Sermon Revisited: Mercy, What a Mystery

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In his sermon on Sunday (18 March), Rev. Lou reflected on a portion of the letter to the Ephesians (2:1-10).  He noted that the theme of the letter is the unfolding of what the writer calls a mystery:  that in the course of time, all things that divide people will be

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In his sermon on Sunday (18 March), Rev. Lou reflected on a portion of the letter to the Ephesians (2:1-10).  He noted that the theme of the letter is the unfolding of what the writer calls a mystery:  that in the course of time, all things that divide people will be brought into a fundamental unity through the Christ.  In the context of this major theme, the writer of the letter addresses the day to day experience of faith shared by the members of the ancient church.  With this as an introduction, here is the conclusion of Rev. Lou’s reflection:

_______________________________________________________________

It’s this verse that I find to be of particular importance:

“God, rich in mercy and loving us so much, brought us to life in Christ, even when we were dead…”

Rich in mercy.  The Greek word for mercy is eleison. Etymologically, the root for eleison is elion, which means both olive tree and the olive oil.  Our tendency to is to think of mercy in terms of pardon and forgiveness.  However, the Greek etymology takes us in a very different direction.  Olive trees are evergreens that are related to lilacs, jasmine, and forsythia. They’re beautiful and fragrant shrubs.  In ancient cultures, olive oil is associated with healing.  It’s a balm massaged into sore muscles and used to sooth dry, damaged skin.  Think about these images that escape us in the English translation:  God, who is always green and fragrant, who sooths our sore bodies with a healing balm, loved us so much and brought us to life in Christ.

What a rich and powerful image!  What an amazing image of healing and of strength!

I suspect that many of you are a lot like me.  I’m tired of the culture wars.  I hear bits and pieces from the Presidential debates, or about the grandstanding on Capital Hill, or the laws passed by our own Georgia legislature and I just feel so beaten down.  I’m concerned about the future of the country.  My fear has nothing to do with China but has to do with what we are doing to ourselves.  I also know other people who hold very different views from me in these supposed “culture wars.” They are just as frustrated as I am about the future of our country.  I believe that they want a healthy, growing country just like me – even if we differ on the details.  In those moments when I think I’d rather just crawl under a rock or move to any of several other countries, I take a step back and remember this letter written by an unknown author in another time of great transition.  Our ancestor in faith gives me great courage.   That’s because this ancestor, living in a time of great social transition, could affirm that there’s a mystery at work:  all things will be brought into a fundamental unity through the mystery of the Christ.  We can affirm a belief in this mystery because we know, in our own lives, from our own experience, that even when we feel dead to the bone, the Holy One is rich in mercy; yes, the Creator of all things is green and fragrant and soothes us with a healing balm.  It’s real grace that we are meant to live and breathe and feel down to our bones – and absolute gift given to us – why?  Not because we’ve done anything to deserve it.  Left to our own, we really just don’t do so well, do we?  No, the reason the Holy One is with us to enliven us and strength us – to have mercy on us – is precisely because, as the pericope states, “we are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning.”

And so we shall!  Not because we know how we’ll do it.  That part was as much of a mystery to the writer of the letter to the Ephesians as it is to us.  We do the good things God created us to do because we will have the courage to be faithful to the  love we have known, in Christ, with Christ, and through the presence of Christ.  Because of that love, we affirm with the writer of this letter that we don’t understand the mysterious oneness that’s being revealed, but we can profess that there is a mystery at work: somehow all the division will be brought together into a fundamental unity through the Christ.  It’s that affirmation that empowers us as a community of faith today and in every tomorrow.  Amen.

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/03/20/sermon-revisited-mercy-what-a-mystery/

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