Age of Enlightenment

Ephesians 5:6-17

Light of the World in Our Modern Age
We live in a world that has a powerful vision/myth/story of its development. Humans were long in the darkness of superstition and religion, believing things without reason, constrained by threatening myths of judgment, reaching its depths in the “dark ages” and “middle ages,” the age of faith. But then the “Renaissance” brought the rebirth of classical pagan thought and the “Enlightenment” ushered in the “Age of Reason.” Humans attained maturity and autonomy. We realized that there is no God to judge or constrain us, that we are tiny in a vast, mindless universe. We are radically free to choose anything or nothing. We create ourselves. We die, and that’s the end! 
The development of this “back-story” of the modern world grew from reaction to the misuse and abuse of “Christendom” to which the Reformation also reacted – both Protestant and Catholic. But this “Enlightenment” has become the foundation of our secular world and has itself come under deep challenge in post-modern “criticism.” 
It began in a period when Christian scholars such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, et al. were using new instruments, new mathematics, and laying the foundations of the development of the modern scientific method. The Enlightenment story claimed science as a quest for deliverance from darkness, and some Christians reacted by rejecting science. Secular orthodoxy and religious fundamentalism battle to this day. 
The Latest Technology and the Depths of Existence 

Resurrection and the Life of the Church

Ephesians 1:13-23

This sermon explores the concept of power set forth in Ephesians.
According to Ephesians God's power--true power!--is working in the world and in our lives.  It is this power that was 'put to work' at the resurrection of the Messiah.  And it is this power that is now at work in the life of the church, which is the Messiah's body.  Paul, himself in chains for preaching the gospel, is able to trust that this revelatory power tells the truth about the world, even in difficult circumstances.  Can we see the world Paul sees? The world revealed by the 'gospel of our salvation'?  Can we trust this power, over against all the little powers that compete for our allegiance?  Ephesians exhorts us to embrace this calling.

Gifts for Spiritual Leadership

Ephesians 4:1-16

Leadership by Community Discernment
We’re starting a process to expand the group of “elders” who lead this congregation. MCOC is within the Churches of Christ, part of the “Stone-Campbell” movement of “restoration” that became distinct early in the 19th cent. (About when the Church of Christ began in NYC in 1810.) Our identity as a church centers in a commitment to the NT and all of Scripture: the church will be healthiest when it stays closest to NT teaching. No hierarchy. Independent congregations. In practice, the CoC developed a pattern of local “elders,” “deacons,” and “ministers,” with variations. Always within a deep commitment to being guided by scripture.
The leadership of this congregation has been stable for many years. It was about 15 yrs ago, (2003) when we last went through this process: Elders: Paul Stelzer (26 yrs), TR (25), Angel Reyes (15), Lark Mason (15). All the deacons (15+), Ministry staff (17+). The community is always evolving, diverse, learning, maturing. We have quite a number of men and women who are able to bring important spiritual gifts into leading this community. On March 11 we’ll ask for our best discernment of those who could best serve as leaders.

Walking Together in Shared Life

Ephesians 4:1-6

Going for a Walk Together
When Paul writes Ephesians, he can’t walk, as he has through his ministry. He’s in prison. But he loves the image of walking, prominent in scripture, and uses it throughout his letter. For Paul, it’s not where you go (travel, prison) but how you walk – “worthy” of your calling, the invitation you’ve received from God in Jesus. Paul saw all kinds of people come into these communities shaped by the event of Jesus, and he saw transformations: Eph 2:1-10. We were dead people walking, in delusion, futility, shaped by the air we breathed. God in his Love gave us life in Jesus, raised us with him. It’s Grace, a gift we receive by faith. A new creation, a new walk, toward every good action. Minds made new. Walking in love, as “children of light.” Becoming wise adults who learn to think for themselves, to discern God’s will, “humbly to walk with God.” Learning from a Shared Walk

Proclaiming Peace to Far and Near

Ephesians 2:14-22

Advent: He came with Good News of Peace
Isaiah looked with hope for God’s intervention – a child, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). The angel at Jesus’ birth echoed his words: to you is born a baby in a trough, Savior, Messiah, Lord.
What is a Prince of Peace? One who imposes peace – Augustus? Paul’s Advent meditation points to Jesus coming to proclaim peace (Isa 52:7) to those far and near (Isa 57:19).
But Jesus is not just the messenger or a conquering power commanding peace. Paul says Jesus himself is our peace. He’s writing to people in societies of intense conflict, with deep societal divisions and fears: Jew-Gentile, Roman-Greek-other ethnic groups, slave- free, male-female. Acts 19 show explosive fears, superstitions, and conflicts in Ephesus.
Paul had seen the how Jesus (as message and active presence) had brought together Jews, Romans, Greeks, the enslaved, the fearful into a new unity. It was who Jesus is – his life, message, cross, resurrection, Spirit – that embodied a new Adam, human being, the Suffering Servant of Isa 53, and that showed God’s purpose to unite everything in him.

Cities of Hope: Ephesus - New Humanity in a Chaotic World

Ephesians 2:11-22

Adventures in Ephesus, Capital of Asia
With cities like Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus, we have not only the Acts account of Paul's work but also letters from Paul to believers. Acts was probably written 15-20 yrs after Paul's death. People remembered amazing stories of Ephesus, maybe from Aquila and Priscilla and many others.
An old city (1000 bc), now Rome's provincial capital, famous for the huge temple of Artemis (strange, bound, many 'breasts,' meteorite?, pilgrims). Great city ruins; no ruins of Temple.
Acts 19 starts from A and P house church. Unusual disciples: Apollos, 12 who follow John's baptism. Synagogue conflict. The Hall of Tyrannus for 2 yrs. The message spreads, mission teams sent. Remarkable signs. Jewish traveling exorcists. Disciples who practiced magic. Paul was imprisoned. He wrote Galatians, Philippians, 1Corinthians. His life was in danger (Phi 1:12ff) and he 'fought with beasts' (1Cor 15:32). Paul plans to leave but riots stirred by Demetrius a silversmith. Paul's helpers are held hostage. A huge crowd fills the great theater with uproar. Finally quieted by town clerk.