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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, January 7, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Ephesians 1:3–14

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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. (NRSV)

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can be divided into two parts. The first part summarizes the story of the gospel and the second explains how it should shape our stories. It begins with these first verses—a poem. Of the all the literary genres, poetry seems to me the least efficient way to deliver information. Wouldn’t it have been better for Paul to provide this teaching in a concisely worded, bullet-pointed list? Why start with a poem? Ugh. Poetry is the worst. It is just so demanding of the readers. What does it mean? C’mon. Just make it plain.

These first verses of Ephesians explain that before the creation of the world, God has chosen us and adopted us into God’s family through Jesus. We are God’s people. This is our family story and inheritance. This is the lens through which we understand who we are. God first loved us.

What if we understood our value through this lens? What about our neighbors’ or our enemies’ value? What if we made decisions with this as our foundational knowledge? It seems that a whole lot of history might have been different if we understood that everyone had been chosen by God from the very beginning. It’s sobering to imagine.

Perhaps Paul knew we needed to trudge through a bit of poetry to access such powerful truth. Most family stories take a bit of work to unpack, peel back, and fully appreciate. If stories were delivered with bullet points, a whole lot of beauty and pain would be missing. Or worse yet, we may misunderstand our neighbor’s story if we are only given the summary highlights. We need to peel back the layers to understand our neighbors’ stories. Yet no matter what we find, the foundation remains: we are all God’s people.

God, before creation you chose me and also the people I find most difficult to understand. Give me courage and stamina so that I follow your instructions to love you and my neighbors. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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