"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Background: “Therefore, remember”

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A Sermon for Pentecost 8, Ephesians 2:11-22 – background materials

The text lends itself nicely to a diagrammatic analysis as a handout for note-takers.  It is always fun to do this on paper, and it is the same technique I use to do legislative analysis.  This works really well with colour, but I’ll use bold and italics to pull out some of the common themes.


“in the flesh” 11

“called the uncircumcision” (Gentiles)  by    “the circumcision” (Jews)

“made in the flesh by hands”

(Greek ‘made’ means human work versus God’s work as in an idol made of human hands) 12

In opposition to        ->       The circumcision (the Jews)

Separated from        ->        Christ Jesus

Alienated from          ->        Israel (and therefore, God)

Strangers to             ->        the Covenants of promise

Having                      ->        no hope

Without                     ->        God in the world

————- BUT! 13 ——————————————————

You who were far off          à        Have been brought near

(how?) By the blood of Christ

He himself is our peace (Jesus literally is peace) 14

“Who has made us both one” by:

  • Breaking down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
  • Abolishing the law of Commandments 15
  • Creating in himself one new man in place of two
  • Reconciling us both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body 16
  • Preaching peace to you far and to you near 17

————– SO! 18  ——————————————————

“You are no longer strangers and sojourners” 19 (Genesis 23:4)

BUT fellow citizens with the saints

AND with the members of the household of God, a house:

  • Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets 20
  • With Christ Jesus as the cornerstone
  • The whole structure growing into a holy temple in the Lord 21
  • Built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit 22


Other background materials (I always try to list these to ensure I’m not blindly integrating other’s ideas without offering some recognition of what I was drawing on).

Base materials from whence this came…apart from the Spirit, prayer and reflecting…

1. Stanley Hauerwas, Prayers Plainly Spoken, 16-17, 47-48 (1999 University Press)

Addressing the God Who is not the ‘Ultimate Vagueness’

God, you alone know how we are to pray to you on occasions like this. We do not fear you, since we prefer to fear one another. Accordingly, our prayers are not to you but to some “ultimate vagueness.” You have, of course, tried to scare the hell out of some of us through the creation of your people Israel and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But we are a subtle, crafty and stiff-necked people who prefer to be damned into vagueness. So we thank you for giving us common gifts such as food, friendship and good works that remind us our lives are gifts made possible by sacrifice. We are particularly grateful for your servant Reynolds Price, who graces our lives with your grace. Through such gifts may our desire for status and the envy status breeds be transformed into service that glorifies you. Amen.

2. A blog entry by Alana Levandoski, April 16, 2015 concerning a Christian reaction to the SCC decision Mouvement laïque québécois Saguenay (City), 2015 SCC 16.  That case directed that the Saguenay city council cease praying at the start of meetings, and also to remove a crucifix and statue of the sacred heart from council chambers.  The key conclusion is here:

Finally, the reference to the supremacy of God in the preamble to the Canadian Charter cannot lead to an interpretation of freedom of conscience and religion that authorizes the state to consciously profess a theistic faith. The preamble articulates the political theory on which the Charter’s protections are based. The express provisions of the Canadian Charter and of the Quebec Charter, such as those regarding freedom of conscience and religion, must be given a generous and expansive interpretation. This is necessary to ensure that those to whom these charters apply enjoy the full benefit of the rights and freedoms, and that the purpose of the charters is attained.

Who are we Naked? Who are we Silent? is the blog entry by Alana.

In that she quotes English author Graham Greene from the novel, “A Burnt Out Case”:

Men have prayed in prison, men have prayed in slums and concentration camps.  It is the middle class who demand to pray in suitable surroundings.

Alana powerfully reframes the loss of a crucifix on the wall of a city council chamber as a call to the believer to become the crucifix [to the world].

3. A blog entry by John Stackhouse Jr, along with a related National Post article about why Christians should avoid prayer in public events that are not actually Christian gatherings.

On the Saguenay case itself, that he terms ‘another vestige of Christendom’.

I have argued previously on this blog (here and here) that the same logic forbids me from accepting invitations to pray at university convocations, and why Christians ought to be wary, in general, of prayers at public ceremonies. I don’t know why this is a difficult line for Canadian Christians to understand and observe…unless we really just don’t want to observe it…and our failure to observe it continues to entangle us in court cases we shouldn’t contest and to make us look like we are selfishly clinging to our rapidly disappearing privileges as a Christian majority.

And this one, “Note to Evangelicals: not every event calls for prayer” in the NP, 16 Sept 2011

Public prayer of the sort in question is a ritual meant to express a single sentiment on behalf of a unified group to a deity they all wish to petition. It isn’t part of an exchange of views, such as a university debate or a media talk show. I enjoy participating in such exchanges. Nor is it an educational situation — such as the world religions courses I myself have taught for more than 20 years.

Prayer isn’t supposed to be an opportunity to proclaim or teach your faith to others. Instead, prayer is a form of speech offered on behalf of everyone present to God.

Prayer in public secular events is like holding up a photograph of your mother and saying, “I’ve got Mom on speakerphone now, so let’s all tell Mom how much we love her as our mother and how we hope she’s proud of us for what we’ve done at university/work/war.” People would look at each other and then at you and think, “You’re crazy. She’s not our mother, and we didn’t do it for her.”

Worse than simply not making sense, prayer at public secular events marginalizes a lot of people: people who don’t believe in God; people who don’t believe in the particular kind of deity being prayed to, and people who do believe in God of that sort and don’t like the idea of an all-purpose prayer on behalf of an institution that otherwise pays no serious attention to God’s Word in its operations–such as the University of British Columbia or my high school basketball team.

4. Peter T. O’Briens excellent commentary on “The Letter to the Ephesians”, The Pillar NT Commentary series, Eerdmans, 1999.

5. John G Stackhouse’s most excellent book, “Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World”. This is one of the best books I’ve ever encountered concerning what it means to follow Christ in a confusing and conflicted world.  You can get this on Kindle from Amazon for $9.99, well worth the price for a not-too-academic book on life in faith.

I mention at one point the line, Christ is trampling down death by death.  This is the orthodox paschal troparion that goes (in full):

Christ is risen, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!  A modern setting in English and Slavonic can be heard here.  A more traditional tone can be heard here.  This is a wonderful verse — my principal at seminary set it to a very challenging eastern tone and one Easter we chanted it while processing from the chapel, out doors to the other chapel.


Written by sameo416

July 18, 2015 at 2:39 pm

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