Recently I was visiting with a lady who is nearing the end of her life. She was telling me about her life, the joys, the sorrows, and the regrets. Finally, she asked me if I would hear her confession. “Of course,” I said, “it would be my honor.” She shared with me things that she had not spoken of in many years, but she had a smile on her face while she was speaking. She would pause now and again to recall and detail or two; sometimes, she would chuckle a little and say, “oh, I cannot share that.”
When she was finished, we chatted a little more about her feelings of guilt and shame for what she had done, but we also talked about God’s love and God’s grace. I assured her that she is and always has been loved by God and that she is forgiven. She sank back in her chair, visibly exhausted from our conversation. She closed her eyes and sat in silken for a time. It is in these times I have learned just to be still and know.
After a few moments had passed, she opened her eyes and looked at me. Visibly she was the same person who had been sitting in front of me for about an hour but spiritually, she had changed. She looked into my eyes and thanked me. My friend told me that she felt like a burden had been lifted from her and that she was ready for whatever came next. She told me that she knew that she was forgiven, but it was nice to hear it from another and speak of things she had never spoken of. I was honored to have been a part of the next steps.
Today’s passage of Scripture comes to us from the Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter is written, it is believed by St. Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome sometime between 61-63 CE. Although it is written in the form of a letter, the are no personal greetings, unlike St. Paul’s other letters. It is written to “the Saints who are at Ephesus,” but it is believed that St. Paul was writing universally, and as such, this Letter should be placed alongside the Pastoral Epistles of James and Peter.
All of this shows that St. Paul is writing to a much larger audience than the church gathered at Ephesus; St. Paul is writing to wherever the church was and is gathered. This passage is about the love that God has for each of us and for all of creation and the desire that God has that we come to know God and Jesus Christ and to love others just as they love us.
St. Paul writes of the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus, redemption, and forgiveness of our trespasses. We have an abundance of grace that has been lavished upon us, and all of this has been planned since “before the foundation of the world” (v4). Think about that; God loved us before the creation of the world. Before everything that we see around us, God loved us.
The focus of what St. Paul writes is on the action and actions of God. None of this is brought about by our efforts; it is a gift to us from God. There is nothing for us to do but “live for the praise of his glory” (v12). The Westminster Catechism sums it up best; our “chief aim” is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.
These words from St. Paul remind us of the love that God has for us, and the words that St. Paul uses express just what kind of love it is; excessive, tender, and richly abundant. But this is not just about us as individuals. St. Paul tells us that this is about something larger than ourselves. There is constant use of plural pronouns to remind us that God’s blessings are not individual but for the community of Christ.
We are blessed in Christ; we are chosen in Christ; we are destined for adoption through Christ. In Christ, we have obtained our inheritance, and our hope is set on Christ.
We have been offered this extraordinary gift as our own, and we have been invited to share God’s riches and God’s grace. This has all been made possible through Jesus Christ that we might live as God’s own children.
During the visit I shared about, the burdens of one’s life had been lifted from her, not by anything I had done or anything I had said. The grace of God lifted her burdens in that moment of her life. Did I need to be there? Well, that can be a discussion for another time, but her confession was not to me; at that moment, she was speaking to God who loves her very much; I was simply the witness to the conversation and assured of her forgiveness.
God’s grace was present at that moment for her but also for me. God’s grace is a gift that is freely given to us; our task is to share that grace with others this day and every day.