Hope for the Purple Church

votersinredsAuthor’s Note: In Sunday’s sermon I talked about the deep division in our nation between red and blue voters, a division that shows up in our churches when red and blue Christians occupy the pews.  I made an appeal for unity on the basis of Ephesians 1:3-14, and shared my paraphrase of the text.  Here it is, along with the comments I provided in the sermon.

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Bless God!  Why?
Because he has blessed us
With every spiritual blessing in heaven
Even as he chose us from the very beginning
To stand blameless before him.

Let me ask you to pay special attention to the word us in that passage, because Paul is talking to both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, in the same way I’m talking to both Red Christians and Blue Christians.  And yet in Christ Jesus God has made them all one, and blessed them with every spiritual blessing in heaven, just as he’s blessed us.  Verse 5:

Because he loves us, he picked us out for adoption,
An adoption made possible by Jesus Christ,
According to the purpose of God’s will
And to the praise of his glorious grace
With which he has blessed us in his Beloved.

And here Paul is speaking mostly to the Gentiles who have been adopted into God’s family.  The Jews were God’s Chosen People before, but now, in Christ, the Gentiles have been chosen, too.  That means you and I have been chosen, picked out by God himself to be part of his family.  All we can be is grateful.  Verse 7:

In Him we have been redeemed through his blood.
Our sins have been washed away
In the river of God’s grace
A flood of forgiveness pouring forth
From an ocean of love.

You see?  Not only did God pick us out, he cleaned us up.  We were standing there, filthy with sin, but he saw something in us, something only a Father could love.  We were washed in the waters of baptism.  We put on the clean white robe of salvation.  We became his in a whole new way.  Verse 9:

In Jesus Christ he has shown us what he is up to,
And how, when the time is right,
He plans to bring everything together in him,
Things in heaven and things on earth.

I say it like this sometimes: that “God is working to redeem all of creation.”  He is working to put all the broken pieces of his world back together again, and when he is finished there will be no division, not between Jews and Gentiles, and certainly not between red and Blue Christians.  Verse 11:

[We look forward to that day, because]
In Christ we have been made heirs
Of every good thing God has to give.
God picked us out from the very beginning
So that we, who were the first to hope in him
Might shatter the heavens with our praise.

And this is where it gets good.  Since we have been adopted into God’s family we stand to inherit every good thing God has to give.  And even though we aren’t the same there won’t be more for some and less for others.  Paul talks about those “who were the first to hope in him,” meaning Jews like himself who were the first to hope in Jesus, but then he makes sure the Gentiles will not feel left out.  Listen to what he says beginning in verse 13:

It’s not only us!
You Gentiles, when you heard the word of truth,
The good news of your salvation,
You received it, you believed in him,
And were sealed with the Holy Spirit
Which guarantees our inheritance
Until the day we receive it
Thanks be to God!

This blessing that God wants to pour out on his family is for everybody: for those who were born into it and those who were adopted into it.  He doesn’t make any distinctions.  For him there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, red nor blue.  You are all one in Christ Jesus and you stand to inherit every blessing God has to give…together.

During the campaign season in this last election I got tired of all the mudslinging that was going on: Hillary saying ugly things about Donald and Donald saying ugly things about Hillary until I didn’t want either one of them to be president.  I was wishing my dad was still alive so I could write in his name as I had in two previous elections.  But I began thinking about that song, “America the Beautiful,” and wishing that someone would begin using it as a campaign strategy—just playing that song and showing pictures of spacious skies and amber waves of grain, of purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain.  Because we are all Americans, and we all love this country.  We need to have that kind of beautiful vision held up in front of us to keep us striving toward the very best we can be.  And I think that that’s what Paul is doing here, with this vision of a church where every one of us has been

  • chosen by God,
  • forgiven in Jesus Christ,
  • redeemed by his blood,
  • washed in the waters of baptism,
  • adopted into the family,
  • ready to inherit every good thing God has to give.

We need to have this vision of us—all of us—not just sitting on the same pew, but gathered around the same table.  That is our new reality in Christ Jesus.  It transcends all other realities.

Even, and perhaps especially, the political ones.

 

–Jim Somerville