Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday 9 June 2013 Ordinary Time 10

9 June (Ordinary Time 10)

Theme                  Christ restores us to life               

Sentence             Everyone was filled with awe and praised God! (Luke 7:16).

Collect                  Father in heaven,
                                Words cannot limit the boundaries of your love
                                For those born to new life in Christ.
                                Always renew our hearts through your Spirit
     So that we may be free to love as Christ loves us. Amen. [Adapted]       

1 Kings 17:17-24 [related]
Psalm 30
Galatians 1:11-24
                      Luke 7:11-17

1 Kings 17:17-24

Mighty miracles occurred in the ministry of Elijah. These miracles, later, would be seen as precursors to miracles of Jesus: notably a miraculous feeding (1 Kings 17:8-16) and, in today's passage, a resurrection (or resuscitation?). Details differ in each case but the conclusion of today's reading is the theme of miracle stories in the gospels: they provide evidence that the miracle worker is empowered by God and his teaching is truth.

Psalm 30

The psalmist (David, according to the superscription) extols God because God has healed him. His affliction brought him close to the point of death (verses 2-3) but God has heard his argumentative prayer (verses 8-10). The core of his argument is that the dead are unable to praise God (v. 9). God is good, 'his anger but for a moment; his favour for a lifetime' (v.5), the psalmist has experienced this, in a profound and (literally) life changing way. He must now praise God and cannot be silent (v. 12).

In obvious ways this psalm sits alongside the Old Testament and gospel readings in which the dead are raised (or, at least, in the OT passage's case, the near dead are resuscitated).

What is not so obvious is the way in which the psalm can be profitably sung corporately. Also in the superscription is this line, 'A Song at the dedication of the temple.' David never built a temple so we look for a later occasion when this superscription was added. Likely it was the celebration of the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BCE. Israel has been pressed to a point of 'death' but God has saved his people. This psalm is now their psalm of deliverance as well as David's.

Galatians 1:11-24

(See also notes in post below for Galatians 1:1-12)

These verses, along with 2:1-14, set out an autobiographical account of how "Paul's gospel" came into conflict with "another gospel." Our verses today are strictly autobiographical, telling Paul's story of his conversion, initial Christian life but most especially how Paul can claim - verse 11 - that his gospel "is not of human origin."

Paul's life is interesting in its own right. He was not just a good Jew, but a zealous one. He was not just pure in his own observance of Jewish law, he was aggressive in pursuit of the enemies of Judaism, specifically the 'church of God' which he tried to destroy (v. 13). But we read the passage for clues as to the content of the gospel which Paul now zealously proclaims, defends and acclaims as the basis for pursuit of perverted alternatives.

Earlier in the epistle, 1:3-4, we have the content of the gospel as 'the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age.' In this passage we have the somewhat cryptic note, 'God ... was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles' (2:15-16).

The content of the true gospel is, most simply, Jesus Christ. Paul indeed met Jesus Christ in an instantly transforming way on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Yet the earlier disclosure (along with the subsequent development of the content of the gospel in Galatians 2-6) constrains us from thinking the gospel is Jesus Christ as we choose to understand him. Paul preaches Christ, the Christ of grace (not works), of liberation from our sins (not blessing us in our sins), with a view to life in a new age to come (the present age is 'evil').

Luke 7:11-17

Luke tells a story of an event in the ministry of Jesus which is not told by the other gospels. Above we have mentioned the similarity between this story and the story of Elijah raising another widow's son back to life (we could also read 2 Kings 4:32-37). The crowd are the first interpreters to make this connection as their response is a mixture of fear, glorifying God and exclaiming that a 'great prophet' (i.e. one in the mold of Elijah and Elisha) has 'risen among us' (v. 16).

Whatever connections Luke may have been making with the Old Testament background to the ministry of Jesus, the primary importance in respect of making a connection is that this story and the previous one (7:1-10) becomes a report to John the Baptist who is languishing in prison. His ministry was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord but has that ministry been successful? Has the Lord come? The answering of that question is the subject of the next part of the chapter (7: 18-35). As such that need not concern us here, but we can observe that Luke has a purpose in telling us about the raising of the widow of Nain's son: he is laying out the case for Jesus being God's Anointed One (Messiah/Christ).

What about the miracle itself? Details in 7:12 imply the situation was not only one of concern that a person had died. The son's death makes the widow's own situation perilous. Likely she now faces destitution. Jesus responds with compassion (v. 13). His command to the widow, "Do not weep," is followed by action. He touches the bier and commands the young man to rise up. When the young man sits up and begins to speak, Jesus gives him back to his mother.

There is much to reflect on here. For instance, unlike the immediately previous occasion, there is no reference to 'faith'. The compassion of Jesus here flows spontaneously from Jesus himself, without a triggering request or a display of faith. Or we might note that the occasion does not become an encounter about discipleship: the young man is given no opportunity to consider whether he might like to follow Jesus or not. He is simply and immediately handed back to his mother. Discipleship can involve leaving family for the sake of Christ. Here it involves cleaving to family for the sake of obvious need on the part of the widowed mother.

Importantly, Jesus demonstrates his power to change lives includes power over death itself. This power will also be demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Yet there is no presumption that either the son in this story or Lazarus will not, eventually, die in the usual way of all people. The greater demonstration of power over death will come when Jesus himself is raised from death to a life not subject to further death.

Sunday 2 June 2013 Ordinary Time 9

Theme                  Jesus draws all to himself            

Sentence             But only speak the word and let my servant be healed (Luke 7:7b)

Collect                  Gracious and eternal God,
                                We thank you for the love of Christ
                                Which draws all people to himself
                                And invites them to have faith in him.
                                May we have the faith of the centurion
                                Who entrusted his servant’s healing
                  Into the care of Jesus. Amen.    

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 [related]
Psalm 96
Galatians 1:1-12
                      Luke 7:1-10

Note: An alternative set of readings for an alternative celebration in ACANZP is for Te Pouhere. I am not following those readings. I am committed to the fostering of our constitution for the time-being. I lack conviction that the constitution is worth a whole Sunday to reflect upon its importance.

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

God is the God Israel and Israel's God must have a house of worship in Jerusalem. Solomon has built that house and offers a long prayer, of which we read a few verses. Related to our gospel reading, the second part of the reading conveys Solomon's prayer that the God of Israel also be the God of God fearing foreigners. "Answer their prayers too," is the gist of the request Solomon makes.

Psalm 96

This is a wonderful song of praise. It even envisages 'all the trees of the forest' singing for joy! 

But the particular observation we make in the context of the gospel reading is that the psalm has a world vision. God's glory should be declared 'among the nations ... among all the peoples' (3), 'for all the gods of the peoples are idols' (5), 'Say among the nations, "The LORD is king!' (10). God is God of the whole world and the praises due to God should ring out through all the world. 

A challenge in the psalm, for the world to hear and respond to, is that God will judge the world (10, 13). The judgement will be fair (10) but the standard will be God's 'righteousness' and 'truth' (13).

Galatians 1:1-12

For a few Sundays we follow Galatians as the epistle. Galatians is Paul's theological 'yell' when he cries out 'Stop' to some developments which threatened the very existence of the gospel of Christ. Or, for a different image, it is Paul's line in the sand. Here is the gospel, across that line is Not the gospel.

But to make this major point, to a readership tempted to embrace a false gospel, Paul has to lay every part of his case with a thick trowel. So the first two verses, for instance, consist of Paul telling us of his office (apostle), his commission (by Christ and God) and his backing ('all the members of God's family who are with me').

The greeting in verses 3-5 takes the opportunity to spell out who Jesus Christ is: the one 'who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father'. Paul spells out the core of the true gospel: it is good news about freeing us from our sins. Galatians is Paul's argument that this liberation is the work of Christ and not of us.

The preliminaries of good manners out of the way, Paul launches off with a frank statement of the situation in Galatia. 'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel' (6). Paul has 'called' them to the true gospel. Now they are deserting him for a different gospel.

But there is not 'another gospel' (7). There are perversions of the true gospel and these can be confusing. Paul will clarify for them. But first he spells out how serious the situation is. Twice, verses 8 and 9, Paul says that those responsible for perverting the gospel are 'accursed'.

Paul is not trying to curry favour with his readers (10). His loyalty is to Christ. It is from Christ that he has received the true gospel and it is to Christ that he is accountable for faithfulness both in proclaiming and defending the true gospel (11-12).

Luke 7:1-10

As a whole story, this passage ties in beautifully with the Old Testament readings. Here is someone from the nations beyond Israel who is being drawn into the presence of the God of Israel, including connecting with the people of God and their local place of worship.

From the perspective of the gospel of grace being taught in Galatians, this reading offers an interesting contrast between the view of the Jewish elders sent by the centurion to Jesus and the view of Jesus himself. They think Jesus should heal the centurion's slave because 'He is worthy' (5) where the worthiness is measured in terms of good deeds. Jesus heals the servant in response to the faith of the centurion (9). 

Paul's plea to the Galatians will be that they do not return to the attempt to impress God with their deeds. Rather they should have faith in God who through Christ has done all work needed for their salvation. The centurion does not yet know about this work - Christ has not died on the cross - but he recognises that Christ has extraordinary power to do good. As a man used to the 'chain of authority' he instinctively recognises that Christ has power from God which can command illness to leave the sick person: 'only speak the word, and let my servant be healed' (7). The centurion at this point relies not on his own worthiness (as estimated by human assessors) but on Christ. He has faith that is not found 'even in Israel' (9).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Trinity 26 May 2013

Theme                  God is Three and God is One     

Sentence             You O Lord reign for ever; your throne endures from generation to generation.. (Lamentations 5:19) [NZPB, p. 606].

Collect                  God of unchangeable power,
                                You have revealed yourself,
                                To us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit;.
                                Keep us firm in this faith
                                May we know his strength
                                That we may praise and bless your holy name;
                                For you are one God now and for ever. Amen. [NZPB, 606].
Readings            Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
                         Psalm 8
                         Romans 5:1-5
                         John 16:12-15


Many years ago I was told of a clergy colleague whose sermon for Trinity Sunday consisted of just six words. I have no idea whether this was just an idea or an actual preached sermon. The six words were:

"Brothers and sisters, it's a mystery."

God as Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit or Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life or Three Persons in One Being is indeed 'a mystery.'

But the mystery of the Triune God of Christian belief and worship should not be the mystery of mathematics (how can God be three yet one?) nor of illustrations (is a triangle a good image for explaining the Trinity?). It should be the mystery of love. God is love, we are told, twice in 1 John 4. 

What does this mean? The answer, the creeds and the doctrines of faith tell us, is not that God is the concept of love but that God is the dynamic of love, Three Persons in One Being, a community of love in which the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Spirit, the Spirit loves the Father (etc) and in that love there is no division of will nor of status. United in love, Father Son and Spirit work as One to create, redeem and sustain life. 

Determined by love to love what that Unity has created, Father Son and Spirit take up three distinct roles so that creation, redemption and sustenance of life take place. In this understanding creation is itself a fruit of the love which is God for that Love seeks to love more rather than less: Father Son and Spirit create a world to love (John 3:16) and in that love draw all people to God that fellowship between Father Son and Spirit might be enlarged to include creatures. specifically being drawn into the fellowship of the Three in One through identity in Christ the Son as the body of Christ. (Key biblical passages on this understanding are John 13-17, 1 John 1-4, Revelation 1-22).

As Trinitarian Christians we are called to bear witness to the Love which is God and to the God who is love.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

From a Trinitarian perspective, this passage from the Old Testament is important because it presents the wisdom of God as a personification that is, wisdom is presented in these verses in a personal way, as an agent or assistant of God in the acts of creation. In doing this a seed is planted in ancient theological thinking which grew to include the possibility that not only the 'wisdom' of God, but also 'the word' of God could be personified. When that conceptualization was bound together with reflection on the role of angels, as personal messengers of God sent by God into the world to converse with people, sometimes in a form of such impressiveness that recipients of angelic visitations believed they were in the presence of God, the foundation was laid for a new development. That new development was the recognition by the first Christian theologians (especially John the Evangelist) that the wisdom/word of God was not only able to be written about in terms of personification, the wisdom/word of God had come into the world in a human person, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Psalm 8

This psalm can be read in various ways (e.g. as a pearl of praise of great price, one which has justly received the attention of very fine composers) but here we read it in Trinitarian perspective as an address to God about the ordering of the world and the place of humanity in it. Above all is God, within the glory of God we find ourselves inhabiting a marvellous world in which it is amazing that God has remembered us, ordered as we are to a rank below the angels (8:5). Yet God has not just remembered us, God has crowned us with glory and honour and given us dominion over creation (8:5-6). 

Thus when we consider God as Trinity we are considering God as God, utterly distinct in rank, status and glory from his creation and from us as his creatures yet also as God who in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son of God has bridged the distinction, becoming one with us.
Romans 5:1-5

Writing these five verses, Paul has not set out to tell us about God as Trinity but, on this Sunday, he does handily write about God's work in salvation including the roles of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God has sent the Lord Jesus Christ to 'justify' us (through his sacrificial death on the cross, as elucidated in Romans 1-4). As justified sinners we have access to the grace of God (5:2); the grace of God is God's love 'poured into our hearts' (5:5). How does this love reach us as an experience of life rather than a concept in our minds? It is 'through the Holy Spirit' (5:5). Thus the dynamic action of God Father Son and Holy Spirit as the God of our salvation is expressed in this passage, a dynamic action which is 'for us' (further on 'us', 'for us, 'for our sakes' see, among many Pauline texts, Romans 4:23-25).

The giving of the Holy Spirit to us (5:5) means that God's love does more than flow into us (say, like water from a lake, through a pipe, into a bucket). God himself comes to live in us and bind our lives to the life of God itself (so, in an important way, in the image above, we are like the bucket receiving water from a pipe and we are like a bucket dipped into the lake itself). Thus Paul can write in 5:2 of 'our hope of sharing the glory of God.' As members of the body of Christ we share in God's life in Christ.

[Much much more can be said about preaching from this passage, especially from 5:1. These thoughts are specifically geared for Trinity Sunday].
John 16:12-15

In some ways this is a frustratingly short passage from John when the fullness of revelation about the Holy Spirit is given across several Johannine passages (including John 14:25-31; 15:26-27; 16:4b-11).

Nevertheless a vital truth is taught. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth. In one way, of course this is true: we would not expect God's Spirit to lie to us. In another way, this is unexpected in the sense that the Spirit of truth 'will guide you [Jesus' disciples] into all the truth' (16:13). Jesus has many things to say but they cannot be said now (16:12). Not to worry because the Spirit of Truth (also known in this gospel as the Advocate/Counsellor/Helper/Paraclete) will guide us to what we need to know from Jesus.

In this sense, as we find sometimes elsewhere in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is trustworthy as faithful servant of Jesus and his mission. Through the Holy Spirit we meet the risen Lord Jesus and from the Holy Spirit we learn what Jesus wishes to teach us.

Does this mean that the Holy Spirit will teach us new information or new insight into what we already know from Jesus?

Some scholarly debate occurs about this. John's Gospel itself may provide a clue and the epistles another clue. In the former we find new insight into what we already know about Jesus from the earlier gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the latter we find the meaning of the events of Jesus' life being drawn out for us: Christ died on the cross for our salvation. Christ rose from the dead in order that we too may rise with Christ to glory.

We see that the passage rounds off, in 16:15 with talk of God the Father. Jesus has, says, and does nothing except what belongs to, comes from and is directed by the Father. By implication the Spirit of Truth declares only what God the Father has revealed to God the Son. In this way the unity of God is expressed. The diversity of the Godhead is experienced as we meet God in the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John, writing these words down, may not have had the advantage we have of knowing how to talk about God as 'Three in One' but he knew that God was One yet experienced as Three Persons working in profound unity.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday 19 May Pentecost

Theme             Come, Holy Spirit!           

Sentence         The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5) [NZPB, p. 604]

Collect            Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Your blessed anointing from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Overcome with eternal light
the dullness of our blinded sight. Amen [Adapted].        

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:14-17
                      John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 These readings incorrectly given in NZ Lectionary
                      John 14: 8-17, 25-27

The most important point to any sermon on Pentecost Sunday is to draw out the meaning of Pentecost which is that God is present and active in the world today through the Holy Spirit.

As an event in history Pentecost is important, e.g. the birthday of the church, but Pentecost is a celebration of the present work of God not of the past.

Acts 2:1-21

Luke tells the story of the day in which Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit coming with power was fulfilled. In turn this coming fulfilled an ancient prophecy in Joel. 

The Holy Spirit comes upon everyone (not just the apostles, both women and men). They speak in other tongues, in languages which the multitude of Jews gathered in Jerusalem from around the world could understand: 'our own native language' (2:8).  The import of this language fluency is that the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to give power to his followers to they could be 'my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth' (1:8). Jesus makes good that promise: his followers will be able to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth because through supernatural gift they have the ability to testify to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit both comes  on the gathered disciples (2:3) and fills them (2:4) meaning that the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is overwhelming and complete: no aspect of life is untouched when God's Spirit comes into our lives.

Yet not all observers experience the same phenomenon as those receiving the Holy Spirit: 'others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine".' (2:12).

This accusation prompts an apologetic response at the beginning of Peter's sermon (2:14-16). No one is drunk, it is only 9 am in the morning, and let me remind you what the prophet Joel said! This is that, Peter argues.

This bold, courageous preaching Peter is a severe contrast to the Peter who denied his master three times. The most important outcome of the Holy Spirit working powerfully in our lives is that we are empowered to witness boldly for Jesus Christ.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Just one note here, pertaining to Pentecost. In verse 30 we read, 'When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.'

In the original creation the Spirit of God hovered over the deep. Here the psalmist acknowledges the continuing role of God through the Spirit in sustaining and caring for life.

Romans 8:14-17

Apart from empowering us to be witnesses for Jesus to all the world, and sustaining the life of creation, what does the Spirit do? What are other dimensions of 'the work of the Holy Spirit'?

Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit coming upon believers in order to 'lead' their lives makes us 'children of God' who are free from the 'fear' of those who are slaves (to sin and its power).

As children we may call on God as 'Father' indeed as the intimate and affectionate father presumed in the use of the Aramaic 'Abba'. Wonderfully the work of the Holy Spirit is intimate and detailed within our lives: we are not merely made children of God by the Spirit, the Spirit works within us inspiring us to cry out in prayer to our Abba God.

But what are children in normal life but potential heirs to the benefactions of their parents. So in the divine life, Paul reminds his readers that as children of God we are 'heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ'. What that heirloom consists of is the theme of 8:18-23: the glory about to be revealed to us, the redemption of our bodies, in sum, the fulfillment of creation. 

Back to the last verse of our passage today: we are heirs, Paul says, 'if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.' The Holy Spirit within our lives is not a 'Get Out of Jail" card which instantly releases us from all trials and troubles, let alone some kind of shield which prevents trauma coming our way. In this life we can expect trouble but the Holy Spirit at work in us will lead us through them to a better place, the life of glory shared with Christ himself in the fullness of God's presence.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

Focusing on the Holy Spirit in these speeches of Jesus, we learn important facts about the Holy Spirit, here called the (depending on translation) Advocate/Comforter/Paraclete/Helper/Counsellor. Paraclete is a transliteration of the original Greek and literally is 'the one called alongside'. In one sense, Advocate or Comforter or Helper or Counsellor do not do justice to Paraclete. It could be helpful to think of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside us to help, to counsel, to advocate, to comfort (both to encourage, support and give strength to).

What are these facts from Jesus himself about the Holy Spirit as Paraclete?

14:16 with us 'forever'
14:17 the Spirit is the 'Spirit of truth' (this relates to our task as witnesses)
14:17 rejected by the world
14:17 we know the Holy Spirit because we experience the Holy Spirit 'abiding' with us and in us
14:26 the Holy Spirit will teach us 'everything and remind [us] of all that [Jesus has] said to [us]'
14:27 through the Holy Spirit comes the peace of Christ.

In other words, the Holy Spirit is the means by which Jesus remains in the world, abiding in the lives of his followers, continually bringing to their minds what he has taught, thus enabling and empowering us to be the kinds of followers he asks us to be.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sunday 12 May 2013 Ascension (Sunday after Ascension)

Theme                  Christ risen, ascended and glorified        

Sentence             Lift up your heads you gates! Lift yourselves up you everlasting doors! That the king of glory may come in. (Psalm 24:7) [NZPB, p. 601]

Collect                  Eternal God,
                                By raising Jesus from the dead
                                You proclaimed his victory,
                                And by his ascension
                                You declared him king.
                                Lift up your hearts to heaven
                                That we may live and reign with him. Amen [NZPB, p. 601]          

Readings         Acts 1:1-11
                      Psalm 47                                     
Ephesians 1:15-23
                             Luke 24:44-53

Introduction: this post takes no view on whether Ascension Day should be celebrated on Ascension Day (in 2013, Thursday 9 May) or the Sunday after Ascension Day. It does however deal with Ascension Day readings on the basis that, most likely, Ascension Day is being celebrated on the Sunday afterwards.

Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53

I do not think this need be brought into a sermon, but it is fascinating to see how Luke deals with the last event in Jesus' physical presence on earth in his two texts, the ending of the gospel and the beginning of Acts. There are similarities and there are differences.

In 'big picture' (or 'big theme') terms, each passage conveys two messages: the gospel mission of Jesus must now spread throughout the world, but first new empowerment through the Holy Spirit must come upon the disciples.

The 'event' in each passage is the departure, depicted physically as an 'ascent', of Jesus from the disciples. Never again, save in episodic visionary experiences will they see their Lord again.

Where does Jesus go to? Both texts answer "heaven". Later, Peter, in his Pentecost Day sermon will add "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God" (Acts 2:33). Obviously the physical talk of upwards travel to a place beyond the observable world of earth-and-space both assumes and contributes to an understanding that "heaven" is above us. It also offers a physical image to match the increase in glory and honour implicit in the idea that Jesus is now 'exalted' to the right hand of God (i.e. seated on a throne on the right side of the divine throne).

Ascension then is a celebration of both departure and exaltation, of the physical loss of Jesus to his followers and of the triumphant gain of Jesus exalted to glory in the realm of heaven. With exaltation the victory won in the resurrection, the defeat of the power of death as the last enemy against humanity is completed. With departure the door is open to a new history of God being present among God's people, God the Holy Spirit will dwell among them.

Yet this event is also about us. The departure of Jesus and the promise of the Holy Spirit to come in power is integrated with the great commission. We misunderstand Ascension and its importance if we think of it as (say) a postscript to the life of Jesus, or a snapshot of the glory of the exalted Jesus. Ascension is also the beginning of a new era in our history, the time when we are responsible for the continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ. Luke in both texts is keenly alert to this point. If (as some scholars of Luke's writings have supposed) Jesus has come in the middle of history, then we are now in its last period. That this is so, according to Luke, is underlined in Acts 1:11. Jesus has departed, but he will return.

Psalm 47

This is a fitting song of praise to God on this festive occasion.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Obviously verse 20 in this passage links the text to the theme of 'exaltation' which is an important aspect of the theology of Ascension.

The passage is part of a long introduction to the epistle in which Paul sets out a profound set of insights into salvation, Christ, Christ's relationship to those who believe in him, and the great purpose of God being worked out through history - all given in the context of prayer and thanksgiving for his readers.

There is a sermon in every verse of this passage!