Jul 19, 2020

The Scripture

Ephesians 3: 14-21


14 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.

The Sermon

I’d like to share for a just a few moments from the subject, Fragments.  Fragments.  Let me tell you a story.  There’s a story that says that God and God’s angels were sitting in heaven and watching one of God’s children, a man who seems to have lost everything, he had lost his job, he had lost his family, he was homeless and discouraged.  He was downtrodden. The man was wandering on the street, trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night.  So, one of the angels said to God, “Lord, do something! Help him! Let’s put $1000 in his path, he will see it, he will pick it up and use it wisely and get on his feet.”  Friends, God was silent.  Now meanwhile the man kept walking.  The only thing on the man’s mind was finding a rock or a stone or something large enough to use for a pillow during the night.   God got tired of the angels talking as if they knew everything.   And so, the money was suddenly in the man’s path, and yes, just as God knew, the man was so focused on finding a rock or a stone for a pillow, that the man completely missed the money.  The man actually stepped over the money.  Well, life has a way friends, of breaking us down and discouraging us, and sometimes it’s hard for us to think let alone think in a Godly way.  Sometimes it’s hard for us to balance our emotions.  Our feelings seem at times to take complete control over us and in this season of the Coronavirus is that not so?  We all find ourselves continually day after day traumatized over the impact of this Coronavirus as we shelter in place.  And of course beloved this is all on top what we are already dealing with in our professional lives, and in our congregations and in our communities.   We find ourselves in circumstances that continually beat down on us if you will and we often become battered in heart and mind and spirit.   Seems like our lives are broken into fragments.  Fragments. 

It seems, it feels, sometimes we think, we are isolated, and we may be far from other human beings but not completely disconnected.   It may seem that our lives are unfinished, in that there are broken pieces and parts, disorganized and insignificant parts of our living, even as the church.  So what in the world are we to do when our lives and indeed our corporate living together as the church and worshipping and serving seem to be nothing but fragments?   What kind of faith do we need to handle the fragments for today and going forward in our lives?  Well, this text in the book of Ephesians, this letter, this epistle is believed to be written by the apostle Paul to help Christians, folks of faith like us remember and see the value of our purpose and our position in Christ Jesus.  Right, this book is written to help us see the unity we have together in Christ even when it doesn’t feel like it, and even when we are physically sheltering in place and we are physically apart.  This book is written, and we are told in the book of Ephesians that we are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.   We are told in this book that we are adopted into the family of God.  We are told that we have passed from death due to sin and into the life of Christ.   And that life now lives in each of us and therefore we are told that we are one in Christ Jesus even though we may be physically apart.  We are told in this book of Ephesians of God’s plan for all of us, his plan is a mystery in so many ways and that that mystery is now being revealed it says here in the book of Ephesians.  

The book in chapters 4-6 are very practical.  The book focuses on helping us to know God’s wisdom for ourselves and for others as a church.  And so the book is very practical and it focuses on us becoming mature Christians.  In fact, in Chapter 3, Paul prays for the whole church, right?   Prays for four things, that we may be strengthened on the inside, in our inner being.  Don’t we need that today in a time where it seems like we’re living and everything is fragmented and there are pieces that don’t connect?   Paul prayed and we should pray that Christians have the power to understand and to comprehend the extent of God’s work.  Friends, God is still working.  The prayer says that Christians would know the love of Christ.  So Paul and we too, understand the need that for today, like those in the first century in the house churches, today is similar to that is it not?   Where there was no temple, no more public worship, no place to worship, no beautiful buildings, right?  No grand processionals as the leaders walked to the temple to worship, no dramatic public spectacle of faith and authentic loving of God in public.  Sounds a little bit like today. 

So, three things I’d like to share with us.  How do we too, like these first-century Christians, hold onto our faith even if our faith is fragmented?   What do we do when our lives, our living, our church lives all that we are in the world right now seems as if we are living with nothing but fragments?  Three things I’d like to share with us.  The first thing we find in this text in Ephesians chapter 3 particularly in verses 20 and 21 is to learn to ask friends, God is able to do more.  What do we do about fragments?  Learn to ask.  God is able to do more.   Paul says that God is able to more than we ask for, more than we beg for, more than we crave for, more than we desire.  Just because we are tired and weary and the impact of Coronavirus and the toxic stress and all that’s on us, that’s overwhelming us, those things are legitimate, those things are real, we are experiencing it and living it together every day and yet, Paul says, guess what, all of that does not mean that God is still not present and active and that God cannot and is not doing and providing for us and being for us just what we need.   It says in here to learn to ask and we call it prayer, right?   So whatever way, whatever the means in which you pray whether silently, whether on your knees, whether lying down, whether as you walk and think during the day, the night, share with God silently.  Let us not allow what we feel and what we think which is legitimate, it’s our experience, but let us remember that God is inviting us to ask.  God is able to do more.  That’s why Paul prayed, right?  And we must pray, pray this for ourselves.  Beloved learn to ask, God, strengthen me on the inside , strengthen the inner man, learn to ask.  God allow me as the pastor, give me the wisdom and strength I need for today in fact for this hour.  Learn to ask!  God, give us the wisdom, let not our emotions override and overrun what you would have us to do.   Because in this passage we remember that we ask because God’s work is not limited to what we can see.   God’s love is not limited to the ways in which we are experiencing God’s love.  God’s love is long and how wide and oh how deep and how high God’s love is.  God is able to do more than we think.  We must learn to ask because God will take the fragments of our lives and put them together by the power of God’s spirit.   So God is able, learn to ask. 

Secondly, what do we do with all these fragments?  Have an open mind, beloved.  Now, this seems ultra-simple, does it not?  Yet we know it to be true.  Have an open mind!   God is able to do more!  Paul says that God is able to do more than what we think, that we can imagine, that we can consider, that we can perceive, that we understand and that we can comprehend.    That means that even though we are fearfully and wonderfully made, even though each of us is unique and gifted, even though we bring all of our gifts and wisdom and experiences to the table, we’ve got to have an open mind.  God is able to do more.  God is still able.  It doesn’t matter how we feel and how isolated, it doesn’t matter how unfinished the work might be, it doesn’t matter that our preferences about worship and corporate worship and our buildings and the wonderful traditions that we have, that we can’t enter into those things right here, right now in the fragments of our lives, and of our church and of our communities.  God is still able to do more than we can ask, think or imagine.  The truth, God’s truth is not disconnected.  God’s truth is not isolated, God’s truth, and we can have that open mind, is able to enable us to perceive what God perceives and then to continue to believe and to agree.  The truth of the matter is God is able to do more than we can ask, think or imagine so, therefore, have an open mind. 

And then finally, the word today shares with us how to deal with the fragments of our lives.   Remember, we’ve got to be available to God.  God wants to work through us the text says.  Be available to God even in our stressed and overwhelmed and state of questions and not understanding. What in the world is going on and what’s tomorrow going to bring?  Remember beloved, we still are called and invited to be available to God.   And God is able, the text says, to do it through us.  That’s even good news today.  Right?  I may feel and be experiencing the fragments of my life, and of my faith and of my church and of my family and everything is turned upside down and yet be available to God.  God by the power of God’s spirit is at work in us.  At work in us.  God’s spirit at work in us even in an age of Coronavirus.  God’s spirit at work in us even with the inequities of our society and even in the church.  God is a present with us and able to do through us more than we can ask, think or imagine so let’s give God glory.  Be available to God.  So beloved, fragments?  Now we know from this text, God’s spirit will increase and expand our imagination so that we can put our faith in action for the glory of God.  Continue to be steadfast and moveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord even if the world looks different than we prefer, even if the work feels different than we prefer, hold onto the truth of God’s word.  God is able to do much more abundantly than we can ask, think or imagine.  According to God’s power at work in us the fragments of our lives, fragments of church, God will use us.  Lift up those fragments to the Lord and see how God will continue to work in us and through us for God’s glory.