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Embracing Mystery: Riches lavished

Reflections from Our Pastors

   Still in the middle of his crazy-long 202 word sentence, Paul can’t get to a stopping point when he’s speaking of how fabulous Christ really is: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Notice a few things – like Paul’s hifalutin language. “Riches lavished.” God’s not stingy. The Christian life and hope aren’t meager. There is an abundance in God, more than enough. Do we need “redemption”? Absolutely. The word describes the price and process of liberating a slave in the ancient world. We too find ourselves in a kind of bondage, don’t we? To cynicism, the culture’s rancor, all the anxiety, the lies about consuming, the fake promises of political ideology – or simple, I just get stuck in my self. Jesus sets us free.

N.T. Wright, in his great Surprised by Hope (a book we’ll be attentive to in our small groups beginning Monday!) explains: “Jesus was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future. What he was promising for that future, and doing in that present, was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity, but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is, so they could enjoy, already, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose – and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project.”

We constantly pray “forgive us our trespasses.” They are indeed forgiven. Not that they don’t matter. They matter so much that God bears them in God’s own heart, which pains God and should grieve us to let them go. The mystery of trespassing, by the way, is that we grieve God’s heart not just by stuff we know is wrong. We all have blind spots: something in me is so wrong and misguided that I can’t even see it. God forgives even what is mystifying to myself.

When I wrote my book, The Will of God, I latched onto verse 9: “He has made known the mystery of his will.” God’s will is a mystery, as in it’s not obvious like your GPS telling you to turn at the next light. And yet that mystery is made known. We know God’s will by doing what we’re doing right now: reading Scripture, sharing in worship, diligent prayer, conversations with friends who care about us and God, listening to the pains in the world.

Go back to the first paragraph and re-read Ephesians 1:7-10 – and ponder these words today.

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