Sermon for January 10, 2021 — A Mystery Is Revealed

First Lesson:

Ruth 4:13-17:

13So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

16Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

 

Psalm for Today: Psalm 72 on Page 93 in Christian Worship

Endow the King with your justice, O God,

the royal Son with your righteousness.

He will defend the afflicted among the people

and save the children of the needy.

He will endure as long as the sun,

as long as the moon, through all generations.

He will be like rain falling on a mown field,

like showers watering the earth.

All kings will bow down to him,

 and all nations will serve him.

All nations will be blessed through him,

and they will call him blessed.

Praise be to the Lord God, who alone does marvelous deeds.

May the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

   and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

   is now, and will be forever.   Amen.

 

Gospel Lesson:

Matthew 2:1-12:

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

Sermon Text:

Ephesians 3:2-12:

2Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

 

Sermon Manuscript

Introduction: When you hear the word mystery, what do you think of? Maybe one of the most common things to think about when you hear that word is the mystery story. You know what I mean. It’s a story that is based around a crime. Throughout the story, there are clues that are given as to who committed the crime. Finally, in the last chapter, the mystery is revealed and you know who did the deed. I grew up in a house where one of my parents, my mother, absolutely loved mysteries. She loved reading mystery books period she loved watching miss Reed television shows. But when the Bible uses the word mystery, it is talking about something that we are actually much more familiar with. Is talking about something that we wouldn’t know unless someone told us what it is. We have mysteries revealed to us all the time. We watched the news and we see something that has happened that opens our eyes so that we understand a part of the world that we never understood before. We talked to someone and they tell us about their experience in life and that makes us think about life in a different way. We meet someone, maybe a person who is going to be very important in our lives but we don’t know it yet, and everything changes. When the Apostle Paul talks about a mystery in his letter to the Ephesians, he means something that God reveals that simply blows people away. He talks about something that a person wouldn’t know on their own unless God revealed it to him. On this day when we celebrate epiphany, we celebrate how God has revealed his mystery to us.

A Mystery Is Revealed

I. To the Apostle Paul

II. To the Ephesians

III. And even to the Angels

The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians almost by accident. He was imprisoned in Rome and, while he was there, he was visited by a runaway slave by the name of Onesimus. He had fled from the household of a man named Philemon and the Apostle Paul had convinced him to return back to his home in the city of Colosse. While he was on his way there, the Apostle Paul also took the occasion to write a letter to the Colossians to address some concerns that the pastor of that congregation had. And since the Messenger was going to be bringing the two letters to Philemon and to the Colossians through the city of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul decided to write a letter to them as well. He had served the congregation in Ephesus for three years on his third missionary journey and there were no real doctrinal problems going on there. There weren’t even the kind of problems of practice that there existed in, say, the Corinthian congregation. He wrote this letter to remind them what amazing thing had been revealed to them, the grace of God in all of its glory and all of its different facets. If there was any goal beyond that, it was to encourage a greater fellowship between the Jewish and gentile believers in Jesus in that congregation. In the first 2 chapters, he had beautifully laid out how God had saved each group through his Amazing Grace. Neither group would have been able to have achieved Salvation on their own, but God had saved them by grace through faith in Jesus Christ Anne had given each group a living hope in eternal life. And now, in chapter 3, he is about to launch into a prayer on behalf of the gentiles . Before that, he speaks of the mystery.

He hints at something he had written before about his insight into what he calls the mystery. When the Apostle Paul speaks of the mystery, he means something that God has revealed that a person would not have known about if it had not been for the revelation. His insight into this was that God had revealed to him something that he had never suspected before. He had lived his life thinking that he could earn God’s favor and his Salvation through his good works. He had lived life as a pharisee and had absolutely hated the teaching that the followers of Jesus were proclaiming. He hated it to the extent that he wanted to persecute the church in order to wipe out that teaching. Although he does not make direct reference to it here, a major event in his life certainly is in the back of his mind As he writes these words. He speaks of the amazing task that he has been given to proclaim the gospel to the world and he calls himself less than the least of all of God’s people. He speaks about that because, while he was in the midst of persecuting the Christian Church, Jesus had appeared to him while he was on his way up to the city of Damascus. Their Jesus had revealed to him the full glory of the gospel. It was in that moment that he understood his own UN worthiness in the face of God and the Amazing Grace that God had shown him in redeeming him from his sins. This gospel message then shone as brightly in his heart as the image of Jesus had shown himself to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

This wasn’t the only great mystery that was peeled away in his life of serving Jesus. He writes about another great mystery that God had revealed through the ministry that took place in the city of Ephesus. In the Old Testament, like in a good mystery story, there were hints about what would happen after the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah the Prophet, for example, speaks of a time when gentiles would come streaming 2 Mount Zion and be made part of God’s people. From time to time, we hear of someone outside of the nation of Israel getting to know about the true God and converting 2 faith in the true God. However, no one in the Old Testament era could fully understand exactly what God was going to be doing. Through the ministry that God miraculously gave to the Apostle Paul, the world was now seeing what God intended to do through the message of Jesus Christ. In the city of Ephesus in particular, Jews and gentiles were being brought together through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, as a matter of fact, uses 3 terms to describe how close that bond had now become. He calls them coheirs, Members of the same body, and equal recipients of the promise of Christ.

This was something that the Jews and the gentiles in the city of Ephesus could never have imagined would be possible. They had been kept apart by the law of Moses ever since Old Testament times. The Jews thought upon the gentiles as lesser humans because they did not follow the law of Moses. The gentiles thought that the laws that the Jewish people followed were too restrictive for them and they, for the most part, stayed away from them. Now, through Christ, they were being brought together as one people with one savior and one goal of heaven. They were receiving The Lord supper together. They were rejoicing at baptisms together.

You cannot imagine what a world of difference this made to them and the Apostle Paul simply wanted them to Marvel at it into Marvel at how God had revealed this unknown truth to them through the gospel ministry that he had undertaken while he was in their midst. What the Apostle Paul says next, is something that open my eyes as I had the privilege of studying this text in this past week. God was revealing this mystery not only to the physical world, but also to the spiritual world.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes here, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Who are the rulers and the authorities in the spiritual realm that the Apostle Paul speaks about here? He is speaking about God’s holy Angels. What the Apostle Paul means is that what was happening in the ministry at places like Ephesus was so amazing that even the Angels marveled at what was taking place.

We normally think of Angels as beings who reveal mysteries to the people of earth. We think of how, especially in the Christmas season, they were God’s agents to reveal the truth that a savior had been born. There are some who even think, as we discussed on Christmas Day, that it was a group of Angels that was responsible for the Bethlehem star that led the magi to the Christ child. Here, though, the Apostle Paul is saying that , while the Angels had a great deal of knowledge given them by God, what was happening through the ministry of the church was so amazing that it even blew them away.

Jesus, in his parable of the lost sheep, speaks about the Angels of heaven rejoicing when a loss center is saved. God’s grace and his forgiveness to those who openly rebelled against him are amazing to the Angels who never did rebel against God.

These words of the Apostle Paul remind me of something that the Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle: 10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

On this day when we celebrate epiphany, what is ponder that for a little while. We who have grown up with the teaching of the gospel may take it for granted. It is just the teaching that we have known all of our lives. Let us, on this epiphany, remember what an amazing thing it is that our God has revealed our savior to us. It has made all the difference in our lives. It is shown us our own UN worthiness and the Amazing Grace that God has shown us to become his priests and apostles in this world that is so often divided by hate, of which we got a good reminder this last week. And it is so amazing that it even has the holy Angels in heaven. What an amazing thing this Grace of God is. What amazing thing it is that God has revealed this mystery to us. Amen.

 

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