This is the sermon I preached this morning for the service at Wilson Lake led by the church youth group.
Read Ephesians 1:3-14
In an age of facebook, twitter and texting, the ultimate goal is to say as much as you can, in as few words as you can. In an effort to save space, a whole new language of anagrams has evolved, where only the first letter of a few words is listed, but is meant to convey the full weight and measure of each word.
This fits quite well in an age of shortened attention spans. Nobody wants to read 5 words, when they can get the message in 3. No one wants to read anything if a picture can tell the story. And no one wants to look at still pictures, when movies and videos will work even better.
Like most things, this too has affected the Church. How many of us here today have shared a picture or short phrase in an effort to confess our Christian faith? How many here are wearing t-shirts that have a Bible verse, or a design on them, in an effort to show others what you believe? The ultimate goal again being, how much can we say, without actually saying all that much at all?
Historically, the Church does not always say as much as it can in as few words as it can. We have three creeds to prove it, with one of those creeds being almost 2 pages long; and we have a Small Catechism that has expanded to nearly 200 pages; and who can forget that the best hymns have a minimum of six verses? Traditionally, the Church has been of the opinion that in order to confess the faith, one must not only confess the faith, but not leave any room for loopholes or exemptions or misunderstanding. Longer is usually better when making a defense of the faith.
But defending the faith in creeds and catechisms and hymns is not the only place where the Church believes in using more words and not fewer.
In our reading from Ephesians, St. Paul is offering an opening thanksgiving to God for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon both himself and the Church at Ephesus. And St. Paul does not just say ‘Thanks be to God’ nor does he merely sing the Common Doxology. St. Paul goes on for 12 verses on all that God has done, not just for him, but for you as well.
St. Paul gives thanks to God for His work in the Old Testament in leading His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. St. Paul gives thanks that God preserved a faithful remnant, who clung to the Word of God, even when those around them, both inside and outside of Israel, were chasing after idols.
St. Paul gives thanks that God sent His only Son, Jesus, into the world to redeem those who were trapped under the curse of sin, death and the devil. And not only did Jesus die on the cross for those sins, He also rose from the tomb and ascended into heaven; with the promise that He would return to judge the living and the dead, and take those who believe in His name to live with Him for all eternity.
St. Paul gives thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls, gathers and enlightens believers in the one true faith. He gives thanks that the Holy Spirit is the comforter and guide whom Jesus promised to send, who would lead God’s people through this earthly life to eternal life in heaven.
And finally, St. Paul gives thanks that all this has been done for him, a poor sinful wretch, and for you, who were likewise condemned under the law, but are now redeemed through the blood of Jesus. St. Paul gives thanks, just as you give thanks, that the forgiveness of sins has been extended to you and to me; and that we do not sit in darkness, but rather await the Lord’s coming and the promise of eternal life.
There is no need here to give thanks in 140 characters or less; no need to try to fit everything onto the back of a t-shirt or onto a bumper sticker. Some days, you need twelve verses and even more, to express thanks and praise to God for all of His wondrous blessings, because like those creeds and confessions, sometimes you don’t want to leave any room for loopholes, exemptions, or misunderstandings.
Today, St. Paul has done just that here in the opening verses of his letter to the Ephesians.
Would you also set aside the time to think about the blessings that God has bestowed upon you, first and foremost those listed here in Ephesians 1 that have been given to all believers, but also those gifts and blessings that are individual to you. Not because you have to, not because you need to, and not because I or someone else told you to, but because you get to. You get to sit back and ponder the blessings and gifts that God has bestowed upon you, His holy and precious child.
Because sometimes a status update, or a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker, just will not say everything that needs to be said.