By Sydney Gautier
In my opinion, there are two types of storytellers in the world: the ones who give you every last detail, down to the color of their socks when the events were taking place, and then the ones who neatly sum things up and make sure you actually get the point of what they’re trying to tell you. Both are great, in different ways and depending on what the story is about. Today, we are focused on the latter type of story teller, the idea of “summing things up, bringing all things into unity, providing a center,” or the Greek word for all that, anakephalaiosasthai.
So that we have a better understanding of this 19 letter word, Barry helped break it down for us, here we go. First is “ana.” This word adds intensity to whatever it’s connected to. For example instead of saying, “it is cold.” We would say, “it is extremely cold.” It helps portray something as big and forceful. Next is “Kephala.” It means, “head, putting ahead, or an organizing center.” An organizing center is something that puts everything where it is supposed to be. This immediately makes me think of my husband, Joe. He loves organization and is a stickler for everything being in its rightful place, so we have various organization cabinets around our house because he knows without them, I would probably leave everything a disorganized mess.
Paul used this word twice in scripture, once in today’s passage and once in Romans 13:9. He wrote, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9). See what he did there? All of the commandment and the words of the prophets are anakephalaiosasthaied, or “summed up or unified” in the phrase, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul’s usage of this word signifies an extreme reorganization around a new center that brings unity to all things.
In Ephesians 1, he shows us this new center, Jesus, the great unifier. He starts off with a very elaborate welcome and salutation to the church in Ephesus. We know from Acts 19 that Paul started the church in Ephesus and had a great ministry there. Barry told us that he and his disciples had so much favor that all the residents of this part of Asia (now known as Asia Minor) heard the Gospel! So we can understand why Paul would write this letter, but why was he so excited? Barry told us that in the original Greek, Ephesians 1:3-10 was one long run on sentence. Basically, Paul just kept writing and writing. If he was talking out loud he probably wouldn’t have time to take a breath between all the words. In verse 10 Paul brings it all together, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1”10). The phrase, “to unite all things” is anakephalaiosasthai. God united all things in Christ, things in heaven and on earth. Jesus changed everything.
Barry told us that Paul likely wrote this letter from a Roman prison, so he probably wasn’t in a situation that would cause much excitement. On top of that, Paul had a pretty rough life. He had been betrayed, arrested, been beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and, to top it all off, he had to put up with fights between Christians. But anakephalaiosasthai gives Paul a reason to be excited! Paul can look back on his life and see that he has anakephalaiosasthai-ed the story of his life. He can look at everything that has happened to him but with Jesus as the organizing center, the one who brought all of his life into unity, and that changed everything. It gave him a new perspective on his life. Everything that happened to him happened for a reason. Jesus brought unity to it all and God used it for his glory! This allowed Paul to have hope! All those bad things don’t seem as bad anymore when you can see that they have a purpose and that you can see God as the one who pours forth grace and blesses and adopts us sinful men and women and sons and daughters because of his love and for his pleasure.
This can help give us a new perspective on our own lives, just like it did for Paul. Sometimes it can be easy to look back and dwell on the bad times, the struggles, or the negative parts of life. While we don’t need to pretend they didn’t happen and block them out of our minds, the shame, terror, illness, lies, and stress we have been through are part of each of our stories, but the Gospel provides and new perspective to see that story through. We can look back on our lives like Paul and retell our story, this time with Jesus at the center as the one who brings unity to all things. In doing this we can see redemption and hope like we see in Ephesians 1. It doesn’t mean that everything in our life will make perfect sense, but it does mean that we can have faith and trust that God is doing something, that He is constantly at work in our lives and in our stories.