How would you respond if today, when you got home, you had an all-expenses paid, stay in the palace with the royal family, and have a front row seat next to the queen invitation to the royal wedding happening this week? Even the staunchest republican wouldn’t refuse such an invitation. Invitations such as these are rare moments in one’s life, a never to be repeated event, that fills you with awe, wonder and joy at the glorious pomp and ceremony in which it occurs. To have the hope of attending such an event suddenly given to you freely and without cost would be amazing.
Christians do not have to wait for such an invitation. They have front row seats to all the pomp and ceremony of heaven’s majesty and glory. Each Sunday, as they come to worship, they enter a glimpse of heaven itself. They get to hear the invitation to enter God’s hope found in His Son Jesus Christ. They not only get to see the king, they get to know him personally as their friend. And yet too often we find worship a tragic bore, a burden or obligation we endure, or something that can’t compete with the other priorities we have in our lives.
Paul reminds the Ephesian church of their love for Jesus and the way they show this to each other. He gives thanks for them and prays the Spirit may continue to make Jesus known to them, so their hearts may be enlightened, and the they may know of wonder that God has prepared for them in Jesus. This Jesus, who walked this earth, died and was raised again, now sits as king “in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, with a name that is above everything now and forever. Everything is subject to him, and he dwells as Lord in the church, which is his body in its fullest sense. Paul’s great vision is of Jesus, whom we know personally, who ascends to his rightful place, and takes us with him. When we come together as church we come together with Christ who reigns over everything seen and unseen.
What a magnificent picture. Why then do we struggle? Paul makes it clear that to see this image one needs to first see Jesus for who he really is. Our Lord who became one with us, to break the chains which bind us, and who now takes us with Him into the heavenly places. We experience a foretaste of this in the way we act toward one another, in the love we show and the heart that draws others into that love. It is a passionate commitment to know Jesus far beyond anything else, to make our relationship with him our first and only priority. To know, with enlightened hearts that when we gather as His church, we are coming into His presence.
Imagine what a church would look like if its sole focus was not on whether the seats are comfortable, the music suits my style, the venue is warm or cold, the time we gather is limited, or any other thing we get worked up about, but on knowing Jesus. Imagine what it would look like if our heart was not only to know Jesus but to demonstrate to others what our relationship with Jesus does in our lives. Imagine if the sole focus on coming together was to love each other into Heaven’s court. The truth is, Christ died and rose again, so as the ascended Lord we have an open invitation to the greatest show in all creation and for all eternity. Knowing the hope that brings not only changes our lives, it filters out to change the world.