Year A – Epiphany – Ephesians 3:1-12

Ephesians 3:1–12 – This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Summary – Paul makes plain to his audience that those who were not born as Jews physically, through Christ are now made part of one and the same body.  As spiritual “Jews,” Gentiles in Christ inherit the same promises as physical Jews because of the Gospel.  Paul had the responsibility and privilege of bringing this truth to light which was previously hidden.  Though it was “hidden,” there were many, many hints throughout the Old Testament, not the least of which is the face that the Davidic (and thus Messianic line) was passed through Tamar, probably a Canaanite woman, as well as Rahab (a Canaanite prostitute) and Ruth (a Moabite).  Inclusion of non-Jews was always God’s plan, but now, using Paul, this mystery was unveiled in its full glory!  This was to show God’s wisdom and instill confidence in His plans.  When the Gentile magi visited Christ, the Light of the World, the blessing of the Gospel to the whole world whether Jew or Gentile began to become clear.

Insight – Have you ever “house-sat”?  One of your friends goes on vacation and wants someone to watch their house for them while they’re away.  You’re given full run of the house, and it’s as if you live there.  Even though you are not actually the person the deed of the house was given to, you can use the house just as if you were the owner.  It is like that with the house of God.  God gave the “key” to His “house” or His “people” to the Jews, the sons of Abraham.  But when Christ came, He spread out the use of the key to both Jews AND Gentiles so that they could all freely come in and be a part of the House of God.  We are all now equal tenants, receiving of the same benefits and blessings!

Child Catechism – What kinds of people does God accepts?  All people, Jew or Gentile.

Discussion – List some other “hints” that Gentiles were to be included in the people of God.  Why does Paul say this truth was “hidden” before, if we see clear hints that God’s purpose was to include all peoples?

Prayer – Father, in this Epiphany week we thank you that in your wisdom you gave to us the revelation of your Only Son, that through Him we would become recipients of your promised Spirit through faith.  Fill us with joy and thankfulness this day, that your Gospel would go forth into the world, drawing in even more Gentiles into your house.  In Your Name we ask it, Amen.

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Year A – Epiphany 1 – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43 – Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. This fits one of the major themes of Epiphany – light to the nations, the gospel going to every place. But it had to start with someone, that someone outside Israel was Cornelius and his extended family (probably children, servants and other relatives). Peter needed to see that Gentiles as Gentiles can come into the Church, and not become Jews first (by circumcision as proselytes). Peter sees the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? I have not seen many of them and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has promised His presence in the bread and wine of the the Lord’s Supper.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.