The Interweaving of Worship and Story in EphesiansDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Today, we come to the end of the first half of Ephesians. Throughout many months, we have been reflecting our way through Ephesians 1, 2, and 3. Now we're about to make a major transition as we move from the lofty theology of Ephesians 1-3 to the everyday ethics of Ephesians 4-6.
No doubt about it, Ephesians 1-3 is profound, expansive theology. But it is theology in the form of a story and it is theology in the form of worship. The story reveals the nature and purpose of God, which in turn inspires our worship.
As you may recall, the story of Ephesians begins before the foundation of the world, with God choosing us to belong to him and to be partners in his cosmic work (1:4-5). This work, an expression of God's amazing grace, is focused in Jesus Christ, through whom God will "bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth" (1:10). We who are in Christ have a new reason for living. We exist for the praise of God's glory (1:12, 14).
But, in our natural state, we are not fit for such a calling. We are, in a sense, already dead in our sins. We are in bondage to our shameful desires and to Satan himself. But God does not abandon us to a zombie kind of existence. Rather, because of his great love and amazing grace, God has saved us through Christ. When we receive this salvation by putting our faith in God, we are delivered from death into new life. We are recreated in Christ as God's masterpiece, so that we might live out God's grace by doing the good works he has prepared to fill our lives.
We do not do this alone, however. Rather, through the cross, God has broken down the walls that divide people, epitomized in the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Christ's death forges a new unity among people, so that all might be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, built together as a temple for God.
Thus, the church is not just an afterthought in God's plan, but rather its centerpiece. Through the church—the tangible result of God's unifying work in Christ—God's plan for the cosmos is unveiled. Through the church, all cosmic entities, in earth and heaven, will see that God's plan to unify all things in Christ is working. This will happen as we, the church of Jesus Christ, are empowered by God's Spirit and established upon of God's love, which we continue to understand and experience as we grow in him. As the church participates in God's plan for the cosmos, he will do in and through us more than we could ask or imagine.
One response to this theologically saturated story would be to believe it. That would be a fitting but incomplete response. Another response would be to allow this story to shape our lives. This, too, would be appropriate but incomplete. A complete response to God's story must include worship. That's why Ephesians 1-3 is filled with expressions of worship, from the beginning to the end ("Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" [1:3]; "to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! [3:21]). The more we grasp the story of God's grand plan for the cosmos, the more this story shapes our lives, the more this story inspires our hearts, the more we will be moved to offer ourselves to God in worship through the praise of our lips and the sacrifice of our lives.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the story of God's grand plan for salvation? What inspires your worship? How can you live your life each day as worship for God?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the incredible story of your salvation as revealed in the first three chapters of Ephesians. This story amazes us. It helps us understand our lives in a cosmic perspective. It inspires us to live for the praise of your glory, to offer our whole selves in worship.
O Lord, may I worship you today with all that I am, in everything I do, everything I think, everything I feel, everything I choose. To you be all the glory. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.