This week I read, with some interest, a description of the Voyager Space Program. Voyager 2, the second of the two spacecraft, was launched in 1977 to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and finished its work in our solar system in 1989 with a close flyby of Neptune. At this writing, Voyager 2 studies the outer heliosphere of our system and will soon (some think …) enter deep interstellar space.
My interest, however, as a word-loving liberal arts type, lies with the Golden Record that Voyager 2 carries. Complete with symbolic directions for operation, the record contains pictures of earth, recordings of nature sounds from our planet, a 90-minute recording of music from earth (including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Good!”) and, my favorite, greetings from earth in 55 languages. These are supposed to be comprehensive, revealing who we are and what we’re all about as Earthlings.
“Hello, from the children of earth,” the English greetings goes. (Seems like we might have done better, but it was the work of a committee.)
My question as we come together in our churches on Sunday is simply this: If we were to leave the briefest of messages for another church in the future and far away, and that message were to describe who we are and what we’re all about, what would that message be?
The Apostle Paul knew something of this challenge in opening his Epistle to the Ephesians. In this (I would argue), the most comprehensive of all his letters, he greets the Ephesians (and us, by association as God’s people), with three words:
Grace … and peace
This comprehensive greeting captures the entire letter. “Grace” … God’s unmerited favor, to you. This is, if any word is, the Gospel in one word. And, Paul extends it to the Ephesians, and us, to describe God’s work in bringing us back to relationship with Himself through the active obedience of His Son, Jesus.
“Peace” … the Shalom, the well-being of God. Yours now, because of God’s grace.
These words taken together describe God’s part (the active cause) and our part (the reactive condition) of our new status in Christ and our new relationship with God and each other. In these words we have a microcosm of what Paul will lay out in the following six chapters: “Live together as God’s people (peace!) in the manner you’ve been called by God (grace!). … walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called … (4.1).
So, maybe our comprehensive greeting to our future selves in our Christ-following children and grandchildren is simply this: GRACE and PEACE. Maybe, that’s your greeting this week to any fellow, Christ-following, believing friend you meet.
So, say it! Find somebody, and greet them with GRACE and PEACE. Then, read the rest of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, beginning with Paul’s blessing in verses 3-14 that includes his magisterial description of our new position in Christ.
GRACE and PEACE!
The following questions will be helpful as you get starting thinking about Ephesians:
Reflect a bit on Paul’s three-word greeting. How does GRACE and PEACE describe the Gospel?
Read Eph 1.1-2. Paul also describes himself, as the sender of the letter, and the Ephesians, as its recipients. How does he describe both himself and the Ephesians, as those who are able to share grace and peace?
Thinking ahead a bit, why do you speculate that you are able to share grace and peace with everyone else who is “in Christ”?
Thinking personally and practically, are you really able to say “grace and peace” to every other professing believer in your life? If your not, how would further comprehension of God’s grace and peace change your relationship with that person or those people?