July 16: Ephesians 1:1-14
I generally like to begin with a quick look at the Greek for anything that catches my eye. I usually start here and then move to other resources for deeper study of any interesting linguistic points.
Working Preacher (of course): “The letter begins with a blessing for God rather than a thanksgiving for the Ephesians themselves. The theological and Christological emphases will continue throughout, yet it does not take much imagination to see the implications of God’s work for those to whom the letter is addressed. They have been adopted as children of God.”
Textweek: A variety of resources, here are a couple that caught my eye in particular —
“Visualizing Peace,” Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer. “You cannot overcome hatred with hatred. It’s an ancient concept: you can only overcome hatred with love. You cannot overcome violence with violence. You can only overcome violence with peace. And so it is that St. Paul viewed Jesus’ death as an act of peace overcoming the hatreds and divisions of the human family.”
Join the Feast, Ephesians 1:3-14, Elizabeth Smith, Union PSCE, 2009. “In a world full of injustice, pain and division, these words of adoption, grace and gathering all things up are sometimes hard to hear. Indeed, there is tension between what God has already done in Christ and what is left to be done in the world.”
Sermonwriter: “‘Blessed (Greek: eulogetos) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v. 3a). The form of this verse is called a benediction (good saying) or a berakah (the Hebrew word for blessing). It is a joyful response to the blessings that God has given (see v. 3b), and ascribes blessings or praise to God for his grace.”
Sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14 by Paul G. Fleischer: “In our text from Ephesians 1, with its soaring gospel truths proclaimed to us, the Lord would have us consider again the astounding truth that our eternal salvation was begun by God already before the foundation of the world. May the Spirit of God bless our consideration of verses 3-14.”
Dr. Ronald D. Worden: “In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul does not address a series of specific local problems as he does in 1 Corinthians, nor a single specific problem such as the “Colossian Heresy” (Col. 2:8-23)…Ephesus was large enough to have many problems. Paul “did extraordinary miracles” there (Acts 19:11), exorcizing evil spirits (v. 12), making “some itinerant Jewish exorcists” jealous (vv. 13-16), and supervising a public burning of magic books valued at “fifty thousand silver coins” (v. 19). But these problems were within the surrounding culture, not within the Christian community. So in Ephesians, more than in most of his other epistles, Paul waxes eloquently about spiritual blessings.”
Church in God’s Eternal Plan (EBSCO): “In the first three chapters we sense a vertical thrust: our eyes are directed chiefly upward to God and His Christ; in the last three chapters the thrust is horizontal: our eyes are directed chiefly to our fellow Christians and fellowmen. A few simple outlines may be suggested. All say about the same thing: The Nature and the Function of the Church, or, more popularly stated: The “Is”-ness and the Business of the Church.”
Proclaiming Ephesians (EBSCO): ” In this book, we have what has been described as “the quintessence of Paulinism,” one of the most mature and eloquent statements on the purpose of God, and the place of the church in the accomplishment of that divine purpose in history.”
July 23: Ephesians 2:11-22
Start with a quick look at the Greek on biblehub.
Working Preacher (of course): “Think of the perennial hot spots around the globe, or the places of enduring tribal violence, or the generation-to-generation legacy of racial tension in the United States. Then read Ephesians 2:14, “He is our peace.” We often speak of Christ creating peace between humanity and God, but in this reading, the peace that Christ brings is between one group of human beings and another as much as it is related to humanity’s standing before God. Hostility between us is overcome (v. 14) and reconciliation with God is also made real (v. 16).”
Textweek: A few resources in particular —
“Breaking Down the Dividing Wall,” Janet Hunt, Dancing with the Word, 2012. “When you consider what it is ‘to be brought near by the blood of Christ,’ what does this mean to you? How have you experienced this?”
“First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary,” Pentecost 8, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia. “It is not the mission to recruit strength and build power. It all depends so much on whether you see the goal as withdrawal to another source of power beyond all things or coming home to the source of love within all things which is seeking to bring and hold them together.”
Commentary, Ephesians 2:14-22, Hyveth B. Williams, The African American Lectionary, 2009. “This passage is cause for the people of God to rejoice that God is reconciling, healing and bridging communities in both the spiritual and natural world.”
Sermonwriter: “People construct walls in their minds and hearts—walls that do not necessarily express themselves in physical form. We say, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But we must learn to ask, “Why do they make good neighbors?” We must learn that “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down” (from “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost). That something is God. God wants to bring down the walls that divide us.”
Jesuswalk: Paul continues the construction analogy. “Built together” (NIV) is the Greek compound verb sunoikodomeo, “to build up or construct of various parts, build up (together).” You and I are not built for individual devotion and churchless lives as Lone Ranger Christians. We are to be built together with others.
Political Theology Today: “Peace. Justice. Citizenship. These are the catch phrases that the author employs. Laudable goals, to be sure, but the way in which the text moves from this ethnic (and potentially racial) conflict to the resolution are not only unorthodox but, for the gentile audience addressed, is jarring and potentially wounding.”
Theological Meditations on Ephesians 2:11-22 (EBSCO): This passage from Ephesians embodies the Pauline preoccupation with commenting on Gentile problems. The first two verses pile up harsh characterizations of Gentile outsiders from the perspective of God’s people Israel: They are the uncircumcized, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Following what Nils Dahl has termed the “soteriological contrast pattern,” Ephesians calls Gentiles to remember their godless heritage in order to cast into bolder relief the “immeasurable riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus” (2:7) that are now theirs as “members of the household of God” along with their Jewish brothers and sisters (2:19).”
Ephesians 2:11-22 (EBSCO): “This twofold gift of peace and the divine rescue are inseparable. For it is in a single act, the creation of a new humanity in Christ, that the rescue is accomplished and peace achieved. Christ “create [s] in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace” (v. 15).”