St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Epistle for 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Epistle for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Eph. 2:4-10

We heard this morning a remarkable word from the Holy Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

Apostle Paul reveals to us the unbelievable love and kindness and condescension of God for us, His creatures. We read today that, ‘God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’

And further on he states: ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.’

There is so much being said here… let’s take some time to unpack what the Apostle is saying to us in today’s Epistle.

Let us begin with the first statement of the Apostle… ‘God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.’

Think about that! God, the Creator of the universe, wholly and completely Self-sufficient in His majesty and glory, needing and lacking nothing – looked down from heaven upon His creatures who were dead in sins and had chosen darkness; and, out of His mercy and because of His great love with which He loved us, God lowered Himself to take on human flesh, to enter into our fallen world, and made Himself a sacrifice for our sins – suffering and dying on the cross for our transgressions and thereby trampling down death by death. This is hard for the mind to take in!...

The motivation for our salvation did not come as a response to our repentance. It overflowed out of the richness of God’s mercy and because of His great love with which He loved us.

This should make us tremble, this should make us weep, and yet, this should also make us rejoice in gratitude and hope. God, out of the abundance of His mercy and love for us, was willing to become incarnate and to carry out the whole sequence of events that we read about in the Gospels, and… all of this was done while we were dead in our sins. How much joy then, how much hope then, must we have if we would come to God in love and repentance? If God was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us while we were dead in our sins, while we stubbornly turned our back to Him, how great a love awaits us if we would just turn toward Him, expressing our own small love in return?

This is the great mystery and the great hope of the Gospel.

And what then happens as a result of this communion of love between God - Who is so rich in mercy and love; and man – who turns to Him in gratitude and with the measure of his own love in return? As Apostle Paul writes… we become His workmanship.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… this is the purpose and the opportunity for which we were created – to be the workmanship of God.

Indeed, each of us has been created in the image of God and by the loving compassion of God. Yet, we are incomplete and distorted creatures.

We must never excuse our sins and our distorted perceptions of things by stating that ‘this is how God made me’. We were not born into this world in the fulness of that which we are created to become. We, in our fallen state, are subject to and easily persuaded by false ideas, by misguided passions, by selfish pursuits. These are not of God and do not reflect the workmanship of God. In fact, they reflect the workmanship of our selfishness and of the evil one.

The question is… in whose image shall we be shaped?

Each day we pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. That God’s will would be done in us, that we would be granted the grace to perceive and understand and do God’s will… that there would be a perfect synergy of the will of God and of our own will.

It is in this synergy with God that He is then able to shape us into the form and likeness and to the fulness of all that we were truly created to be. We must look to the beauty and sanctity of the saints to get a glimpse of the wonder of the workmanship of God and His intentions for mankind.

‘God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’.

It is God Who makes us truly alive. Who makes us truly who we were created to be. He gives us life together with Christ. 

May God grant us the humility and the wisdom to receive the great mercy of His lovingkindness and to have the strength and trust to enter into that synergy of wills – aligning and uniting ourselves to Christ, that we may blossom into the fulness of that which we were created to be!

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