Friday, November 11, 2016

All We Need

This is the sermon I preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church, on Sunday, Nov. 6. The scripture reading was Ephesians 1:11-23.



All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a book of short essays by American minister and author Robert Fulghum. Fulghum explains how the world would be improved if adults adhered to the same basic rules [learned by] children, [such as] sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after themselves, and living
 "a balanced life" of work, play, and learning. (Wikipedia)
Today’s second reading is telling us that all we need to know we learn in Christ.
The fabulous, flowing language sweeps us away as we hear about all the wonderful things Paul asks God to do for the saints of Ephesus. This letter was meant to be circulated to other churches as well as the church at Ephesus. This message is meant for us today.
The phrase "in Christ" begins this reading and runs throughout it. That relationship of the believer to our Lord is the foundation of our faith and the glue that holds it together.
Everything for us begins and ends in Christ.
In this relationship, there are four things Paul wanted the churches to know and God wants us to know:
First, in Christ we have hope (vv. 17-18).
Second, in Christ, we have power (vv. 19-20).
Third, in Christ, we have victory (vv. 21-22) and
fourth in Christ, we have fullness (v. 23)
God wants us to know that In Christ we have hope (vv. 17-18).
This hope is rooted in the knowledge of God; coming from the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" for which Paul prayed.
Revelation was not Paul’s main concern here. All kinds of people will tell us crazy things that are contrary to scripture and good judgment, things that God supposedly told them to do out of some revelation that they received of so-called truth.
Notice that the prayer for revelation is coupled with prayer for wisdom. They belong together. Revelation without the wisdom of discernment will lead us into all kinds of trouble.
God wants all of us to have a personal, experiential relationship with him. We are underestimating God when we think knowledge about him is all that there is to the Christian life.
Before I was a parent, I thought I knew everything I needed to about raising children. Seeing how other people's children behaved, I knew that MY children would never do that! It wasn't until I became a parent that I could fully understand the joy and angst of raising children.
God wants us to know is that in Christ, we have power (vv. 19-20).  And what kind of power is Paul talking about? It is the power that raised Jesus from the dead. It is the power that brings life to death and strength to the weak.Power is so important for God's people that it is mentioned 4 times in these few verses.
How great is that power? It is immeasurably great.    
Have we ever been in situations that make us feel powerless as if we had no choice in what was happening around us? It is not in our own strength and determination, but in Christ that we have the power that raises us above the issues we're dealing with.
We can only understand what the real intent of faith is when we come together as a church in God's power to carry out our mission in the world around us. Our call to be salt and light, to bear witness to God's mighty power to bring justice, hope and love to a broken world is beyond our own strength. In Christ's power we can be and do all God has called us to.
God wants us to know that in Christ we have victory (vv. 21-22). Although circumstances around us may seem to declare the opposite, we live under the promise that no matter how bad things get, God's ultimate victory is certain. As author John Jewell wrote, "We live under the promise of the resurrection, the power of God within the community of faith and the affirmation that 'all things' [not some things] have been put under the feet of Christ who is, 'head over all {things} to the church'" (John Jewell, lectionarysermons.com). The certainty of God's victory in the long term empowers our life of faith in the short term.
God wants us to know that In Christ we have fullness (v. 23). What is meant by the word fullness? Jesus brings completeness and maturity to our lives as we abide in Him.
This is not any old relationship. It is not a “Jesus and me” fullness for us individually, but one we experience as part of the body of Christ. In the church, the body of Christ is "the [completion] of him who fills all in all" (v. 23b).
The Apostle Paul's prayer in Ephesians shows us God's design for his church. In Christ we have, hope, power, victory and fullness.  
Living as God's church, with Christ as our head is demonstrated by our openness to God, to each other and to the cries of a broken world. Others will enter into this reality by experiencing our life together.
Do people see the fullness of Christ in our worship and in our lives? If not, why not?
We have this amazing treasure in Christ. Let's not keep God in a box all to ourselves.  Let God loose in our lives, our church and our world, just as the saints who came before us did.
Amen.





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