Today is our last time in the first section of Ephesians, this introduction where Paul draws us into the soaring wonder of God’s action for us, in us, and with us. Paul has turned our gaze to God, reminding us who and whose we are, inviting us to relish God’s love and blessing, God’s delight and generosity for us and all things.
And while Paul is addressing a particular group of people, believers committed to the will and way of Jesus in the ancient city of Ephesus, that phrase “all things is important.” Because it reminds us that this is not just for then and there, but it’s for here and now. “All things” means us, it means our neighbours—the ones we like and the ones we don’t much; it means all non-human creation, too. All things.
Today’s reading is the same as the last episode: 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 our last episode, we considered that God’s good pleasure is revealed in Jesus. What God is up to in the world is revealed in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. We don’t have to wonder how God is. We may not be able to grasp the full mystery of God—God is always, in the words of another, “Wholly holy other.” As creatures—beloved, image of God creatures, but creatures nevertheless—we can never completely understand God. But neither are we left in a haze of mystery. In the letter to the Colossians we read that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus. Who and how Jesus is, is who and how God is.
And in the second half of today’s passage, we hear that that is cosmically good news. The good pleasure of God is to gather up all things in Christ. The good pleasure of God is that everything—everything in heaven and earth—will be gathered into the eternal love of the Trinity, the perfect, self-giving, life-making love of the Father, Son and Spirit. (Sidebar: If the Trinity is a reality that you have a hard time understanding, I’d encourage you to check out a podcast called “The Things Above Podcast,” featuring James Bryan Smith. Specifically the episode from Season 3, “Wanted by the Trinity”—we’ll put the link in today’s show notes.)
For now, what’s important is Paul’s insistence that the love with which the Father loves the Son, is the love with which God is pursuing this world. In the fullness of time, when all is said and done, every little thing, including you and me, will be gathered up in that love: the love that heals, makes whole, that creative, joyful, stronger-than-death love. That’s where this thing is headed.
One of the weird things about Christian faith is that we believe that the future is already influencing the present and redefining the past. By the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and in the world, God’s future—the good pleasure of God’s will—is already taking shape.
So, if what Paul says is true, and I believe it is, it should pretty radically affect the way that we move through the world. Perhaps part of the task in growing in faith is learning to see the world around as passionately loved by God. This promise, as we begin to understand it, will change how we perceive others, how we respond to conflict and frustration. It will infiltrate our prayers, for ourselves and other. It will cause us to recognize that every moment is shot through with God’s love, God’s presence, God’s promise—even in those moments and seasons when all seems lost. Even then, God’ future can find a crack to trickle in.
For some reason this makes me think of the insight from St. Therese of Lisieux, that we can’t do great things, only small things with great love. Paul reminds us that God has done, is doing, and will do great things, in great love. And now we, in our everyday, ordinary human lives, get to live in, with, and through that love. And that changes everything.
So may it be so.