By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Ephesians 3:1-13
1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
I can’t help laughing as I read the verse today in which Paul describes himself as “the least of the saints.” What, exactly, can the rest of us hope for in that case?
Thankfully it’s balanced against the reminder that in Christ we have an access to God that is not piddling or meager, but generous and exultant. We are to come boldly and with confidence before God. He already knows the worst; he already knows everything we need or think we need. And this is the God of resurrection — he takes Saul and makes Paul (least of the saints, my foot). In exchange for our merely coming to him, and being honest about ourselves, and thus letting go of our selves, he longs to make us also into saints. He doesn’t require anything more, he destines us for nothing less.
Recently I learned that, toward the end of her life, St. Thérèse of Lisieux usually fell asleep whenever she tried to pray. She came to God, and she couldn’t stay awake. But she didn’t worry, because, she said, parents don’t cease to love their children when they sleep (sometimes we even love them best when they’re asleep!). A surgeon deliberately puts his patient to sleep so that he might perform the needed operation. How much more so can God continue to transform us by his love while we sleep? All that mattered to her, all that matters to God, is that we remember we have all the confidence of Christ himself, and show up.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Aguata (Nigeria)
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas