the Universal Gift of God’s Spirit

A Reflection on Ephesians 2:11-22

The church is only now beginning to realize how fully open and universal is the gift of God’s Spirit to create a new humanity through faith. This has great significance in the pluralist age in which we live. There can be no closed doors in an inclusive fellowship of believers –  Rev. John Shearman’s Lectionary Analysis

"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "th...

“αθεοι” (atheoi), Greek for “those without god”, as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians on the third-century papyrus known as “Papyrus 46″ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To understand not only the history of our faith tradition, but also its present and, more importantly, its future, we need to understand how our sacred texts were created and the context in which they came to be included in what we now think of as “the Bible.” John’s lectionary analysis does a great job in filling in some of that background for this passage.

The challenge for us today is to accept the limitations of the letters and faith statements that were written two millennia ago, and to see them in the light of our living relationship with God and our current knowledge of the world.

The author of Ephesians is trying to bring together “Jew and Gentile” and to make “one out of two” through the Message of the Christ. The letter is written in terms that were familiar to people who saw the world very differently than we do today. That doesn’t mean that there’s no message for us in its meaning. Quite the contrary.

Those who were spreading the message of a universal agapé relationship faced the same problem then that we face today – the entrenched doctrine and dogma of a multiplicity of religious beliefs.

And their solution was much the same as that of those who have embraced a global, pluralistic world – to focus on the central, common message that we are “built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.”

Those who cling to the need for a “belief” in traditional Christianity are no different than those who, at the time of the author of Ephesians, identified the “saved” and the “unsaved” by whether or not they were circumcised. Ephesian’s author tells us that those indicators, being human-made, are irrelevant.

What matters, says the writer, is that we recognize that the Message of the Christ says that there is only one humanity; one Creation; and that we’re all part of it.

How we express that unity, what traditions we choose to follow, what language and terms we use to explain it, is still up to us. We may feel comfortable sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. We may prefer to work in a soup kitchen, or to donate our money to charity. We might work quietly within our jobs to ensure fair and equal policies become part of our workplace. Or we might participate in protest marches, or Occupy encampments.

Perhaps we want to embrace the religious traditions of other faiths so we can experience firsthand how other people in other cultures have interpreted their relationship with Theos. We may even choose to interpret the world by setting aside all reference to “God” in any form.

All of those diverse expressions, and innumerably many more, are secondary to the foundation on which all of our relationships must be built – our acceptance of the universal agapé interconnectedness of all Creation.

In Ephesians, the writer of course uses the language and context that was understandable to the people of the time. The “blood” and the “cross” are presented as tangible indications of the actions of God. But “God” was understood then as a figure much like Zeus, a “god” that today we relegate to mythology.

Today, we understand that Theos – God – is intangible. We know that we experience God in the intimacy of our connections to one another and to the whole of Creation.

Through the Message of the Christ we know that the exact form of those connections is irrelevant. But we know what they look like from their intent.

We can identify them by their hallmarks of Joy, and Compassion, and Justice, and Peace.

It’s the universal gift of God’s Spirit.

And it makes us all one.

Thank God.

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