Let us pray: Dear Savior, our greatest blessing in life is that You have chosen us to be Your beloved children all out of pure love. Our coming to faith in You was the transformational moment in our entire existence. And from it flows absolutely everything of value in our lives both here in time and in the hereafter. So today we join in responding the only way we can: with our thanks, praise and thanksgiving. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GRACE-GIVING LORD!
TEXT: Ephesians 2: 4-10
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
The word “paradigm” is a unique bit of language. In my 50 year old dictionary they define it as: “A form or pattern” of something. But that definition doesn’t do it justice. I define paradigm as a comprehensive outline of a concept, idea, or event which includes everything—even the smallest details. I’ll give you an example. I like to cook. I try to make at least one really memorable meal each week that we sit down and savor for a good hour or so. To achieve the end result, I have to prepare a menu, research recipes, make a shopping list, go to the store and buy needed items, prep all the ingredients, carefully cook the food, set the table, and finally when it’s ready, we enjoy it. And after it’s all done there’s the clean-up. The details of all this become the paradigm of that particular meal. My point here is that a paradigm is totally comprehensive.
Our lives are composed of many small paradigms such as the meal I just described. These, in turn, fit into larger paradigms—such as if you’re a vegan, you prepare those meals accordingly and adopt that lifestyle. We have financial paradigms which order our lives, medical-related paradigms, work paradigms, work-out paradigms. And ultimately, they all inter-relate. But, the greatest paradigm of them all, the comprehensive glue that binds our life together is: God and our spiritual existence. That’s what our lesson for today outlines for us.
All of us are human beings with brains, emotions, and desires. All of us have a recognition that we are alive, living beings, not dead inanimate objects. That’s our perspective on ourselves. But, how do we stack up, or rank, from God’s perspective? After all, His is the only viewpoint that truly counts, isn’t it? Listen to St. Paul’s words: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Because of our fall into sin, our status before God is dead. We’re like a bunch of stones along the ocean being battered about and worn down by the never-ending waves of life’s troubles. Left alone we will amount to nothing—just like those stones. Left alone we’re basically worthless to Him and to ourselves and others. We need a purpose, a paradigm, an outline for our lives which is meaningful. And right here Paul tells us that God Almighty has fulfilled that need. Because He loved us beyond human telling, God who is bursting with mercy and kindness, breathed life, eternal worth into dead stones like us via the self-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross. To borrow a phrase Paul uses elsewhere, He makes us into living stones and uses us to build up eternal temples to the praise of Christ, temples where the angels dwell and eternal praises resound! And it all begins and never-endingly continues on, fueled by God’s grace which has saved us!
And how do we know that this total conversion of our essential being won’t end? Listen again to our text: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
So, God’s Son died to save us and then He arose from the grave, our graves, to make us eternally alive. And just as He is seated in the heavenly realms forever, so too, through faith are we! And the purpose behind all this amazing glorification of lost humans like us is that through you and me God will forever show the riches of His love which are beyond telling. Paul uses the term: “the coming ages” to describe all this. The Greek word for ages is: eons. In other words, this life is merely a blip on God’s radar screen. He has countless more eons to come during which we’ll experience the totality of this paradigm of salvation, this paradigm of grace in which we now reside.
Paradigms are broad and sweeping. This one sweeps across time and goes into infinity. But any paradigm there is has a host of details along the way. Details that will need to be completed and fulfilled to attain the end result. When it comes to our eternal salvation, we often imagine that we need to fill in those details and thus our individual labors are the reason why God includes us in His eternal plan. Often we end up imagining that it’s all dependent upon us and we naturally want to take our bow for helping out and accept God’s accolades. However, that would subtract from God’s glory and end up stealing some of it for ourselves. That mindset lies outside His Divine paradigm. To counteract such a mindset, Paul now writes this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Think of the paradigm this way: God lovingly wanted us to be a part of His timeless glory. He wanted to include us in showing Satan that evil never wins and that God’s holiness will never cease. So, He sent us His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins, paid to Himself on a cross. Then God chose to apply that undeserved love to you. Since that grace is God’s very power, it worked faith into your heart. It was His gift to you via grace. And once energized with such faith you were linked to God forever. And then you began to fulfill your purpose in life—being living stones—stones which cry out in praise of Him by words and actions—all which God had planned out in advance.
So, right here the Godly paradigm of life becomes complete. He gives us His glory, we benefit from that glory, and finally that glory comes back to Him. The eternal circle of never-ending life is complete! That’s Christianity. That’s historic Lutheranism. All glory to God, alone! And you and I are blest to be an integral component part of it all! Next time you sing the hymn: “Grace ‘Tis a Charming Sound, harmonious to the ear” remember that truth. And then sing the next line with gusto: “Heaven with its echoes shall resound, and all the earth shall hear!” Amen