Season After Pentecost (Proper 10[15]) – The Epistle Passage: Paul’s preaching style

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:3 – 4)

One of the things I learned early on with Paul is that sometimes it takes breath power to read his epistles out loud. Paul tends to pack a lot into one verse/sentence. I assume that it is enthusiasm for spreading the word of the Lord and not wanting to leave out a detail or aspect. But just as it takes breath power to read Paul, it takes thinking power to unpack all that he says. Because he packs a lot of theology into his writings as well.

“He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Verses 5 – 6)

I have tried at times – when writing, commenting, and pondering – to explain the different theological, religious, spiritual teaching and thinking that goes into these epistles. Usually I end up running out of steam. And/or, starting to ramble on in long sentences myself!

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Verses 7 – 10)

Paul also uses a great many punctuation marks to tie together his thoughts and reflections. Or probably more precisely (and actually more fair & even handed to Paul) it is the translators who marshal together the words and phrases in tight ranks and rows, trying to capture and herd together everything that Paul has to say. And it is they who have translated and transcribed the sentences that embrace a world of meaning.

“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” (Verses 11 – 12)

Unless some occasion or need arose, Paul only wrote one letter to the congregations that he started and nurtured. So it makes sense that he would try as much as he could to pack in one letter everything that he could. And maybe the congregations that received the letter (and passed them on to other churches) studied the letter slowly and carefully. As we do, actually, in our modern times.

“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Verses 13 – 14)

When one sits back and contemplates that Paul wrote all of these letters filled to overflowing with theology, Christian philosophy, spirituality, redemption, and salvationyet all of the letters centered on the topic of following Jesus Christ and our Lord God – one can appreciate how massive an undertaking it is to follow the Divine. There is so much to consider and keep in mind. It seems like a daunting task. And Paul lays it all out so eloquently and so well.

But that’s thing, beloved reader, and that is Paul’s exact preaching style. Making each movement and action in the Christian life so profound and deep. And Christianity is not always like that. As much as I admire Paul (and I do, really) it takes a lot of breath power and energy to live out a Christian life according to Paul.

There are other ways though. And we may yet explore those this week. Shalom for your day, beloved reader.

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