Ephesians 1:1-3 (NRSV)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
This Sunday we begin our year long journey with Paul. We will use his prison correspondence (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) as a road map into his life, preaching, teaching, and theology. We will begin with Ephesians where Paul speaks movingly and confessionally about God. In the first chapter God is center stage and the verses are crammed with all that God has done for us. God has a plan for us rooted in John Wesley's concept of prevenient grace, the grace that comes before our response.
It is a never ending grace that most of us have only started to know. Maybe some of you have read Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain. If so, maybe you remember the scene where Ruby, a woman who has spent all of her life learning the secrets of the land and its gifts, tests Ada, a woman from the city to see if she is starting to learn about the farm and the land:
. . . You say you want to get to know the running of this land, Ruby said.
. . . Yes, Ada said.
Ruby rose and knelt behind Ada and cupped her hands over Ada's eyes.
. . . Listen, Ruby said. Her hands were warm and rough over Ada's face. They smelled of hay, tobacco leaves, flour, and something deeper, a clean animal smell. Ada felt their then bones against her fluttering eyes.
. . . What do you hear? Ruby said.
Ada heard the sound of wind in the trees, the dry rattle of their late leaves. She said as much.
. . . Trees, Ruby said contemptuously, as if she had expected just such a foolish answer. Just general trees is all? You've got a long way to go.
She removed her hands and took her seat and said nothing more on the topic, leaving Ada to conclude that what she meant was that this is a particular world. Until Ada could listen, and at the bare minimum tell the sound of the poplar from the oak at this time of year when it was easiest to do, she had not even started to know the place.
I would suggest that most of us have only started to know about God and His Son Jesus Christ. So, I invite you to jump in with me and explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be a recipient of God's all-encompassing gift of grace and love.
Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997), 227-228.