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From Paul, sent by Jesus Christ, according to God’s pleasure;
to the saints in Ephesus, who are faithful to Jesus:
grace to you and peace, from God our Life-Giver
and from the Beloved, Jesus Christ.
God is a blessing!
God birthed real love among us in Christ, the Beloved,
and gave us every spiritual blessing, making this life heavenly.
God intended this blessing for us before Creation,
and from the beginning has always seen us as holy
and considered us to be blameless.
It was God’s deep delight to choose to claim us
as God’s own children in Christ Jesus.
In this self-giving love, so generously lavished on us,
we are redeemed, and all our wrongs are forgiven.
Stop and wonder at this grace, and give thanks!
May God give you the wisdom and wonder
to appreciate the mystery of God’s pleasure,
God’s design for all Creation,
which is to always be gathering everything,
seen and unseen, into the body of love.
This is our destiny, God’s will, which is always fulfilled:
that we, who began by hoping in the Love that Fills the World,
would ourselves live lives that radiate that love.
When you first heard this wonder—
the good news of your life made whole in Christ—
and you entrusted yourself to it, the Holy Spirit changed you.
So now you know that God’s hopes for you will be fulfilled,
since you have already been turned into holy people.
You belong to God.
You are God’s “Alleluia!”
Friends, I have heard of your deep trust in Jesus,
the Beloved, the Anointed of God,
and of your love for all the saints,
so I never cease giving thanks for you
as I remember you in my prayers.
I pray that God—
the God the Beloved, Jesus Christ, showed us,
God our beautiful Life-Giver—
may give you a spirit of mindfulness and wisdom
as you deepen your openness to God,
so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you will have the hope God has for you.
May you live in wonder and trust
of the gifts we all receive as God’s Beloved.
May you feel in your bones
the immeasurable greatness
of the power of love when we trust it.
This is God’s power in us.
Love is the power that raised Christ from the dead,
the power that orders the universe,
the power above all human systems,
every rule and authority and dominion,
and above every seen or unseen power,
force or value you could imagine.
God subjects everything to love.
And we—we are the embodiment of that love,
which conquers everything, and fills everything,
and completes everything.
We are the body,
and Love is what makes us alive.
2. 1-10 version A
Once you were drowning in a chaos of fear and desire
that sucked all the life out of you.
You were tyrannized by voices outside of you,
enslaved by the Prince of Expectations,
indebted to The Corporation,
All of us have been there,
slaves to our ego’s fearful desires,
children of anxiety, shards of ourselves,
desperate for our own lives.
But the Loving One, who is pure tenderness,
with this huge, heartbreaking love
gets beneath us in our mass graves
and rises to life in us,
and pushes us out and makes us alive,
arm in arm with Christ,
restoring our belonging at the heart of life
us as part of God’s great, holy presence on earth.
By pure gift—no reason but love!—you’ve been salvaged,
pulled right out of the wreckage of your life.
God’s gentle kindness—you get a taste of it in Jesus—
blossoms within us with blessings beyond our knowing,
blessings that outlast everything you see.
God has saved your life—trust it.
And be grateful, not smug:
this is not your doing, but God’s.
It’s pure gift, unconditional and absolute;
nothing you do can influence it.
God created you good, and nothing can undo that.
You are part of God’s love made real in this life:
that’s your true self.
Who you are, and the reason you exist,
is beautiful love.
2.1-10 version B
You used to be dead.
You were trapped in life-stealing ways:
under the sway of this world
you thought you could force your way,
write your own cosmic laws.
We all do it.
We act like little self-contained body-pods,
slaves to our ego’s fearful desires,
children of fear and despair. All of us.
But God, overflowing with mercy,
loves us with this huge, heartbreaking love.
Even when we drive our life into a fatal crash
God makes us alive,
raising us up out of the grave
arm in arm with Christ.
You’ve been saved, kid: pulled right out
of the wreckage of your life.
God raises us up and sets us gently
right next to Christ,
at the center of Life, in God’s heart.
Only afterwards will we begin to see
just how immensely deep God’s grace is,
in showing us such kindness in Christ Jesus.
You have been rescued by God’s grace.
Just trust this.
This is not your own doing;
it’s totally a gift from God.
It’s not anything you can influence.
Nobody can claim that.
There’s no such thing as a self-made person:
we are what God made us,
which is God’s Beloved,
created for the purpose of goodness.
This is your destiny, your identity,
your whole life.
Get used to it.
You have been treated like an Outsider
by people who thought of themselves as Insiders—
though that was nothing but human discrimination.
You know what it’s like to feel distant from God,
aliens to the community of the Beloved,
with no confidence that God is there for you—
nothing to root your hope in.
But Jesus has no Outsiders:
in Christ’s self-giving love we’re all brought in.
Christ is our peace.
In the embodiment of God’s love
both “insiders” and “outsiders” are in.
Christ has broken down the diving wall between us,
the cruel illusion that we are different.
Love has no requirements, no merit, no deserving,
so there aren’t different categories—just the beloved.
Christ’s self-giving love, that we see on the cross,
isn’t just for some people,
but for everybody, all of us together,
reconciling us all to God and making us all one Body.
What died on the cross was the notion
that some people are better than others.
Love establishes peace
between those who think they’re insiders and outsiders.
We all breathe the same Spirit that is God.
So you are not strangers or aliens,
but members of the family of the Beloved,
members of the household of God,
which is built on the foundation of ancestors before us
who lived in love and faith,
with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.
In Christ we all are joined together in an organic whole,
growing into God’s holy temple, God’s home—
so God lives in us.
That’s why I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus
for the sake of you outsiders.
Surely you have heard about the gift of God’s grace,
the mystery God revealed to me for your sake,
as I have already written briefly.
In reading this you can see
my insight into the mystery of Christ,
which up till now people haven’t seen,
but it has now been revealed by the Spirit
to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
This mystery is this good news
that there are no outsiders or insiders,
but family members,
members together of one body.
What Christ Jesus promises is promised to everybody.
I became a servant of this gospel
by God’s grace working in me,
powerfully, as a gift.
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people,
this grace was given me: to preach to outsiders
the unsearchable riches of Christ,
and to make plain to everyone the unfolding of this mystery,
which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
God’s intent is that now, through people who live in love,
the manifold wisdom of God should be made known
in the face of “the powers that be” in this world.
This is God’s eternal purpose,
which God accomplished in Christ Jesus, the Beloved.
In Christ,that is, in trust in God’s love,
we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
So don’t lose heart if I suffer for you; you’re worth it.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Life-Giver,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.
I pray that, by the beauty of God’s love for you
you will be strengthened in your inner being
with power through God’s Spirit,
and that Christ—God’s grace, embodied—
may dwell in your heart;
and that you will trust this,
as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
I pray that with all the faithful
you may have the wonder to behold
the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ
that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to God,
who by the power at work within us
is able to accomplish abundantly far more
than all we can ask or imagine,
to God be glory
in the church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Therefore, as a prisoner in the Beloved, I beg you:
You have been called to a worthy calling. Live it.
Live with gentleness, and patience, and deep self-giving.
Bear with one another in love.
The Spirit makes us one, in a bond of peace.
Do your best to honor that unity.
There is one body and one Spirit,
one hope we’re given and called to embody,
one Supreme Savior and Guide, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Life-Giver of all,
who is above everything, within everything,
working through everything,
God, in love, gives each of us gifts,
each in our own way.
So scripture says,“When God ascended on high
God imprisoned oppression itself,
giving gifts to God’s people.”
When it says, “God ascended,” what does it mean
but that God had also descended
into the lower parts of human life?
The God who descended
is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens,
filling all things.
God gives us gifts, so that some people will organize,
others will bear public witness, others will inspire,
others will teach, or give care to one another.
God gives us these gifts to equip people of love
for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
the body of love in the world
until all of us come to a shared trust in God,
and intimate connection with the Beloved of God—
so we become mature,
and we ourselves become Christ, whole and complete.
We’re no longer immature,
tossed around and blown about by arguments,
by clever, self-justifying ideologies.
Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we grow up in every way
into the One who is the head, into Christ,
from whom the whole body,
joined and knit together by all its connecting ligaments,
as each part is working properly,
promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Beloved:
you must no longer live as the rest of the world lives,
hamstrung by illusion.
Some people have no true discernment,
because they are alienated from the life of God,
comfortable in their delusions and selfishness.
They have lost all sensitivity
and have sold themselves to their own comfort,
greedily willing to practice every kind of injustice.
That is not what you learned in Christ
when you heard about the Beloved
and were taught Jesus’ truth.
You were taught to let go of your former way of life,
your old self, addicted and deluded by false desires,
and to allow your way of thinking to be transformed,
and to receive a new self,
God’s self-expression in you,
devoted to justice and shining with the holiness of truth.
4.25 – 5.2
So. No more lying, No BS.
Let’s all speak the truth,
for we are members of one another.
You may be angry, but do not sin;
work through your anger,
and do not make room for its temptations.
If you’ve been benefiting from what is not yours,
give that up. Make your own contributions.
Make your life of benefit to the poor.
Don’t say things that are false or demeaning,
but only say what is needed,
what builds up the community,
so that what people hear in you is grace.
You have been claimed by the Holy Spirit of God,
set aside for ultimate redemption;
so don’t break the Spirit’s heart with bitterness or resentment.
Don’t speak with unkindness. Don’t be putting others down.
Be kind to people, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and live in love, as Christ loved us
in complete self-giving for our sake,
a sweet gift, a devoted offering to God.
Don’t get caught up in things that cheapen life.
You are called to be a blessing.
Avoid abusive, hurtful or demeaning talk.
Instead, convey gratitude.
Idolizing promiscuity, greed, or violence
makes no contribution to the Commonwealth of God.
In the grand scheme of things, God erases it.
Have nothing to do with it.
Once you were darkness,
but now in Christ you are light.
So live as children of light—
for light produces what is good and right and true.
Try to discern what is pleasing to God.
Make no peace with injustice,
but instead expose it.
When people hide what they’re actually doing
it’s because they’re ashamed.
But everything exposed by the light
and everything that becomes visible is light.
So it is written,
“Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead,
and Christ will be your light.”
Be intentional about how you live;
don’t settle for easy foolishness; practice wisdom.
Use your time wisely, for this time needs it.
Don’t be oblivious: try to discern God’s will.
Don’t fill yourself up with whatever makes you feel good;
that cheapens your life.
Instead, open yourself to be filled with the Spirit.
Let your life be a psalm, a hymn, a love song to God.
Make harmony in it with others.
And with every breath give thanks
to God the Life-Giver; give thanks for everything
in the name of the Beloved, Jesus Christ.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
If you are in a committed relationship
be subject to your partner as you are to the Beloved.
For you belong to your partner, just as Christ belongs to us—
as well as being our Savior.
Just as we humbly serve Christ,
we ought to humbly serve our partners.
So love your partner, just as Christ loved us
and gave his life for us to make us holy.
We are washed clean by the water of God’s Word of love:
to God we are beautiful, like a child fresh from the bath,
without any dirt or wrinkle, holy and perfect.
Love your partner with that delight.
Love your partner as you do your own body—
since love of your partner is love of yourself.
If you’re healthy you care for your own body;
you aren’t mean to it;
you tenderly care for it and nourish it—
just as Christ does for us, because we are members of Christ’s body.
You know how you leave your parents and join with a partner,
and the two of you become one flesh.
Isn’t this a beautiful mystery?
This is Christ’s relationship with the church!
And it’s your relationship with your partner.
Love your partner as yourself, and respect them.
Children, obey your parents in the spirit of Jesus;
this is now harmony comes about.
“Honor your father and mother” —
this is the first commandment with a promise:
“so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
And, parents, don’t pick on your kids.
Bring them up in the discipline and teaching of the Beloved.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling,
with the will only to bless, as you obey Christ;
not only while being watched, and in order to please them,
but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
Render service with enthusiasm,
as if serving the Beloved, not other poeple,
knowing that whatever good we do,
we will receive the same again from the Beloved,
whether we are slaves or free.
And, masters, do the same to your slaves.
Stop threatening them,
after all, both of you have the same Master in heaven,
who loves everybody infinitely.
So. Be strong in the Beloved.
Let God’s power be your strength.
Put on the whole armor of God,
so that you will be able to stand
against the powers of injustice,
and against the power of your own selfish desires.
For our struggle is not against other people,
but against the influence of evil,
against habits and assumptions and power dynamics
that sustain injustice.
You’ll need the whole armor of God
to be able to resist evil and stand firm.
So stand firm!
For a belt that holds your outfit together, wear truth.
For a breastplate, use faithfulness.
For shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready
to proclaim the good news of peace.
For a shield carry trust in God, which will protect you
from all the flaming arrows of fear and selfishness.
For a helmet wear God’s love for you.
Instead of a sword carry the Spirit, and the Word of God.
The Spirit is in you; be mindful of this all the time:
let it guide your prayer, and turn you toward God.
Keep alert. Persist in praying for all who join in God’s work
And pray for me, so that when I speak
God’s love comes through loud and clear.
This is the cause for which I’m wiling to suffer.
Pray that I may embody it boldly, and speak it clearly—
because I have to!
So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing,
Tychicus will tell you everything.
He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Beloved.
I am sending him to you for this very purpose,
to let you know how we are,
and to encourage your hearts.
Peace be to all of you as a community.
May love be yours, and faith,
from God the Life-Giver
and the Beloved Jesus Christ.
Grace be with all who have an undying love
for the Beloved, our Savior, Jesus Christ.