Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sermon: January 27, 2013 - What God Imagines

Ephesians 3.14-20 

            My mother was a direct descendant from the Apostle Paul. She had a very active mind; she would think about something all day. Then, at some point in her thinking, she would call me. But, instead of starting from the beginning with something like, “Hello, how are you?” She would just start taking to me wherever she was in her all day thinking. I would have to stop her, start from the beginning, and then get her to tell me what was on her mind.
            Reading Paul is the same way. We read a passage from any of his letters only to discover that we need to know what he has been working on since the beginning of the letter or worse, what prompted the letter. You have to dig some just to catch up with his active mind. So it is with this passage from Ephesians. Paul has been thinking and explaining since the beginning of the letter. Jumping in to read a passage from the middle of the book is risky.
 “For this reason,” Paul said, “I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family on earth take sits name.”
“For this reason,” Paul prayed that they might be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit.
“For this reason,” Paul prayed that they might comprehend the breadth and length, and height and depth of the love of Christ.
“For this reason,” Paul prayed that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.
For WHAT REASON? The text we read did not tell us; we have to read backwards though the text to discover the answer. Actually, Paul gives us two answers:
1. Because Christ, through the cross, has joined this divided world together into one holy community of redemption and believing.
2. Because Christ has transformed Paul’s imprisonment into a mission on behalf of the Church and the people that he loves.
Only Paul could look at the mess of division and suspicion between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the baby church and see Christ bringing them together through the cross. Only Paul could look at the chains he wore in a Roman prison and see the best of his ministry at work. Only Paul could see all of this and invite us to see it that way, too.
·       What do you see when you read all the bad news in the morning newspaper or on your 24 hr. TV news channel? Do you see Christ moving in every place to bring healing and hope? Or do you see a mess and mutter the old gripe, “What is the world coming to?”
·       What do you see when you drive through our city and discover places where you are suddenly uncomfortable and want to roll up the car windows and lock the doors? Do you see a place where Christ might send you in ministry? Or do you see a place you’ll be careful never venture into again?
·       What do you see when a member of your family is working hard to make it hard for you to love them? Do you see a person who needs love all the more? Or do you see a person who has it coming to them?
What you see?
[Illus: Somebody stole our tent]
            The Company Commander and the First Sargent were in the field with the troops. As they hit the sack for the night, the First Sergeant said, “Sir, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.”
            The Commander said, “I see millions of stars.”
            First Sergeant, “And what does that tell you, Sir?”
            The Commander replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.”
            “What does it tell you, Sergeant?”
            First Sergeant, “It tells me, Sir, that somebody stole our tent.”

            What do you see? Becoming a Christian has a definite impact on your vision. Paul looked at the mess all around him. He looked the chains on his body and the bars across the doorway of his cell, and he saw Christ changing the world through the cross. So, Paul not only prayed that the Ephesians might have these blessings he prayed in the assurance that Christ was already working these blessings in their lives.

III. Next, Paul teaches us that being a Christian means trusting the way Jesus sees things.
            Jesus saw the hungry crowds and asked the disciples to feed them before he sent them home. He saw sheep without a shepherd and people who might faint from hunger on the way home. The Disciples only saw a food problem. “It will take six months wages to feed all these!” So Jesus took a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish from a young boy’s lunch, blessed and broke them. And then ordered the disciples to distribute them to all the people. Everyone ate until they were filled, and there were baskets and baskets of food left over.
            *Imagine No Malaria* invites us to see the world as Jesus sees. Imagine No Malaria invites us to join the church around the world to take on the problem of malaria. We see a continent larger than our own country. We see poverty that is unending and unrelenting. We see problems that are overwhelming. “How can we make a difference?” I believe that Jesus sees people suffering from a disease that is preventable and beatable – just as malaria was beaten in this nation. It was eradicated in the U.S.A. only 60 years ago.
            But where we see only problems, Jesus sees a need and a possibility for a God-sized miracle to be unleashed. As Christians, we trust Jesus’ way of looking at people and issues and situations for all the same reasons.
            [B.] What are you hoping Jesus will see when you come with your stomach tied in knots and the worry written all over your face? Being a Christian means coming to Jesus in the confidence that he will see even more than we dare reveal to him. Being a Christian means trusting the way Jesus sees things. That is Good News.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

IV. The Great News is that Jesus is an overboard kind of Lord.
            Our text from Ephesians today is like a Star Wars movie – a wild chase scene across outer space, followed by a massive battle scene, climaxed by the explosion of the Death Star. You wish they had made the screen twice as big. Paul prays for all the divided, squabbling Christians:
·       That we might be strengthened with power through the Spirit;
·       That we know Christ dwelling in our hearts;
·       That we might be rooted and grounded in love;
·       That we might grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ;
·       When all this happens, that we might be filled with the fullness of God.
What did you come to church for today? To pick up a recipe for self-improvement? To get a few pointers on living the Christian life? God comes to church each Sunday morning to deliver a loving that will knock your socks off.

            We can choose either to live our lives immersed in mundane trivia each day, or we can choose to live in awareness of life as a holy, mysterious gift.
·       We can be absorbed by the presence of the holy in the ordinary occurrences of our days;
·       We can see the face of Jesus sin the countenance of the poor;
·       We can see the promise of a Monday morning rolling in tomorrow.
·       We can pray and then go on with the day in the confidence that God is watching for exactly the fight moment to shout down the answer.
·       We can view our lives as answer to God’s prayers.
            What do you see as you engage the world? Do you see God at work in the circumstances and the problems that we face? I hope you do. Do you see God going ahead of us and motioning for us to come along where God is already going? Again, I hope you do. Paul prayed for the church. And his prayer is uplifting. Reading his prayer makes me believe the Church of Jesus can be far more than we ever expected it to be. His prayer makes me believe that we can be far more than we ever hoped or imagined.

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