When we gathered with Midtown Christian Community, I would sometimes open our services by reading a brief word of welcome that functioned to remind us of our identity. Like some psalms, this is how Ephesians 1:3-14 functions within that letter, which was meant to be read aloud during worship. It shaped the identity of the churches to which Paul wrote. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of who we are, whose we are, and why we gather. Here’s one of my words of welcome:
Welcome to Midtown Christian Community.
Welcome in the name of Jesus Christ, who was sent by God into the world, not to judge the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. He did not do this by shrewdly working his way up the social ranks, by making connections with powerful people, by organizing a slick marketing campaign, by hobnobbing with the rich and famous. He didn’t do this by creating a beautiful image through carefully crafted commercials designed to show that while he is caring and compassionate, he is also sophisticated and worldly-wise.
Jesus is God’s solution to the brokenness of the world, and he redeems and saves by becoming brokenness, by going to those that are broken and beaten-down, by becoming the outcast and the stranger, by dying.
God shouted a resounding “YES” to what Jesus did by raising him from the dead and installing him as King over all creation. When Jesus sat down on his heavenly throne, he sent his Spirit to dwell among us. Not someone else or something else, but Christ’s own Spirit—Christ Jesus himself is here among us.
We gather together this evening, therefore, as people living in the presence of Jesus Christ, as people who are the Body of Christ. By his Spirit, God dwells among us, giving us life, loving us, redeeming us, enjoying us as we enjoy him.
God gives himself to us. He brings us to himself. He gives us as gifts to one another.
This is the gospel, the good news that defines us, that determines all that we are and do, that gives us our worth and meaning, and this is all we have to say—Jesus loves us, Jesus died for us, Jesus frees us from sin and death, and Jesus is present among us to give us life.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.