By Daniel Malakowsky
Barukh Attah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-Olam
These words, which translate as 'Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe,' are possibly the words that began worship within the synagogues that the early church arose out of. This basic blessing manifest the nature and purpose of worship, to lift one's eyes to the sovereign one of Israel, who was also the sovereign one of creation. In Christ and the resurrection, what scholar Lesslie Newbiggin described as the root of all knowledge, the self-revelation of God in Jesus culminated and all the events of history find their summation and their foundation. With this summation came the recognition that if the God of Israel were to be known, he was to be known through the Messiah, the son of God who became flesh and made his dwelling among men. That Jesus would change history meant that he would also change its liturgy, the narratives and truths which are affirmed as the filter's of reality and the ways in which one is to live.
Three times within the writings of the apostles we see this basic blessing, or berakah, open the words of an epistle, only now it is framed in light of the person of Jesus and what he reveals about who God is. The sovereign of Israel and creation, the creator and king, remains the blessed one, but now so as the one who is known as the Father of our Lord and Messiah, Jesus. Peter, the apostle to the Jews, opens his first letter to the churches of Asia Minor with these words and reminds them that in Christ they have been blessed to a living hope through the power of the resurrection and are now born again in the mercy of God. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, reminds the churches of Corinth and Ephesus that this same God is also one who comforts the afflicted and brings the gifts of the world unseen to those who are in him. The fact that these three letters each open their body with the exact same phrase leads to the possibility that these early followers of Jesus, shaped and formed by their worship in the synagogue, were now redefining that liturgy in light of who God had revealed himself to be in the Son. The Creator was revealed as a Father and the King as a Savior and Son. The blessing was now access to God and all that is in him through the resurrection.
It is this re-framing that I would like to explore over the next several months, specifically through Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Even more precisely how the person and work of Jesus shaped and formed Paul's view of union with God and the reconciling reality that exists within it. In Christ men and women who were once dead in their transgressions are now seated in the heavenlies and made alive again. The dividing wall of hostility with God had been crucified with the Son and the balustrade of division between men is now destroyed, bursting forth in new humanity. This God of Israel had now brought forth the fullness of their calling and the mystery of the Gospel is being made known in that the Gentiles are now included in the promises and people of God. In revealing God as Father, Jesus was also revealing all who would become his children.
I invite you to join me in pursuing Paul's vision of union and reconciliation in the Gospel and the call to unity that is revealed in it. It is this ecumenical vision that is needed more than ever, but to enter into it one must first enter into the life of Christ that drove Paul in his zeal for God and in his missional endeavors. In the meantime, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...