Our Epistle reading this Sunday is one that bears consideration as we anticipate our celebration of the Eucharist together.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:14-21)
For what reason does St. Paul makes this proclamation? Prior to the reading itself, in Ephesians 2, Paul asserts that, because of the blood of Christ, there is a union between Jew and Gentile. In short, Paul is making the case for the unity of the church, a body in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, "in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (2:22). He asserts that it is "for this reason" (3:1,14) that he, "[kneels] before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (3:14-15).
This amazing outpouring of praise and thanksgiving of St. Paul, which he concludes with such a grand doxology and benediction, declaring that God has the power to do "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (3:20), is rooted in Paul's realization that through the work of Christ the disunity and divisions and schisms between people has been bridged and a new entity, known as the church, has been forged as the new body through which that disunity is mended, those divisions are restored, and those schisms are healed.
Paul gives us our marching orders in his following statements in Ephesians. Immediately after this great doxology and benediction he writes, "I, therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthy fo the calling with which you have been called" (4:1). What calling? The calling to live out the reality that we, humanity, have been, "built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit," for we are, "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (2:19). We are called to live according to the unity that was restored by Christ through His reconciling work on the cross; it's what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before He died, "that they will be one, even as you, Father, are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21).
We are to live, then, according to this calling of unity one with another, for it is this unity and the love we show others that will mark us in the eyes of the world as followers of Christ (John 13:34-35). It is for this reason that St. Paul urges us to live out this calling, not with haughtiness, pride, self-righteousness, and arrogance, somehow esteeming ourselves as better than others or smarter than others or more privileged than others, but rather, to do so "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit int eh bond of peace" (Eph 4:2-3).
This is our calling. May we strive to follow this calling more fully each and every day, and may we come to the Eucharist this Sunday seeking the grace that empowers us and strengthens us to live by this calling.
(as published in St. Luke's Weekly Newsletter, 7/26/18)