Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
To Know the Surpassing Knowledge of Christ Love - July 26, 2015 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
Perhaps you have heard someone pose the question, “Can God create a rock so big that He cannot pick it up?” Questions such as this only serve to detract from what a great and powerful God we have. And, although we may confess with our lips that we believe that God is all powerful, too often in our every day lives we tend to put limits on God, or at least we tend to put limits on what we will believe about God. Sure, Jesus died for the sins of all people, but how can I be sure He died for me? Sure, God created the world, but how do I know that He did not create the world through the process of evolution. It is amazing how easy it is for us to believe human thinking and wisdom and yet doubt God and His Word, because the bottom line is, either God’s Word is true, or it is not.
In our three lessons for this morning we are given a glimpse of God’s power. In the Old Testament Lesson we see God’s power over nature in His sending of the flood which destroyed the world, which He had created. Yet, we also see how, even in the midst of His righteous judgement of the world, His surpassing love for His creation in the promise He gives to never destroy the world in such a way again.
In the Gospel Lesson we see of the power of Jesus over nature. Not only does Jesus walk on water, He also calms the storm. In this lesson we see Jesus showing Himself to be God. As Jesus is God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, at the creation of the world, so here is Jesus, God in human flesh, showing Himself to be God with power even over nature, the world itself.
Finally, in our Epistle Lesson, our text for this morning, we hear Paul’s recognition of Jesus as God and His power and love beyond all understanding. And we give thanks because our God is such a great God, a God beyond all other gods.
Our text begins with Paul’s words of praise. We begin at verse fourteen, “14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (v. 14-19).
Paul is not speaking of an evangelistic moment. He is not speaking about the giving of faith. Rather, he is speaking to those who have already been given faith. Here we might be reminded that our divine service, our worship service, is not necessarily meant to be evangelistic, but is intended for the people of God, for Christians, in order for us to be strengthened in our faith. Evangelism is what takes place in your daily life as you live your life always being ready to give an answer, a defense for the hope that you have in Jesus. Evangelism takes place in what we call our vocations, that is in our lives as we serve God by serving others as husband or wife, son or daughter, worker or employer, and so on. As we live our lives as priests, offering our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, and as we are asked, “What is it about you?” so, as you share the Word of God with others, the Holy Spirit works through that Word to give faith, when and where He pleases.
And so, Paul is praying for strengthening of faith. He is praying that through the means of grace, especially through the Word of God, we might be strengthened in our faith. It is the Word of God that is efficacious, that is it does what it says. It is the Word of God that gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. The Word is so important. It all begins with the Word. Without the Word there is no creation, remember, God said, He spoke a word and the world came into being. Without the Word there is no baptism, there is no absolution, there is no Lord’s Supper, there is no Jesus, there is nothing.
Paul is praying for us, that we might have a deeper understanding of the love of God, a love that is beyond all understanding. How do we understand God’s love, or how do we get a glimpse of God’s love. God’s love can only be seen in contrast to our sin. It is only as we understand how completely sinful, how completely lost and condemned we are that we can understand how great God’s love really is.
And we are sinful. We sin greatly, and as we hear almost every Sunday, we sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission and commission. And we try to justify our sins. Have you ever thought about it? Whenever we try to justify our sins, what we are really saying is that we do not need too much of God’s forgiveness, perhaps only a little. It is a lot like coming to worship. It is at the divine service that our Lord comes to us to give us the gifts He has to give. It is at divine service that the Lord gives us forgiveness of sins. It is as we read His Word, as we remember our Baptism, as we confess our sins and hear the words of absolution, as we attend the Lord’s Supper, through these means the Lord gives us forgiveness of sins. Yet, how often do we fail to make use of these means. How often do we fail to remember our baptism? How often do we skip church. Every time we fail, we are simply telling God, “I am okay, I’m good, I do not need anymore forgiveness today, I do not need anymore of your gifts, thanks anyway.” Do we turn down a good meal, or any food for that matter? Do we turn down Christmas presents? Yet, we seem to have no problem refusing the gifts God has to give, again, showing how sinful we really are.
Thanks be to God that His love in Christ covers all sins. His love covers our sins of thought, word and deed. His love covers our sins of omission and commission. His love even covers our sins of gift refusal.
The type of love Paul is speaking about in our text is agape love, that is a godlike love and I would add this morning an intelligent love. Agape love is a love that informs. It informs us about God, about His ability, about His nature and character, about His attributes, about His love. It informs us about God’s love that is so great that it is beyond our imagination. God’s love is so great and yet it is seen in the person and work of Jesus. God’s loves is seen in this, that Jesus gave His life so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life.
The last part of our text is Paul’s doxology. We continue at verse twenty, “20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (v. 20-21). Paul’s words speak of his recognition of Christ’s ability to do beyond what we ask, think or imagine. Perhaps that is why we struggle in life. Perhaps that is why we have not, because we fail to think and imagine great things for the Lord and because we fail to ask. Personally, my prayer continues to be that every Sunday the Lord will fill this sanctuary with people to hear the Good News. My prayer continues to be for the members of this congregation, for each one of you, that the Lord would continue to give, strengthen and keep you in faith. My prayer continues to be that every member of this congregation will be here in worship every Sunday and that every member will bring a friend.
Notice how Paul recognizes God’s power. Paul recognizes God’s power to work in us, to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. That is where we get our gifts, from God. The source of every good gift and blessing is God and especially His Word. Very much like anything electric must be plugged into a power source, so, we must be plugged into Jesus, through His Word in order to be given the gifts He has to give. And He has some great gifts to give.
And so, in these words of doxology, in these words of praise, Paul glorifies God in Christ Jesus. As we recognize what a great God we have and as we ask great things from Him, so as He delivers the gifts to us, we might well give glory to our great God.
What Does This Mean? I believe all three of our texts for this morning give evidence so that we recognize Jesus is God. And as we know, Jesus had to be God. He had to be God in order to be perfect. He had to be God in order to raise Himself from the dead.
Not only do we recognize that Jesus is God, we also recognize God’s plan and His plan in Himself, to give Himself. We recognize that Jesus is God in human flesh, being born of the human woman, Mary. Jesus had to be human in order to be our substitute. Jesus shows Himself to be God through the signs, wonders and miracles He performed and He shows Himself to be human through the fact that He was hungry, thirsty, tired, walked from place to place and the like. Jesus is God who gave up all the glory that was rightfully His in heaven in order to save us from our sin.
We recognize Jesus is truly God and truly man and we recognize God’s love for us His creatures and how He works everything out for us because of His great love for us. Unfortunately, our eyes do not always see things the way God sees them. We may not always see God’s hand working out the best for us. Yet, we can know for certain, because our God is a God of love, of agape love, that He always has our best interest in mind. One such example of how we look at things in this world and how God looks at things differently is usually seen in the hospital. When our loved one is sick, and especially sick to the point of death, we may wonder why this is happening. We may pray for healing. What we often fail to realize is that death, dying and going to heaven is perfect healing. That may not be what we want, but at times, in His love, God shows His love by giving our loved that perfect healing.
This morning Paul again helps us to recognize, as always, the best focus is the focus on Christ. And we focus on Christ by making regular and diligent us of the means of grace.
As we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over the past few weeks and as we will continue for the next few weeks, I pray that we have been seeing and hearing Paul’s beautiful message of God’s grace and mercy. Our hope is only in Christ who has predestine all to be saved, God has called us all, even before the foundations of the earth were laid, that is He knew us even before He began creation. God calls us through the waters of Holy Baptism, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word. And God’s love, which is truly beyond our imagination, is seen in Jesus who gave His life for ours. What a great God we do have! To Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.