Your Second Chance

lighthouse on rocks
Photo credit: <a href="">Paul Bica</a>

Ephesians 2:1-10

All your evil and wrong that you did, all the going along with the crowd, all your going whichever way the wind blows, all your disregard for what is right – it had killed you. Living lives doing whatever we pleased, we were, like everyone else, in a rat race we couldn’t win.

But God is merciful. Because God loved us so much, in spite of everything we’d done to screw ourselves up, gave us a second chance to live. You’ve been undeservedly rescued. Along with Jesus, God has given you a higher calling – indeed a heavenly calling – so even future generations will look back and see proof of God’s goodness by the difference Jesus made in our lives. Make no mistake: you didn’t deserve this second chance. You didn’t make this happen, so don’t brag about it. It’s God’s gift to you. All of us are created by God, just as Jesus was, to do something good. That’s what God intends our way of life to be.

You’ve got one shot, but if you’ve ever realized that you had a second chance you didn’t deserve, then you know what this passage is about.

Some folks realize they’ve been given a second chance after recovery from a catastrophic illness. For others, it might be a new career, an unexpected opportunity for reconciliation with family or a loved one. You know who you are.

What you may not realize, though, is that every opportunity is a second chance. You may have a “dead end” job, but that dead end job is your platform to do something great. Even if you’re flipping burgers right now. It’s not about the burgers. It’s about your attitude. You can just flip burgers, or you can make showing up for life your art. You can just wait tables, or you can make service an art. You can just answer the phone, or you can connect people. You get the idea. You may be at “rock bottom,” but Jesus liked to say that rock is a pretty solid platform to build on.

If you read the last paragraph and said, “Yes, but ____ (insert the reason it doesn’t apply to you here),” you missed it.

Give Me (at Least) One Good Reason to Believe You

neuron connection
Neuron Connection.<br />Image credit: <a href="">Patrick Hoesly</a>

Ephesians 1:15-23

I’ve heard about your faith in Jesus and your love for all those who are committed to him. So I never stop being thankful for you when I pray. I pray that the God of Jesus, the source of glory, will make you wise, and you will see more clearly as you know God better. And seeing clearly, with open hearts, you will be enlightened to know what God is calling you to hope for: namely, the richness of your inheritance (along with all Jesus followers), and the sheer power of God’s strength channeled through us who follow him.

God’s power was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead and then raised him to the highest place of honor in God’s very throne room in heaven. Now Jesus is way more powerful than any ruler or authority or force or empire. Jesus is better now than anyone else you can name. Now or ever. And God has made everything subject to Jesus. And Jesus rules over everything through the church, which is his body. The church completely represents him.

It’s a staggeringly audacious (and narcissistic) claim:

  1. Jesus rules everything.
  2. The church is Jesus’ body on earth.
  3. Therefore, the church rules everything.

And, while it’s one thing to say that God (or Jesus) is ultimately in control, it’s quite another to claim that any group of people, even well-intentioned churchy ones, speaks for God.

It’s patently false, even if Jesus is the greatest.

It’s also an invitation to reflect on the nature of power. There’s no question Jesus exercised power. And there’s no question that Jesus intended his followers to exercise power. But what kind of power?

This passage, two generations removed from Jesus, has returned to the view of power as coercive force. God’s sheer coercive force trumps the coercive force of earthly rulers.

The real Paul, in his better moments, understood power differently. “We have nothing, yet we possess everything,” he would say to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:10), expressing the paradox that the only way to really have something is to let it go.

The power Jesus exercises in the gospels is always restorative. Healing. Returning sight. Enabling hearing and speaking. Giving life. Renewing relationships. Generating meaning. When Jesus gives his disciples “authority” in the gospels, he gives them power to do these things. He never sends them off to vanquish someone or another.

If the church to really wants to represent Jesus and to know God better, it will have to shed it’s “my Christianity is better than your religion” attitude and start exercising the healing, envisioning, listening, engaging in conversation, life affirming, relationship renewing, meaning generating power Jesus intended.

Then the world will have (at least) one good reason to believe.