Ephesians 1: 15-23
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
I am binge watching the Netflix series “The Crown” these days.
It is a docudrama about the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England.
It is really interesting … the way the English relate to the monarchy.
The Queen, as were her predecessors on the throne, is for the most part revered and loved.
Her coronation takes place in a cathedral and she is anointed as God’s chosen.
Elizabeth is the head of state.
She is the face of Great Britain.
Yet she is bound by a constitution that gives her virtually no authority to do anything in terms of actual governing.
Elizabeth is surrounded by people who tell her what she can and cannot do.
She wants to pick her own personal secretary, but is told she cannot because ther is a protocol that requires her to keep her father’s secretary.
To do something outside protocol would demonstrate independence that the people do not want in their monarch.
They want her to be under their control.
She has virtually no control over her own life.
She certainly has no control over the lives of her “subjects”.
We in the United States often watch this and wonder why the English bother with monarchs.
We don’t get the concept of kings and queens.
Particularly ones who have no power or apparent purpose.
The days of kings and queens are long over.
Which is why “Christ the King Sunday” is a bit puzzling to us.
What does it mean that Christ is king?
King of what?
With what power or authority?
Is Jesus a king like Elizabeth is queen?
All show and no substance?
Like a human idol to be trotted out when folks want a bit of comfort and tradition?
A king that cannot act independently from the will of the people?
A king not permitted to do anything different from what has “always been done”?
Paul is clear on that point.
20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
Jesus is the supreme authority.
There are no other authorities that are superior or even equal to Jesus.
Jesus’ exalted Lordship is now and forever.
That has always been central to our faith.
The cornerstone of reformed theology.
Christ is king.
So, when we get to this point, we really should ask ourselves, “So what?”
What is required of us if Christ is king?
Do we just come to him on bended knee, proclaim our fealty and give homage?
‘You are my king, lord!’
But Paul is not talking about individual fealty.
Paul is talking to us as a church.
Paul is talking about the relationship between the church and God.
A community of believers who seek to do God’s will as … well … a part of the Body of Christ!
‘You are our king, Lord!’
But is that enough?
Or are we, as a church, called to do something more by our king?
A king who is not dependent on the will of the people, but whose will is to be done?
Paul seems clear on this point.
We are called to more by Christ our King.
The church in Ephesus was.
The church in Bethel Park is.
That is Paul’s message to the Ephesians and to us.
Our scripture reading is in three parts.
It starts with a statement that Paul has heard of the Ephesians.
Paul has heard of them.
People are talking about them.
Talking enough that Paul hears about them while he is in Rome.
Think about that.
No Ephesian website.
No social media at all.
The Ephesians have a reputation that spans countries and regions!
One writer has said a reputation starts.
When people come to our worship, our Bible study, our church school or our church suppers, and all the other things we do, they have to feel that special spirit.
That is what was going on in Ephesus.
What is the Ephesian’s reputation?
Paul has heard about the Ephesians’ special spirit.
He has heard of their faith in Jesus.
He has head of their love toward all the saints.
Paul is so pleased that he does not cease to give thanks for them as he remembers them in his prayers.
This is the kind of language one would expect to hear right before, “Welcome good and faithful servant, enter into your eternal reward.”
So, what do people say about us?
What is our reputation?
What is the special spirit people who visit us feel?
What we have been doing up on this hill for 50 years.
We live a life of faith in Jesus and love for each other.
The spirit is present and palpable.
But it is and has been particularly palpable here in November and December.
It starts with the Christmas Affair.
Who would deny that there is a special spirit then?
Next is the Thanksgiving Service.
Kids leading worship and collecting for those who need help.
Who would deny that there is a special spirit then.
Next is Advent when we have many events that anticipate the nativity of Christ.
The Christmas Concert.
A sermons series on hospitality.
A Christmas Pageant where the kids can deliver the meaning of Christmas.
Candle lit worship on Christmas Eve to bring a bit of peace and reverence to the celebration.
People who are here will find a special spirit in all these things.
A reputation of great faith and love and outreach.
And we should pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God who has encouraged us to be this great witness.
Faith in Jesus.
Thanks be to God.
Love for each other.
Thanks be to God.
We like that because it is traditional and comfortable.
And we hope it is all that is required.
But there is more required of us by our king, according to Paul.
17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you …
Paul offers a prayer of encouraging words that the church does what God has called the church to do.
Which means that faith in Jesus and love for their fellow Ephesians is not the be all and end all for the church.
We must follow Christ our King.
Even though it takes us beyond our comfort zone.
We acknowledge Jesus power as beyond any control we might want.
The church has more responsibility.
The church has more to do.
Paul prays that God gives the church even the wisdom and revelation so they come to know what more God is calling them to do.
Which is the hope to which Jesus has called them.
Faith and love are immediate and current.
The church has that.
But we also have to have hope.
Hope is something that looks to the future.
Something to look forward to.
That is what the church needs.
Hope for the future.
A mission to fulfill.
To participate in Jesus’ continuing work.
In obedience to our king.
To be God’s called out people who live as a community in obedience to God and as a holy example of what it means to be disciples of Jesus.
Paul is saying that the reign of Jesus is ushering in his Kingdom, and he expects us to participate.
Not as individuals but as a community walking side by side with Jesus on a common journey.
The journey to the completion of God’s plan for his creation and the arrival of his kingdom.
And that is our hope.
That we are subjects of Christ the King, and he will lead us and teach us that there is even more to come.
That is what Paul says a church is to do and be.
So how do we do that?
Paul is pretty vague on the details.
How do come to know the hope of our particular calling?
Like Paul, we pray for wisdom and revelation.
That our hearts be enlightened.
Then we pay attention.
We evaluate our greatest gifts and then evaluate where our gifts can serve the greatest need!
We will know when we feel the joy.
Eric Liddell was a Scott who was made famous in the movie “Chariots of Fire”.
He says this when asked about his decision to run in the Olympics rather than accepting a call to mission in china.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
It is when we feel and understand our purpose and our gifts that we become wise and understand the hope in our calling.
We will feel God’s pleasure.
It looks like this:
People in such a church have a goal, a destination, and because they know where they are going, they have hope.
We are such a church.
We have done well.
We have a good reputation.
But that there is more we are called to.
And like Paul, we must pray that we become wise and receive revelation and feel the hope that is our continued calling.
So, here is my Advent challenge.
Advent is a time of anticipation.
Anticipation of what is to come.
For us, this should be a season of anticipation of wisdom.
For us, this should be a season of anticipation of revelation.
For us this should be a season of anticipation of the hope we are called to.
What will it be?
What more can we do?
More inspired worship?
More generous mission?
More enlightening Christian Education?
More sincere fellowship?
It is this we need to pray about as Advent begins and the year ends.
What kind of prayer?
Rich Mullins, one of my favorite songwriters put how we are to approach God as king this way:
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Do that and Christ our King will give us hope for our continued calling and to participate in his work here in our world, as we follow him all of our days.