So every fifth week or so, the Triad study eschews the “passage of the week” format. Instead, it allows time for the Triad to reflect on the unit they’ve just completed, review the passages from the unit, and do a practical application activity together for their weekly meeting. Here on Chocolate Book during these interludes, I suppose I could revisit previous material, but in the interests of keeping things fresh, I want to introduce a new study: God’s Little Deconstruction Book.
Sometimes, Pastor Stephen Kirk is a man after my own heart. Commenting on Ephesians 1:13-14 in the Multiply book that accompanies the Triad study program, he goes to absolute town on the Greek. I could never be a pastor; I imagine that unless your congregation is either extremely generous or nerdy, you only have so many Original Greek Language Points to spend per sermon before they start losing interest. I, on the other hand, had half a mind to just start looking up Greek words from this week’s passage and see what I found, until I realized I’d kinda already done that back in All the Paul.
Today’s post didn’t come out right. I tried, but the thing resisted articulation and the words came out wrong. Sometimes this happens. We will try again tomorrow, after sleep. God forgives even shortcomings such as this one.
Remember Walter Brueggemann’s classification scheme for the Psalms: orientation, disorientation, and new orientation? I feel like you could apply the same scheme to my blog here. You’ve got your (i.e. my) posts of orientation, posts of disorientation…and sometimes a move from one mode to another. Take yesterday, where I took a step back, looked at myself and Ephesians 1:3-14 here, and moved from disorientation to new orientation. I’ve got a feeling I might manage a post of disorientation before we close out the week, but man, sometimes I get so tired of trying to whip up some thoughts for the blog. Sometimes I just wanna rest.
Real talk: I often come away from Paul’s words here feeling obligated. In my mind, it’s as if Paul is trying to get us to worship God, or to make us feel like praise is the proper normative response to the blessings he describes, and thereby to make us feel compelled to praise. And that’s odd, because the passage is far more about what God has done for us than what we should do for God. Why do I react to it this way? I think we might get something out of this, so let’s sit me down on the couch with this slice of Ephesians 1 and talk about my feelings.
Welcome to a new week in the Triad study, with a new passage to investigate every last corner of, like a room in an adventure game where you’re stuck on a puzzle and just start hunting for item and verb combinations in some desperate hope of advancing your progress. Well, okay, hopefully it doesn’t go down like that. We have the first handful of verses in Ephesians locked and loaded for study today, and the Triad study identifies this week’s theme as “guarantee.”
On the whole, this All the Paul study has surprised me. I expected to encounter more friction between me and Paul; I’ve never been quite the Paul enthusiast that some of my church peers are. In my thirty-ish-year history with his writing, at times certain passages have struck me as too authoritarian, while others have seemed too theologically nebulous, too Greek, borderline pantheistic. But in tackling All the Paul here, while I’ve had to grapple with a few passages, on the whole I’ve been able to take something valuable away from each passage, dig up some good stuff and share it with you. And then Paul starts talking about slavery.
Paul is heavy on the commands in this chapter. Continuing his exhortations to moral behavior from the last chapter, he uses fifteen imperative verbs in the space of thirty-three verses, and if we expand the category to include implied commands and participial phrases used to convey normative behavior, we get something like twenty-five instances. Bottom line: that’s a lot you gotta do.
This bar is so aggressively dark that I could not concentrate on the text while eating it. But to get to the text: in today’s chapter, Paul returns to the metaphor of the body that he hinted at in yesterday’s passage (3:6) and developed more fully in 1 Corinthians 12, as we’ve seen. He underscores the importance of growth within the body, and encourages his readers to higher standards of behavior as an expression of how they’ve come to know Christ.
Let’s talk about mysteries. I’m having trouble getting started today, and we’ve got to talk about something, so mysteries it is.