Prayer of Presence:
Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God – the one I trust! … Psalm 91:2
Scripture: Today’s reading is from Ephesians 2:1-10
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
It is considered to be rude when some one joins in on a conversation or activity without being invited. Behavior such as this is referred to as “interference,” “sticking one’s nose in where it doesn’t belong,” “chiming in,” “prying,” “putting in one’s two cents,” “muscling in,” or more crudely, as “butting in.” Scriptures are filled with moments when God “but’s in” (one “t,” not two). When God “buts in,” former hopeless situations are transformed into new hope and life. God’s but ins are moments of reversal. They are -“nevertheless,” “nonetheless,” “even so,” “however,” “even still, and “yet” – moments when regardless of how hopeless things were in the past, God “buts in” and transforms the existing situation or condition into a new hope-filled and life-giving situation for a individual, a community, a nation, and/or our world.
Today’s passage is an account of the miserable spiritual condition the Ephesians were in before knowing God through faith in Christ. The writer says they were spiritually dead and living a misled life. In their spiritual deadness, the Ephesians were separated from God, oblivious to the life of God, and alienated from the life of God. “But” God, rich in mercy, out of great love and overflowing grace, made them spiritually alive with Christ. Whereas they were spiritually separated from God, now they are united with God and all God’s people. Whereas they were oblivious that a life in God ever existed, much less desire it, now were made aware of it through the Holy Spirit and able to receive the new life in Christ with faith and joy. Whereas they were formerly alienated from God, now they were members of God’s family, included, and heirs to all of God’s promises. All of this is a gift of God. Now that the Ephesians had access to every spiritual blessing through faith in Christ, they could serve and honor God with their lives so that others could come to know the rich mercies, great love, overflowing grace, and new life in God through faith in Christ Jesus.
The message of Ephesians is a timely call to mission in the world for the Church and each individual disciple at a time when our world is deeply divided by factions and struggling to address and resolve systemic causes that perpetuate injustice, human suffering, and hoplessness. Like the Ephesians, we too are drawn into the life of God by the heart of God’s mercy and love in Christ. Christ reconciles and unites us to God and God’s people. The elusive peace and harmony we seek is found in Christ, who holds all things together through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). As God’s people in the world, we can live our lives using our gifts to bring healing and wholeness to a broken world. We can be God’s “buts” in the world who see brokenness, factions, and systemic problems “but” then work to heal the brokenness in our world, unify deeply divided factions, and work to right systems of injustice that create suffering and hopelessness.
Whenever we talk or even think about engaging a vast and broken world, we become overwhelmed. How in the world will we ever make a difference amidst so much brokenness? Well, we do it one small action at a time. This week, reflect on on how God calls you right now in the particulars of your day to “but in” in Christ’s name for the sake of healing, wholeness, reconciliation, unity, justice, goodness, and to alleviate suffering. Do not worry about making big decisions or taking big actions, that may come later. Instead, listen to the whispers of God in the busyness of your life and in the still moments of your prayer life. If listen close enough, you’ll know how and where to “but” in in your world.
The prayer by John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) helps us understand the importance of God’s call to us to “but in.” He writes:
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. … I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work; I shall be angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, If I do but keep his Commandments. … Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am. I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness will serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
Questions for Reflection:
Prayer Focus: For the grace to confidently turn our eyes and lift up our hearts toward God for help in times of trouble.
A Simple Irish Prayer:
May God give you… For every storm, a rainbow, For every tear, a smile, For every care, a promise, and a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh, a sweet song.