A Purple Passage
Ephesians 1: 3-14 (NRSVA)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
We call a reading like this a purple passage, we say that it ferments a blend of human words and Spirit work into a marvellous gospel wine, poured out for early Middle East Christians, and now for us. Chosen in Christ before clocks ticked in the mind of God, every second is coloured by the fact of God’s eternal love. Coloured, flavoured, tasted, yes – but still our transformation, which with the transformation of the world is given only in pledge, in the down payment of the Holy Spirit, that we might live each second of today with a firm hope on the palate of our faith.
The Greek word arrabōn, which Paul (given as the author of this letter) uses for the pledge gift of the Holy Spirit, is a very special word – I know of no other which is virtually the same word in Hebrew, Arabic and Swahili. The classic Liddell and Scott Lexicon gives two meanings: ‘earnest money’, and ‘caution money’. The first is an encouragement, the second a warning. While Jesus did tell a story which covered the two (Matthew 25: 14-30), Paul goes all out for the first, and continues it in the rest of the chapter – a glorious destiny for God’s people.
God, we cannot measure space and time, nor can we measure your power among us. It was your decision to place us with Christ before all things, and it is your purpose that all things be summed up in him. Every second ticks towards this, marks our lives with hope, picks out unseen acts of goodness for your pleasure. So we pray, Our Father in heaven.