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An Incomprehensible Mystery January 8, 2017

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Ephesians 3:1-12

The First Sunday After Epiphany

January 8, 2017

 

Focus:  God grants His grace to even the least of all people.

Function:  That the hearers perceive into the mystery of Christ.

Structure:  .

 

An Incomprehensible Mystery

 

I know that any number of you enjoy those fixer upper shows on HGTV.  It’s been a while since I’ve watched one.  I just can’t stand the thought of paying for cable.  But, I assume, they haven’t changed at all.  Some family with a run-down home calls up the Fixer Uppers and cries out for help.  So the Fixer Uppers come in, kick the family out so they can’t watch the work as it progresses, and then they pick up their sledgehammers.

Sometime later, once the work is all finished, they invite the family back.  And the show always makes a big deal out of the big reveal.  They build up to this moment in the episode where the family finally gets to see what their home looks like.

That’s what today is.  We’re celebrating the big reveal!  Epiphany comes from the Greek word epifanoj, which means, revelation.  What is the big reveal that we’re celebrating today?

Christ to the Gentiles

The arrival of the Magi, whenever that happened, is the traditional end of the season of Christmas.  Twelve days of Christmas ending in Epiphany.  Ending with these men, these Magi, these priests, astrologists, magicians, whatever exactly they were, coming to see the Christ child.  These men from the East, not Jews, not people of God, coming to see the Christ who came to the world.

And He came to a world in shackles.  Paul describes himself as a prisoner, in shackles to Christ, but that’s not the same.  The world is in shackles to sin.  We are prisoners to our depression.  We find ourselves wondering how God the Almighty could even care about me, about a wretch like me.  We despair and wonder what use or what value we could possibly give to God.  We doubt, sometimes if we’re honest, we doubt that God even exists.

And yet, it’s to this world, to these depressed, despairing, doubting people that God incarnates His own Son.  Not just to the Jews, but God reveals His love for His creation, He reveals His love for all people in Jesus Christ.  The big reveal, that salvation, that forgiveness has come for you and for me.  Christ has come for all people.

One of the key words in our text from Ephesians is the word mystery.  And it really is a great word.  It’s not mystery as in Clue or a good detective show, but rather mystery in the greatest of all senses.

Paul talks about the mystery of God’s grace in Christ.  That the all-powerful God who created the universe and everything in it would love us, even though we reject Him.  That He would continue to shower His love down on us, even in the depths of our depression.  We may not be able to fully understand or fully answer the question of why God cares about us, but we know that He does.  That’s the big reveal, the epiphany of the Savior.  Jesus Christ for you and for me.

Paul talks about the mystery of Christ to the Gentiles.  Here they are, not Jews, not the people of God.  Not the people God set apart for His purpose.  Not the people with whom God made a covenant, not the people that God declared His own nation.  Not the people to whom He promised a Savior, and deliverance, and peace.

And yet, to these very people, to these Gentiles, the Christ-child comes.  In the wake of His birth, the Magi come.  They take the news home.  In the wake of Herod’s anger, Joseph and Mary take the Savior of the world down to Egypt.  To the very people who have nothing to give to God, who bring nothing to the table, Jesus comes.

We may never fully understand or grasp why, but we know that God revealed His Son, the Savior of the world to all people.  That Christ came, that He shed His blood upon the cross, not just to forgive the Jews, but to forgive all nations.  And for you and for me, that’s a revelation worth celebration.  Because we’re Gentiles, and yet, God expands His promises to include us.

Paul talks about the mystery of the hidden plan of God.  The so-called greatest minds of the world reject Him, they say He can’t possibly exist.  Miracles can’t happen, your prayers can’t be answered.   The world, you are nothing more than an accident of primordial ooze.  A caring God wouldn’t let these awful things happen to you.

Before we even had an inkling of any of those doubts, God had a plan.  From before He even formed you in the womb, before He even crafted the world with nothing but His Word, He had a plan to save us doubting people.  A plan that involves a baby boy, and some shepherds, and some magicians travelling from far away because they saw an incredible star in the sky.

A plan that involved the endurance of torture and beatings, nails and thorns, and a spear in His side.  A plan that shook the earth, tore down the temple curtain, and cast darkness over all of creation.  A plan that involved doubting women going to cover the scent of a decaying body, but when they got there they saw no decay.

We may never fully understand or grasp why God chose to save the very people who doubted Him and even hated Him, but we rejoice in the revelation of a Savior.  That God sent Jesus Christ to die and rise again to announce not just to sinful men, but the very devil himself, that God triumphs over depths of the grave, over the worst of our sins, and over the fiery serpent.

The early church fathers loved this idea of mystery so much that they used it.  They began to call pastors “stewards of the mysteries.”  That is, it is the job of your pastor to bring to you the mysteries of God.  To bring to you His incomprehensible grace in His Word.  To bring to you His insurmountable love in the form of water. To bring to you the unsearchable riches of His Son in bread and wine.  Pastors were made stewards of the mysteries of God, they were to care for the people of God, by bringing to them His Word and His Sacraments.

To you, the big reveal, the gift of God’s grace in His Son Jesus Christ.  To you the big reveal of the gift of forgiveness of all your sins that leads to a life that never ends.  To you the gift of the unsearchable, incomprehensible, insurmountable riches in the blood of a Savior.

That’s the revelation worth celebration.  The epiphany is this: you are a child of God, despite your depression in the midst of the battle of this life, despite your despairing over the things of this world, despite your very doubts of God’s love and existence.  You are His.  It’s a mystery.  But that’s okay.  We don’t have to understand it, the gift of Christ is ours anyway.

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