Lectionary Year B
July 20, 2003
Step II: Disposition
(FS) A. GENRE
This is an Epistle. It has the basic parts of a salutation, a thanksgiving to God, a body, and some personal messages at the end by way of conclusion. It is ranked among Paul's "prison epistles". (Kuemmel, Intro, to the NT, pp. 176-7).
But Ephesians is unique and stands out from other epistles considered Pauline:
1. There is a lack of details about the addressees.
2. There is no mention of concrete problems among the addressees.
3. There are no personal greetings-- a feature shared by Galatians.
The writer is using descriptive language to call the recipients to reflect on the effect that the sacrifice of Christ had in reconciling Jews and Gentiles.
(FS) B. PERSOANAL INTERACTION
1. Who exactly were the recipients? Were they "ethnically diverse," with Jewish and Gentile Christians worshipping together?
Were they getting along well...or were there some tensions which the author wanted to address by declaring a spiritual reality (reconciliation and unity in Christ) which could shape a physical reality (a united body)?
2. Where does the writer get the imagery of a "middle dividing wall?" Does it in some way come from Temple worship in Jerusalem, or is it more of a spiritual barrier between the Jews who had a revealed knowledge from God to start with, and the Gentiles who didn't?
3. Compelling imagery: hostility and emnity; Christ crumbling the barriers; two peoples made one at the cross, and made "the household of God." I work in a setting (on the Mexican border) where there is a long history of people being separated by language, culture, color, history, etc., with many
churches still choosing to worship separately of other ethnic and language groups. I grew up in the Deep South in the 1970s, after segretation. but close enough to it to hear plenty of stories from its opponents and proponents. I confess to already reading some of those experiences into the text. I keep asking: "What was going on? Were the Jewish and Gentile Christians that the writer addressed really finding life as God's household, or was the writer working to urge them to live out together what God had already done in Christ for them? Did that part of God's household "make it?"
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