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I’ve said it before, but I’m like a kid in a candy store thinking about all the texts of Scripture we could immerse ourselves in and I could have the privilege of teaching from in our worship services. So why start this fall in Ephesians? Because I have a high regard for pastor, writer, professor of my seminary, and translator of The Message, Eugene Peterson. And in teaching on spiritual formation, he always taught from the book of Ephesians. He said that ever since first teaching a Sunday School class on it in 1965 with three elderly saints Catherine, Betty, and Lucille, he found it to be the text of Scripture that would most comprehensively form his identity as a pastor working in a congregation in which the Holy Spirit was developing a community of saints to “grow up into the full measure of Christ.” (Eph 4: 16)
As I have been immersing myself in this book the last couple of months, I think he’s on to something. We know that “church is the core element in the strategy of the Holy Spirit for providing human witness and physical presence to the Jesus-inaugurated kingdom of God in this world.” (Peterson, Practice Resurrection, 12) We churches are intended to be God’s advertising for the world. The book of Ephesians is the apostle Paul’s most comprehensive book on what churches are to be. It’s the only letter we have in the New Testament that was not written in response to some problem a specific local church was facing. Likely, that’s because it was written not only to the church in Ephesus, but also with the intention of being passed around to all the churches in the area, so they could acquire a clear vision for who they were to become in Christ. If we want to understand who we are as God’s church, Ephesians is a great place to start.
And the vision set before us is clear: maturity in Christ, or “healthy in God, robust in love” (Ephesians 4:16 Msg)—whole and holy (1:5 Msg). What I love about this is that contrary to some perspectives on spiritual formation, the book of Ephesians urges us to have a spiritual life that impacts every aspect of our being: physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, behavioral, vocational, financial, and on and on. Paul is clearly convinced that the way of life God wants for his people…his saints (holiness), is not just good press for God, but also leads to healthy (whole) living. It turns out holiness is related to wholeness…to human flourishing. And couldn’t we all use more of that? As City Church begins this new season of ministry and witness as God’s press here in southwest Minneapolis, it seems fitting to look at this fundamental book on how the Holy Spirit is at work developing a community of saints from people who have found new life in Christ. May God’s vision for church be increasingly a reality among us: for our sake (whole) and His glory (holy).