6/7 Sermon

Immeasurably More

Recent times have left many asking big questions. Everything from the science of facemasks and hand sanitizer to the meaning of life. But this morning we start off with the meaning of liff. The Meaning of Liff was a humorous pseudo-dictionary written by two English authors in 1983. The book offers many definitions as the authors put it, “of objects for which no name exists.” One that has taken on a life of its own is “Sheppey”. Which is as a measurement of distance, defined as the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque. Which is roughly 7/8 of a mile. This is not the only measurement of distance that many of us have never heard of. For instance, beard-second is a unit of distance inspired by light-years. It is defined as the length an average beard grows in a second. Which is about five nanometers or five billionths of a meter, a distance too small to see with the human eye.

Then there is donkeypower which is a measurement of power defined as 250 watts, or approximately 1/3 of a horsepower. Millihelen is a measure of beauty. Based on Helen of Troy whose beauty was known to be so great it “launched a thousand ships.” One millihelen is the amount of beauty needed to compel the launching of one boat. An inverse measurement of negative-millihelen is the lack of beauty needed to beach one boat. All of these odd and practically unused forms of measurement are humorous but why start our discussion off this week with them? Beloved, we do so because no measurement of distance, power or beauty is sufficient to describe the love of God that surpasses knowledge or His capacity to do more than we could ever imagine. No matter the scale, measure, or articulate phrasing, God is simply more. This is why we gather together; this is why in these perplexing and frustrating times we have hope!

1 Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Beloved, the reason for the hope that we have is that God is more. More gracious than we are sinful, more loving than we are hateful, more unifying than we are dysfunctional, and more capable than we can fathom. Last week we talked about the posture of humility that is required of us, a posture that denies self-assurance. But this does not mean we are a people who are unsure; it simply means we are not the ones that our confidence rests in. For we know who the savior is, the one who came to save the fullness of human existence. The one who is at work in the world, and yet who is working in ways that surpass our imagination and vision. This is the beautiful divine mystery of the Gospel. Today it is our privilege and delight to dive deeper into the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

This is what the word of the Lord says:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

 

Up to this point in the letter, Paul has been addressing the divine, and predestined story of God’s great love and redemption. Speaking to a group of house churches that gather in the same city the letter has leaned heavily into the theme of unity. That through Christ the Jews and the Gentiles are not only reconciled to God, they are reconciled to each other. This is the main problem facing the first-century church. How can we simply get along and be one, as we are told we not only should be but that now we are? Paul starts off chapter three by saying it was for this unity that he has become a servant (prisoner) of Christ. God gave him a calling to share the mystery revealed in Christ. That mystery, which in line with his predestined plan, was for gentiles to be included in the beloved community with God. A mystery for the ages, for sin, had divided, not only humanity from God but humanity from each other. Bridging those cross-cultural gaps, mending those deep-rooted divisions in a world of empires and tribal people, like the Old Testament was unthinkable.

            Bridging cross-cultural gaps and mending deep-rooted divisions in our modern world of nationalism, capitalism and individual truths is equally unthinkable. But praise be to God that He is the redeemer, that He is the gap bridger, the division mender. He not only accomplished all of this through His perfect sacrifice but He revealed a divine mystery in the process. Apart from Christ, it is unthinkable, in our fallen human condition, to be for everyone. Even the disciples who lived with God-incarnate daily didn’t get what He was doing until He flipped everything they knew about humility and power on its head on the cross. Much like them the faithful in Ephesus and the faithful today in Peoria can only see this mystery revealed in the life and work of Jesus. Though, we can’t grasp it fully while still in this fallen world. It is too far above us, too loving, too gracious to fully comprehend.

            This is the reason for Paul’s prayer in our passage today. He says for this reason, for the gospel, I kneel before God the Father in prayer. In verse 16, Paul prays that by God’s glorious riches He may strengthen those who are faithful to Christ in Ephesus, through the power of God the Spirit. Last week was the celebration of Pentecost on the Christian calendar. The celebration of the descending of God the Spirit on the faithful. A huge step in the divine story and plan of the gospel. It is by the riches of the Father, through the power of the Spirit that those who are in Christ are strengthened. Again, we see Trinity language, reminders that God is communal in and of Himself. So, the strengthening of the community of the church comes from the community of God, or the Trinity as we call it.

            This strengthening is so that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Paul is writing to believers, so by this, he does not mean that they would receive Jesus into their hearts, as we would use that language to talk about salvation. Rather, depth and community are implied. Paul follows this up by saying “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Paul prays that with the power of the Father, through the Spirit, in the Son they may be rooted and established in love. Not simply that they as individuals would have faith in Jesus or even a perceived deep faith. Rather that they, as in the church, the community, would be rooted and established in love to be able to work with the rest of the body of Christ. That the power and love of the Trinity would be the foundation for all they do. That the mystery of God being for all people, that was accomplished and revealed in Christ and bestowed upon the faithful through the receiving of God the Spirit, would spur the community toward grasping more and more the magnitude of God’s love.

            The next sentence is “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Jews and Gentiles getting along makes no sense, a community of people who are selfless makes no sense. Love of this magnitude makes no sense! Our world doesn’t work this way, sin turns our hearts inward toward our own desires. So, people look after their own interests, look after their own livelihood, family, tribe, nation, and the expense of others. But praise be to God, knowledge is experiential, we learn by doing. We acquire knowledge by life happening.  By design, the Church was meant to learn more and more of how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is. By design the Church rooted and established in love, empowered by the perfect community, can begin to grasp true love. Can grab ahold of something substantial, not because of intellect or because through apologetics we’ve made it make sense. Simply because we’ve experienced it, and when we experience something unexplainable, we desire more. We venture deeper, we strive to unearth more and more.  I don’t mean that our faith is based solely on our personal experience, for our minds are often biased and our emotions misleading. I mean that through the faithful communal living out of the church following the lead of Christ as Lord, the love of God can be tangibly, and meaningfully experienced. This is the call of God’s Beloved. To simply be loved and respond accordingly.

            To appreciate the love of God so much that we desire more of it, over and above lesser things. For the deeper into the love of God we go Beloved the more it envelops us. Two weeks ago, at Promise, Praise and Prayer we discussed how we often use language like having Christ in our hearts, or us having the Spirit, but far less often do we use language like us being in Christ or in the Spirit. The love of God is so great in magnitude and volume that we as a community can venture further and further into it and only ever find more to explore and a greater appreciation for how unknowably massive it is. If that is not beautiful enough the further we venture in, not by our own will power or noble intentions, the more we desire as a community to share this love.

What does that look like? Or in other words what do we do? This is the question we started off with last week. We don’t have the answers, but we know God is at work. When we started this series on Ephesians our expressed goal was a deeper understanding of what submitting to the Lordship of Jesus means and what it looks like. I believe the closing of this passage is helpful and edifying in that goal.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What do we do beloved? We love God and worship Him. The chaos in the world around us does not speak to the love of God, it stands in comparison to it. By any measure we can come up with God’s love is absurd! Too big, too powerful, yet too humble, too selfless, too creative, to make sense. How do we as the church deal with huge problems like pandemics and systematic racism? We love God and trust Him to lead us toward participating in a response that is rooted in the fact that God’s love is bigger than the world’s biggest problems! Beloved my prayer for us today is that we would pray that out of the riches of God’s grace and love He would empower us to simply see that we are rooted in love. That we were purchased with love. That we are the Beloved because He is the lover! For worship and prayer reminds us that there is always more love of God to venture into. He is always working in the world because He is Lord. What is He doing? The answer is likely too creative for us to imagine. His approach is likely one that we would never think of. But that is because His love surpasses knowledge and He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.

            God’s love is bigger than the world’s biggest problems! This is why Jesus told his disciples in this world you will have troubles BUT TAKE HEART! FOR I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD! We don’t have to solve the problems, for we are not the saviors of the world. Too often the Church thinks its place is to apply Jesus to problems like He is a medicine and like we have a monopoly on Him. But, our call is to respond to His perfect love, with appreciation and desire, trusting where He leads. God as always is the primary mover in the Gospel. The further we venture in the more we appreciate just how big His love is, and the greater confidence we have in His love being big enough to handle any problem.

 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Small Group Questions

Is it hard for you think about something being immeasurable or surpassing knowledge? Why or why not?

 

What practices does a community rooted in love do? Why those specific practices? What makes them practices rooted in love?

 

Can prayerfully discerning how and where God is working sometimes feel like inaction? Can it sometimes feel confusing?

 

In your church experience, who is focused on as the primary mover in modern times? The church, empowered by scripture and God the Spirit or Christ as Lord actively working and going out ahead of the church?

 

What aspect of God’s love do you marvel at most?

 

Below is our songs for service tomorrow if you would like to listen to them beforehand, we will be doing all music off the TV screens while in the fellowship hall.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HflEWgK3JUw&list=PLN6ijTZWiYC-J1VP1cL5NqW7RZr5Ux25e - All Creatures of Our God and King 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl1P4apA5yw&list=PLN6ijTZWiYC-J1VP1cL5NqW7RZr5Ux25e&index=6 - Nothing but the Blood 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dUr3HHH90A - Yes I will 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smrq6hc-vcU - Build My Life