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Ephesians Online—Chapter Two

  • Posted on Jan 25, 2010

Chapter One–Reply to Comments and More

Initial Kudos! We had three comments to Chapter One. One from our friend Lucy in South Africa and two from Memorialites Mary Jo and Alice B. Well Done! I know that it can be hard to figure out how to comment on line. The best way is to go to my blog OFF the memorial website. Log into mmmeditation on blogger.com. Go down to the comment pencil and click. Other comments will come up and at the end of those comments is a space for you to post your comments. Give it a try! If it is frustrating (which I know it is), just e-mail at [email protected]. I’ll include your comments in my reply…and if I don’t get too frustrated, will try to figure out how to post them. Now, on to Ephesians!

Comments on Chapter One: Our writers noted the long sentences in Ephesians and the great list of blessings. Our commenters also noted trust as being a response to the love of God. Moreover, they wondered about the concept of church in Ephesians. I have three points in reply.

First, the writer of Ephesians (whether Paul or a follower of Paul) was of a Jewish background living in a Hellenistic world. Chapter One follows a very Jewish spirituality. In her book Spiritual Life in the Early Church: The Witness of Acts and Ephesians, Bonnie Thurston notes scholar Urban T. Holmes’ view that there are three primary images in Jewish belief and practice at this time: da’ath, shekinah, and berakah. (p. 9) These three images are found in the very first chapter of Ephesians. Da’ath is “knowledge that takes possession of the person known.”Shekinah is “the dwelling of God with God’s people.” Shekinah is present not only in the Temple but in the midst of several people when they gather together to study Torah. Finally, berakah is blessing or thanksgiving. It is “the characteristic response to God and involves blessing God’s name and being thankful for all God has done.” 

Now, give a look to Chapter One of Ephesians. All three images are present–reworked by Paul to include the Christian witness and a Hellenistic audience. Da’ath is found in the sense that God takes possession of us in Christ. Verse 5: “He(God) destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Verse 10: “as a plan, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and on earth.” Shekinah is manifest in Paul’s view that when the people gather in faith God gives them the spirit of wisdom and revelation. That in community “the eyes of your heart” are “enlightened,” that “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” (verse 18). Of course, as many of you have noted, the concept of berakah literally permeates chapter one….blessing upon blessings. 

So, first, Paul’s writing takes a very Jewish spirituality–and is reworked for the Christian church in a Hellensitic setting.

Second, the concept of church. In response to Chapter Two, I will go into more detail with this in my comments at the end of this week. Two points for now: (1) Paul’s concept of “church” in Ephesians is a church that is more than a congregation in one place. The church is more than a temple in Jerusalem. The church is a cosmic church–and church that breaks the bonds of what Jews or Greeks have thought about church. (2) Ephesus was the center of the cult of Artemis as well as a center for magical powers. The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians was grappling with these powerful influences. 

Third, in the end, I find Chapter One a stirring spiritual encouragement to those separated from ones that they love. Whether Paul was actually in prison when he wrote this letter, verses 15-19 truly sustained me when I was in South Africa and feeling separated from family and friends back home. The power of knowing that folks were praying for you from across the world was palpable and real. You can feel it! I also learned during my time in South Africa that the very same power was right by my side as I began to pray weekly with my lay ministers (Lucy included) on Monday nights in the church. As we gathered together in St Francis in Walkerville, God’s Spirit was with us–the eyes of our hearts were opened again and again. The famous Prayer of St Crystostom in the Book of Common Prayer reflects this: “when two or three are gathered together in my name, you will be in the midst of them.” This concept of prayer and blessing is especially important when we are separated from someone we love who is in crisis—whether in the hospital away from home or across the globe. It is also helpful for those of us who want to pray for those we don’t know in a hard time—like the people of Haiti. The power of coming together to pray with others in faith and with love for the saints is one of the most powerful tools we have in this world. So pray away!

Assignment for this week: Read Chapter Two as you read Chapter One. What grabs you? What makes you wonder? Is there a time in your life when you felt dead through sin and came alive again?