Sunday, 26 June 2016

What’s in a Word?

I was recently asked by the Presbyterian Herald to write 330 words on my favourite hymn or book of the Bible for their ‘What’s in a Word?’ column. I went for favourite book of the Bible, and submitted the below piece for the June 2016 edition of the magazine.

Whenever I am asked to name my favourite book of the Bible, I never know quite what to say. It’s normally the one I’m reading at that particular moment. Right now, the answer is 1 Thessalonians. But in the recent past it would be Psalms or John’s Gospel. In a few weeks time it’ll be something different again!

Even so, there is something about Ephesians that I enjoy coming back to again and again. In its breathtaking opening, Paul outlines the sweep of God’s plan of salvation set in place before the foundation of the world. Even as he catalogues the amazing blessings we enjoy now, he looks forward to the moment when ‘the times reach their fulfillment’, when all things will be gathered together under one head – Christ, the one in whom God will restore harmony to the universe (1:9-10).

Then, as the letter goes on, it becomes clear that the ultimate unity of all things has already had its beginning in the church. Though dead in sin, enslaved by forces of evil, and deserving of wrath, we have been made alive with Christ (2:1-10). And Jesus’ death which brings together God and humanity also unites formerly alienated people, as Jews and Gentiles are made into ‘one new humanity’, reconciled through the cross (2:11-3:13).

So, far from being a passive spectator in this cosmic drama, the church is to live a life worthy of her calling, to display the unity of the Spirit, to reflect to the world something of God’s ultimate plan for the universe. While the vision is cosmic and grand, the outworking is local and specific as we demonstrate a whole new way of living – starting with where we find ourselves every day, with the choices we make every day, with the people we live with every day, with our families and in our jobs – as very ‘ordinary’ people through whom God is present to the world.

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