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Eph 3,10 - Esther 4 Church's Purpose - To make known to Rulers and Authorities

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The Purpose of the Church: To make known the wisdom of God to rulers and authorities

Loren B. Mead, in the Introduction to his book,

Transforming Congregations for the Future writes,

“Everyone I know who works in churches

knows there is trouble.

Churches do not “work” the way they used to.

Roles of Leadership have become more confusing

and frustrating to those who hold them.

What we remember as being crystal clear

in church life a generation or two ago

now seems muddy, uncertain.

“The Church’s vision of prophetic justice

sounds suspiciosly like the latest liberal definition

of political correctness.”

“Church people talk about membership losses

and cast [envious] eyes

at the [growing] membership rolls

of other churches that have a different theological stance

or seem better at reading the market.

Without a clear sense of what they ought to do,

they have grown unsure that what the are doing

is the right thing.

If you are not sure of what you should be up to,

then why not do whatever is selling best?”

“The people I talk to are not terribly confident

as they voice these concerns.

They know that these questions are not in a league

with those about peace and war and justice.

Yet what’s happening to the church

is something that touches them very deeply.

It’s easier to get more [excited] about

and involved in local church issues

than about Bosnia or Somalia.”

There seems to be general agreement

that we live in stormy times.

Religiously, politically, economically, socially,

in fact in every area of life,

we live in stormy times.

And as the boundary lines between all these areas of life

Begin to wash into each other

it isn’t always crystal clear

what the purpose and role of the church

is supposed to be.

In Ephesians 3:10

Paul gets at the heart of the Church’s purpose.

10[God’s]intent was that now, through the church,

the manifold wisdom of God should be made known

to rulers and authorities…

We often get confused about the reason / the purpose

of the church’s existence.

Some argue that the church is there to make great music

and have inspiring worship services.

Or, we may have a pretty convincing argument

that the purpose of the church

is to keep its young people in church –

because “the youth are the church of the future”. (Actually, the youth are the church already in the present…

and they often show us, old people…

(“old man” that’s what my kids call me)

they show us that you must wear your faith

on your sleve.

At the other end of the spectrum some people argue

that the church exists to provide comfort and assurance

to those who are approaching the end of their life.

And again others would argue

that the purpose of the church

is to reach out and provide good support groups

for recovering addicts or families in trouble, and so on.

Each one of these areas should be nurtured and celebrated

in the life of the church,

for they add to the blessings and the unique flavor

that each congregation brings to its context.

However, as good and noble as these characteristics may be,

       they’re not the essence.

A good music program, or youth or seniors program,

or even the most supportive care groups

is not the essence

of what the church was called to be and do.

At best these are all by-products of a church

       living to fulfill its calling.

What, then, is the purpose of the Church?

The story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth

       hints at the answer to this question.

After his baptism and temptation

Jesus went into the Synagogue.

And he was asked to read these words

from the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

When he was done reading he said to them,

“This, my friends,is what I am all about.”

The rest of Jesus’ life testified to this claim that he made.

Whereever he went,

he announced good news…

he acted out good news.

He brought freedom for those who were prisoners of sin,

       illness, rejection, oppression,

even demon possession.

For Jesus, good news was always in dialogue with bad news. For a blind man the good news is that he can see.

For a lame person,

good news is the ability to walk

and leap and dance for joy.

For the guilt-ridden person,

good news is a word of forgiveness.

For the person – or society – crushed by oppression,

good news is freedom from oppression.

Good news can be received and appreciated in many forms.

As Jesus brought good news,

so the church who carries his name

also finds the reason for its existence

in proclaiming good news.

One of our problems today

is that it is really hard for us affluent Christians

to see or feel the bad news that others experience.

We have grown to be very complacent and self-centred…

We have been lulled into an unconcerned slumber.

Is it any wonder that so many people

leave the Christian church disillusioned.

The key point of Ephesians 3:10

is that the church’s purpose is to make known

the manifold wisdom of God to Rulers and Authorities.

That could get pretty uncomfortable!

Lets ask ourselves,

When was the last time that we as local congregation

have spoken out to the powers that be

on issues that affect our community?

How often do we join our voice

with churches form our denomination -

and even different denominations -

to cry out against a social injustice?

The Story of Esther is the story of God’s people

speaking out to the rulers and authorities

for the sake of justice.

When Queen Vashti was deposed around the year 460 BC,

       King Xerxes sent his servants

to find him a new queen

and they found Esther,

who was an orphaned Jewish girl.

She was a very beautiful girl

and her overall character appealed to the king,

and she became the first lady.

Shortly after, her cousin Mordecai, who had brought her up,

uncovered a plot to assasinate the King.

And the plotters were promptly hanged.

Then a new government official named Haman

tried to impress the king by recommending

that all the Jews be destroyed

because Mordecai refused to kneel at the king’s gate

and pay honor to Haman.

Mordecai has a serious talk with his queen cousin,

who at first hesitated to speak to the king.

He said, 13"Do not think

that because you are in the king's house

you alone of all the Jews will escape.

14 For if you remain silent at this time,

relief and deliverance for the Jews

will arise from another place,

but you and your father's family will perish.

And who knows but that you have come to royal position

for such a time as this?"

Mordecai tells Esther,

that this is the reason for her existence!

This is why God has placed you

       in such a prominent place.

This is not a time for complacency…

       Sitting around sipping champagne

       While there is all kinds of bad news happening.

This is your time to act!

Renny Golden writes about the Life and Teachings

of Oscar Romero.[1]

(Thanks to Kyle for the tip –

this is only one of many gripping stories about

the Church speaking Good News into their context).

Oscar Romero was considered by the Salvadoran People    

as the Bishop of the Poor.

In 1980, in the midst of a U.S. funded war that

the United Nations Truth Commission called genocidal, Monseñor Oscar Romero said,

"I do not believe in death without resurrection."  

"If they kill me,

I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people."

Oscar Romero gave his last sermon

moments before he was shot.

He said, "One must not love oneself so much,

as to avoid getting involved

in the risks of life that history demands of us,

and those that fend off danger will lose their lives."

Romero begged for international intervention.

In 1980 the war claimed the lives of 3,000 people a month,

with cadavers clogging the streams,

and tortured bodies thrown in garbage dumps

and the streets of San Salvador.

Romero was a surprise in history.

The poor never expected him to take their side

and the elites of church and state felt betrayed.

Within three weeks of his election as a bishop

something happened that transformed Romero’s life.

His first priest, Rutilio Grande, was ambushed and killed

along with two parishioners.

Grande was a target because he defended the peasant's rights

       to organize farm cooperatives.

He said that the dogs of the big landowners ate better food

       than the campesino children

whose fathers worked their fields.

The night Romero drove out to Paisnal

to view Grande's body

and the old man and seven year old

who were killed with him,

changed his life.

In a packed country church

Romero encountered the silent cry of the peasants

who were facing rising terror.

Their eyes asked the question only he could answer:

Will you stand with us as Rutilio Grande did?

Romero already understood that the church is more

than the hierarchy, Rome, theologians or clerics—

more than an institution—

but that night he experienced the people as church.

"God needs the church," he said,

"to save the world...

The world of the poor teaches us

that liberation will arrive

only when the poor are not simply on the receiving end

of hand-outs from governments

or from the churches,

but when they themselves are the masters

and protagonists of their own struggle for liberation."

Romero felt helpless that he could not stop the violence. Within the next year some 200 people who were with him

in that country church were killed.

Over 75,000 Salvadorans would be killed,

one million would flee the country,

another million left homeless,

constantly on the run from the army—

and this in a country of only 5.5 million people.

All Romero had to offer the people

were weekly sermons broadcast throughout the country,

his voice assuring them,

not that atrocities would cease,

but that God would not abandon his church

in their struggle.

He said,

"If some day they take away the radio station from us…

if they don't let us speak,

if they kill all the priests and the bishop too,

and you are left a people without priests,

each one of you must become God's microphone,

each one of you must become a prophet."

By 1980, the U.S. had sent $1.5 million in aid

every day for 12 years.

Amidst overarching violence,

Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter

pleading with him to stop sending military aid,

He wrote,

"You say that you are Christian.

If you are really Christian,

please stop sending military aid to the military here,

because they use it only to kill my people."

His letter went unnoticed.

Two months later he would be assassinated.

On March 23, 1980,

Romero openly challenged an army of peasants,

whose commanders feared and hated his reputation.

His voice trembled as he pleaded with them,

"Brothers, you are from the same people;

you kill your fellow peasant…

No soldier is obliged to obey an order

that is contrary to the will of God…"
"In the name of God then,

in the name of this suffering people I ask you,

I beg you,

I command you in the name of God:

stop the repression."

Days before his murder he told a reporter,

"You can tell the people

that if they succeed in killing me,

that I forgive and bless those who do it.

Hopefully, they will realize

they are wasting their time.

A bishop will die,

but the church of God, which is the people,

will never perish."

His dying words were,

       "May God have mercy on the assassins."

The faithful church understands its calling

and the purpose for which it exists,

namely to denounce the injustices in society.

God is a God of justice and peace and harmony.

This was revealed especially in the life of Jesus of Nazareth,

       who was anointed by God

to preach good news to the poor.

Who was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."


This is the reason that we are here!


[1] Renny Golden is co-author with Scott Wright and Marie Dennis of Oscar Romero: His Life and Teachings, available through Orbis Books (914-941-7636) and 2,000 and The Hour of the Furnaces, Minn: Mid-List Press, a social history/poetry of the war years in El Salvador.

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