Grace and Peace

August 4, 2011

Ephesians is one of those books I love to read, yet I am almost always left with questions. Perhaps that is one of the blessings of the Bible. It gives us what we need in the moment and yet keeps us asking questions.

I am going to slowly wander through this wonderful book, kind of like “Guy Noir, trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions.” I hope you join the conversation; don’t just read it with me. Tell me your thoughts and insights as well. What questions does the text bring up to you?

Let’s start with the blessing of the beginning.

“1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” I hope we do everything that we do by “the will of God” (Acts 17:28 ”In him we live and move and have our being.”) Especially, I hope we can all find our calling and live in that calling. Thoreau wanted to “live in the nick of time.” I think he would have succeeded if he had found his calling and had been living in the will of God.

“To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Do a study sometimes of how many times Paul starts a letter with the words “Grace and Peace.” (And he often adds “mercy.”) It was a common enough greeting in the Mideastern culture in which Paul lived. But if I understand things correctly Paul uses a slightly different word from the ordinary everyday greeting. In the way we might, in Western New York say “How ya doin?” as a form of greeting anyone, we might ask someone we really care about, “How are you doing?” and it takes on an entire different meaning. In the same way Paul’s somewhat innocuous greeting, when looked at deeply is wonderful. He is essentially giving a benediction at the beginning of his message: May you understand and receive the full grace of God, and the peace that passes understanding. May True Grace and The Peace of God be with you as you receive and live out this letter.

I hope as we great, and later leave those we care about, we can impart the kind of blessing that Paul does in his salutation, here and elsewhere in his letters. But I guess what would be even more significant is if we could impart grace, mercy and peace by our presence in the lives of those we love and care for.

I have been blessed beyond measure by a couple of dear friends, and I think I better understand Grace because of them. I pray that I can be a grace-giver, that people leave my presence feeling better than when they arrived. There are homes that I enter where I am totally at home as soon as I walk through the door. I have friends that I don’t see for years, but pick up right where we left off. That’s the kind of peace I hope I impart, at least to a few.

The next time you start reading one of the New Testament letters, don’t simply gloss over the salutation as if you were reading “Dear John,” but soak up the blessings given, and perhaps even receive one of your own in the process.  It will then make it easier for you to give a benediction with your life.

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