make it so clear that it is also true (thanks to your fullness) that there is nothing lacking for me, nothing lacking to my sisters and brothers with whom I live this life. Help me to speak of these gifts now, and to rejoice in them.
One after another you name gifts already given (and some on the way) in such abundance that these few verses should be read one verse at a time over a number of days. First day: 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.
Lord, I have such a tendency to read your word as if it is a news report or a text or an email. But it is so much more. If I can slow myself down to the speed you created us to live at, I should spend a lifetime of prayerful thanks for this first verse.
It says (can this be true?) that you have gifted us in Jesus Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. Every one. Every one in heaven. I cannot even know in this life what that means, except to know that it is more than I could take in, understand, appreciate, rejoice in for all eternity. In fact, this is your desired destiny for me and for my brothers and sisters: to rejoice in those heavenly blessings for time without end. And here, today, you are telling me that I already possess in Jesus all those blessings. Every single one.
Lord, you chose us, you say, from time before time, before there was a universe, when there was only You, to live a holiness that is called love. Sometimes, a lot of times, I get nervous around talk of being holy. It sounds to me like it’s for someone else, and sometimes it sounds like the same as being stuck-up and thinking myself better than other people, but in a word you tell me today that it only means this. Holiness means being a person in love. It means being a person who loves. First, last, and always. And you have chosen us, and given us the ability to be that person, from before creation. When no one knew my name. When no one knew what a human being would be. When no one had yet seen light or the sea or a growing plant or a horse running through a meadow, you already had chosen us and given us the call and the capacity to be centers of love in this time and place.
Every gift you have given us, this letter says again and again, you have given us in Christ. Every good thing we have has come through him, and comes through him today, and will beyond all time. In Christ, you have adopted us. We aren’t only your creation. We are your children. We are your daughters and sons. Everything that you have, everything that it means to be You, is our legacy.
So all that is yours you have promised us as our inheritance. So that when I feel poor, or lacking in any way; when I feel alone or lonely, when any of us feel misunderstood or unwanted, You whisper into our hearts words beyond words that sound something like this, Everything I have is yours. You lack nothing. You never could. You are able for any challenge.
In Christ you have redeemed us, bought us back from the Enemy, at any cost.
In Christ, you have forgiven us our trespasses. There’ s not a sin that I could imagine that you have not already forgiven, from your heart which is a furnace of love, melting away anything that could hurt me or separate me from you.
You have placed within us knowledge of your own plan in Christ. You have provided us wisdom and insight into the meaning of everything that is and everything that will be. You have shown us your plan in Christ, a plan that does not fail or falter, a plan made good the moment you first spoke it. It is your plan to reunite all that is divided in heaven or on earth. Anything I can think of in me or in the world that is broken, that is wanting, that is hurting is already being put back together in a fullness beyond pain, better than it was before the breaking came.
In your loving plan, nothing and no one is unknown or left out or left alone. In your plan the sight and hearing of all are made perfect, the ones whose limbs are hurting are dancing now, the ones whose minds are clouded remember again all the good and rejoice in it, the ones who have grown old are being restored even beyond what their hearts recall as the best moments of their lives.
You remind me that our hope, our best hope, our final hope, our only hope is Christ Jesus. You write on the surface of my heart that I and everyone with me, that we each and all live for one reason, for the praise of his glory. In that praise, in that worship, and nowhere else, does the sum total of my life with all its sin and confusions and broken promises and painful memories fall together without effort on my part as perfect, as exactly what you in your eternal generosity will it to be. Suddenly I reach my goal, without even knowing that it has been that near all along.
Here, in this place of light and darkness, of color and glass and stone, of silence and of song, of generations of human hearts that beat here and still do, both in memory and in your reality beyond time; between these walls the word of life has been spoken (imperfectly, but truly), here the good news of salvation has been told for generations, from father to daughter, from mother to son, from father to son, and mother to daughter. In that telling, faith has been born – right here or in the kitchen at home or in the bedroom or the office, in the garage or on the ballfield – and with that faith-birth your promise of the Spirit has come to be.
Your Spirit. You God, desire to live in me, and in us all. That’s how it all comes together. Every gift is there and shining. There is the energy that moves us inevitably – through years of war, through depression (both economic and emotional), through great trials of killing disease, through our long times of forgetting you – to this moment. To the invitation, renewed ever more, to allow our hearts to recognize your gifts, to know that they are the answer to all we could ever want or need; the fulfillment I never would have dared to ask.
And I don’t have to ask. It has all already been given. Underneath the everyday, underneath all the pieces of my life, this is the reality of who I am and who you are, and what is meant to be.
All this moves me to think Lord of a holy woman shrouded now in centuries past, who lived her entire life in a time darkened seemingly without end by violence and sickness and death, she who received from you visions and words confirming all that this letter says to us today.
In the middle of her life, herself and her world on the very edge of death, you spoke words to that woman (she heard them as truly as a child hears the voice of her mother, without fail) words filled with an assurance of hope that nothing can shake and no darkness cover. I hear those words now, and I know they are meant for us as well.
“AND thus our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts that I might make, saying full comfortably:
I may make all thing well,
I can make all thing well,
I will make all thing well,
and I shall make all thing well;
and thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well.”
Lord, this is the fullness in which I live, and my sisters and brothers with me. For this I can spend my whole life, my every hour and every breath giving thanks to you Lord.
May you be praised by all humanity for all your good gifts, given each one in Christ, whom we are about to meet here again at this altar.
In Christ we pray. Amen.