Am I a Gentile?

given on Sunday, July 12, 2015
Scripture base:  Ephesians 1:3-14, NLT

The thought never occurred to me that If we were returning to the past and living in Galilee whether my family would have been Jewish or whether we would have been a Gentile. The question sprung up as I read a statement from the lectionary companion I am using:

From the author’s (Paul’s) point of view, the [book of] Ephesians is written from “us Jews” to you “Gentiles” (Eph. 2:11) He reminds us that prior to Christ we were “aliens” rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promises. [1]

I never considered whether I would have grown up in a Jewish family or a Gentile family. The discussion in the commentary triggered that question: Am I a Gentile?

Asking whether one would consider him/herself a Gentile seems like a foreign question. Maybe the question is broader than that: Am I a Christian? During Paul’s missionary years, he targeted two basic categories–the Jewish people and the Gentiles. God wanted the Jews and the Gentiles united into one church.

This purpose continues today. The various Christian denominations all have specific practices and liturgies but all Christians continue to hold one belief: Christ lived. Christ died. Christ rose again. Believing that Christ died for us so that we might all be redeemed and receive eternal life, unites all into one, regardless of heritage.

Living in ancient times, where would you have been? Would you have been one of the Jewish faithful who learned the good news and quickly joined with the other followers of Christ? Or were brought up in a non-Jewish but Gentile home? The Gentiles did not know the prophecies of a Savior. The Gentiles did not live by all the rigid laws that the Jewish people followed. They simply were unaware of a faith-based life just like so many today.

Today, if Paul were writing a letter to one of the churches he established, would he ask if you were a Jew or a Gentile or would he ask whether you were raised in a Christian environment or whether you simply lived in an unchurched environment. This is what today’s churches are doing. They are asking others to come hear the story of Christ for the first time in their lives and to discover what a difference God makes in their lives.

Stop and consider the area around our church. Is it more like the Jewish community living an austere and rigid life waiting for a savior? Or is the community more like a Gentile community where the news of Jesus is just a rumor and has no significance to them?

Paul spent three years in Ephesus starting the brand new churches. His letter to them is believed to be a “circular” letter, one that is to be shared with other churches in the area. And think about what the church was anyway in that first century. No building was built just to house the worship services. Some churches were out on the open hillside in order to accommodate the crowds.

Do we try to share God’s message in a similar way or do we just leave it to the “way it has always been”? Today’s churches must reach out in all kinds of ways in order to share the message and to demonstrate that a Christian faith makes a huge difference in one’s quality of life.

Paul’s mission was to spread the word and establish congregations or communities of faith regardless of whether one was a Jew, a Gentile, or a pagan. God’s love is for everybody. God’s redemption is available to all.

We may have been like Gentiles as we grew up, but that does not make any different from those who grew up as Christians. However we have become Christian, we are to reach out and to share God’s love to each other. Are you still acting like a Gentile or are you a Christian sharing God’s love?

The various selections in this week’s lectionary focus on glorifying Christ and worshiping God. In 2 Samuel, David did not have a temple built, yet he brought the ark or chest of the Old Covenant to Jerusalem. The Jewish people understood the value of the chest as part of their worship. It was important to David, a Jewish king, to keep the chest in reverence of God.

The Book of Psalm shares the hymns, prayers and liturgy of ancient Jewish worship. Jesus was taught them and knew them well. The use of the psalms even in today’s worship settings connects us to the very roots of our faith and illustrates the timeless value of worshiping God.

Are we worshiping God with praises and reverence? Does today’s worship invite the Gentiles in the community or is it exclusive to just the faithful attendees? What do we do that praises God today? Do we share with others how our faith improves the quality of our lives? Do we invite them to join us?

Certainly there is a core of Christian faithful who put away their differences and meet for worship regularly. But is the door open so all are welcomed to come in and to learn about God and to worship together with us?

Look around your homes, drive down the roads, walk the walks, and pray. This community needs God. Are we going to just sit quietly and worship for ourselves; or do we get excited about God and ask others to come experience God’s love?

Summer is a very busy time, especially in a farming community. Summer is when kids are outside running and playing with each other, throwing a stick for the dogs to fetch, or sitting inside watching TV, surfing the internet, or playing video games. This is also the time of year families pack up and leave town for a few days to a couple of weeks trying to relax and to see new places.

In all this activity, where is God? Are we telling others how much we love this world God gave us? Do we use our Christian behaviors when we go to a ball game or sit down in a restaurant? Are we saying grace at a family meal each day? Where are you on Sunday morning? Have you checked on your neighbor or friends who are not sitting beside you at church?

Being Christian is not easy. But being Christian provides a quality of life that defies description. Even with 72% of days filled with clouds and rain, the sun shines in our lives because we know the Son of God. The world certainly looks inviting through the eyes of God and wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody could see the world that way—whether Jewish, Gentile, Christian or unchurched.

Today we worship God, we praise Him, and we share our heartaches and our joys with him. We also gather with our church family to learn more about God’s love and salvation. We work together to find ways to love one another in the community. We are God’s family together; and we are filled with so much peace and joy we need to share it with others all week long.

I guess I would have been in the Jewish community in ancient times. I grew up in a Christian family, lived in the rural community of family farms and other Christian families. I attended Sunday school and church services on Sunday morning, sang in the choirs, and went to youth group. Church is simply a part of my entire life and life is so good.

Whether raised in a traditional Christian family or not, share the good news with others not sitting in the pews beside us. Let’s worship God and help others find God in their lives.

Paul certainly stepped out of his comfort zone and we can too. Each time we share God’s grace, we praise God. Each time we manage adversity and others ask how, we share God’s story.

God is good, all the time;

all the time, God is good.

Closing prayer

Dear God of All,

What a delight to be here with you.

What a joy to be in fellowship with your family.

What peace you give us in this holy place.

Show us opportunities to share with others

The grace and love you provide.

Give us the words to tell the story

Of your son, Jesus Christ.

Strengthen our resolve to serve

One another in all kinds of ways.

Thank you for granting us grace.

Thank you for trusting us with your creation.

Thank you for loving us despite all.

Amen.

[1] (Wilson 2014)

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