Paul's Open Letter to the Church
The internet loves a good “open letter.” Open letters are public writings to one or more individuals, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. An open letter is an opinion piece, a theological treatise, or a call to action disguised as correspondence. Sometimes open letters take unique forms like “rap diss” tracks or a video message posted to Tik Tok or Facebook. They are always more about the writer and their beliefs than the reader. I sometimes wonder if it would be better phrased as just a blog post or an article, as the open letter implies a rhetorical question to its audience and reader. I don’t think most expect open letters to garner a response unless another open letter or diss track is in order.
Some open letters are helpful in their universality. Other open letters should be private letters, as they are probably just talking to the intended reader, not the rest of us.
One of my favorite practices as a part of the pastoral team at Suntree UMC is writing our weekly E-Letter to you all. It is a place to share thoughts about our worship that don’t make it into the sermon and to otherwise communicate important messages, too. You could say this is an open letter; everyone is welcome to read it, although it is just a function of our ministry together at Suntree UMC. There will be language that those who are completely outside of our circles don’t understand; there will be conversations that are meant to be “kitchen table” instead of “front porch” information that makes their way into the content of these communications.
This week in worship, we will begin a series on the Book of Ephesians called, “Immeasurably More.” This is based on the verse from Ephesians 3:20-21 where the writer talks of God’s desire to do abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. The Book of Ephesians is practical in its instruction because it, too, is like an open letter. It is written to a group of churches, probably, so it reflects the writer’s (scholars go back and forth about whether it is really Paul or not) theological stance and universal instruction to us all. It is the letter that has the least amount of “kitchen table” conversation, meant only for the church at hand, and is helpful in its practicality.
This week, we will consider Immeasurably More Reconciliation as we read Ephesians 2:8-22. Through God’s gift of salvation, we are brought into one body of reconciliation, growing into a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is only possible because God has given us this gift of adoption and salvation. Jews and Gentiles, men and women, from all tribes and tongues in our world are adopted into Christ’s love and a part of the building of God’s temple within our world.
One of the best ways that we see God’s reconciliation at work in our church is in the long relationship that we have with our sister churches in Cuba. For over 20 years, the Cuba Mission Team has been in a relationship with these sister churches, breaking down the walls that the political forces of our country and Cuba would raise. They have braved all kinds of obstacles to make sure that our sisters and brothers in Cuba have the resources that they need. Our sisters and brothers in Cuba regularly pray for the work that we do here at Suntree UMC. Through this mutual relationship, established in the adoption that we have in Jesus Christ, we have cared for one another over decades, and the work continues. We will hear on Sunday the needs that the Cuban people have and the way that the rest of our congregation can be involved in financial support and encouraging our Cuba mission team and our Cuban sister churches.
When we submit ourselves to the grand, abundant gift of Christ’s salvation, the natural step that follows is abundant, resurrection reconciliation in our lives and the lives of our neighbors. I’m so excited to celebrate the work the Cuba Mission team does and to think together about God’s gracious abundant love to us this Sunday!
See you then,