Ephesians 3.1-13 is appointed (all but the last verse) to be read on Epiphany each year, but it is left out of our reading plan for Ephesians this summer. These verses bring Paul's mission into focus, and how he is not distracted by his imprisonment from the cosmic role of his work and that of the church.
Paul starts chapter 3 by owning his vulnerability and weakness; he is in prison. It is difficult to imagine a more powerless, shame-filled role. But Paul the Prisoner looks past it to see that it is exactly by his imprisonment that the upside-down power of God's strong-weak presence in the world is made manifest. Through the preaching of Paul the Prisoner, God creates the Church, and the Church reveals God's wisdom to the heavenly authorities. The Church, in its weakness, is God's monument, and the Church's continuing existence "behind enemy lines" is God's great victory.
The Church's goal here is not its own success, its own grand building, its own growth in attendance. But rather, the Church, like the Lord it serves, is to be known in weakness. Like Paul, it is to rejoice even in its rejection, because that is exactly the place that God's upside-down wisdom and power may be found.
Image: Coming into focus - Rose window from the Washington Cathedral, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54860 [retrieved July 25, 2018]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjhbixby6/5700689477/.