Ephiphany B = Ephesians 3:1-12

Ephesians 3:1-12 (NIV)

3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this Gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

            Two weeks before Christmas in 1991, on a Saturday evening I attended an ordination service of a young man into the office of the public ministry of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

The ordinand, Mark, a Victorian, a former bank teller from off a farm, was given the grace of God to carry the mystery of God into the lives of his fellows, ordinary human beings, in a town called Bordertown, just inside the border of South Australia.

            God had called a Victorian to minister His Gospel to South Australians.

            At that stage there was rivalry between Victoria and South Australia. The two states weren’t getting on to well together – they required some reconciliation.

The greed and underhandedness of one had upset the pride of the other and the consequences were felt in many areas life.

The breweries of Victoria lost sales in South Australia, Victorians cancelled holidays in South Australia for fear of driving with their green and white number plates which marked them as having come from across the border.

            Relationships had deteriorated from brotherly jest to open resentment. The sin of blatant deceit had been attacked by the sin of pride and the repercussions continued to grow.

            We don’t need to look hard to find similar examples of this breakdown within God’s good creation. Black verses white, Palestinian verses Jew, husband verses wife, brother verses sister, mankind verses the environment all illustrate disjointed humanity floundering in their relationships.

            Enter God, not happy with sin in the world. Action must be taken because it seems that creation is being torn apart.

            But, to many here on earth, in Aotearoa, in the Waikato, God seems so remote. The Universe is in chaos – the 6:00 o’clock news says it every night, dairy prices are frequently on the decline, the summer has so far been quite dry despite the last week, homes have been devastated by king tides in coastal towns, there is a housing crisis not helped by the breakdown in families.

            It’s no wonder that many people say that God is irrelevant as He seems to do nothing to put things right in the world. Where is the justice and mercy? Where is the prosperity He promises in Isaiah chapter 60?

            Enter a child – a new-born defenceless babe. Enter shepherds and angels. Enter strange foreigners with unusual gifts for the low born child.

            Enter the mystery of God – the child grown, teaching, healing, restoring the world from chaos.

            See the cross – the fulfilment of the mystery of God – this same man, Jesus, dying, hopeless, all is lost!

            Enter God – resurrection life from the grave – death conquered, life restored, the first fruits of God’s mysterious plan to reunite the cosmos.

            Enter God through Jesus Christ into your and my life. So we feel inadequate, so did St Paul. Yet God chose to reveal the mystery of the Christ-child to us so that we can make the mystery known to the world about us.

            Enter God’s Spirit into the Church – the body of believers to teach, encourage and equip each of us to make the mystery of God known.

            God’s purpose is to restore all of creation to the glory it had in the beginning – to bring about reconciliation and unity. The example of the warrior who killed Tārore and who was reconciled to Tārore’s father Ngakuku through reading God’s Word in the Gospel of St Luke is an example for us of what can happen – lives were changed and still can be.

            God’s purpose included restoring the relationship between the warrior and Ngakuku, just as the relationship between Victoria and South Australia was so that no one feels intimidated when on holiday, so that trade could continue and jealousy dissolve.

            God’s purpose includes black and white to live together in harmony, for separated families to re-unite, for brothers and sisters to respect each other, for mankind to respect and take care of the land over which God has given us stewardship. God’s purpose is the peace which is spoken of at Christmas.

            The mystery, which seems so obvious to Christians – let Jesus into your life and receive the blessings, the confidence to live and share, the love to be concerned for others, the trust to share hurts and not be condemned.

            This is the mystery God wants the Church to make known to the world. God has already accomplished His purpose.

            By its very existence, the church is proof to the world that God’s determination and ability to effect change which affects the very institutions and structures of humankind’s existence, to break down all the barriers and walls which divide humanity in society.

            The Church is the first marker piece of God. And He has given us a part in the next marker piece.

            The evidence of God’s power at work in the Church is numerous. Tārore’s story illustrates this. Each of us here too are testimony to God’s power. Some of us have fought and continue to fight against God’s desire for us to worship Him regularly. Even the diversity of our backgrounds is testimony to God’s power.

Our stories may not have been as dramatic as those of Te Rauparaha who had struck fear into the hearts of many Maori and European settlers alike but he received God’s grace and built the Rangiātea Church.

            At the ordination service I mentioned earlier, I worshipped God with an Ethiopian, a German, fellow Kiwis, Australians, wealthy businessmen, welfare mums and their children, the Bishop of the church, victims and perpetrators of family abuse and unborn babies.

            There is the mystery of God and mystery of God is seen here today. We are all able to approach God because He approached us and invited us to share in His light and victory over sing and death which Jesus shares with us.

            Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

            Amen.