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Dec 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 21, 2014 – Ephesians 3:14-21

 A Goal of Christian Spirituality

For this reason
I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth
derives its name . . .  Ephesians 3:14-15

Intro: Paul finally returns to what he began in verse 1 before getting sidetracked

“For this …” refers to all he’s said about what God has done for us, the revealed mystery, and life in Christ
– in this section, Paul wants to pray into them all of these wonderful truths (cf. Col. 4:12)
• his prayer reveals the possibilities of the Christian experience of God
• and those possibilities are magnificent

Verses 14 and 15 are preliminaries to Paul’s prayer

The first preliminary: “I bow my knees” – we know prayer is not its ritual form
– yet at the same time, the body is not irrelevant
• physical posture, gestures, and the time and place of prayer are important to the act
◦ these are things that we associate with drawing close to God

Balthazar Alvarez, who at one time was St. Teresa’s spiritual director, described a moment when, “Having placed myself in prayer, I felt that God was there.”

◦ bowing our heads, closing our eyes, and however else we use our bodies serve this purpose; to place ourselves in prayer
– the body is important also when it comes to praying with our whole person
• I don’t believe there is such a thing as disembodied prayer or worship

The next preliminary: the One whom Paul addresses in prayer “before the Father”
– in the Greek text, the “before” is “a preposition of direction” (Strong’s Dictionary) e.g., toward
• Paul was not facing the east when he prayed, but the Father
– a play on words: Father (patera) and family (patria)
• “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”
◦ he is thinking of God as Father in the larger context, namely, the Creator of the life of all humankind

[Paul, addressing an audience of philosophers in Athens] . . . as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His children” (Acts 17:28)

patronym: the family takes the father’s name
(my theory: the universal last name of humankind is Smith–but it’s just a theory)
• “in heaven…” — a reminder that some of those whom we love are already in heaven
◦ but they’re still family, still connected to us

. . . that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with His power
through His Spirit
in the inner man;
so that Christ may dwell
in your hearts through faith;

Vv. 16-17a, Paul’s first request

The essence of this request: that their hearts will become Christ’s home
– the heart is the center of the person:
• will, intellect, emotions, drives, hopes, desires, perspectives, values, etc.
• Jesus desires to take up permanent residence there
◦ this means that he exercises a pervasive influence over everything that makes us who we are
– of course the Ephesians need help to get to that point
• and they have, first, “the riches of His glory”
◦ simply put, all the spiritual resources necessary to get where we haver to be
• second, they were (and we are) “mightily empowered” by his Spirit
◦ what is the idea behind this Holy Spirit power? is it to work miracles? raise the dead?
◦ it is this, to be empowered:
to choose to do right, even when doing right is difficult or painful
to endure suffering and not lose heart
to allow God to walk us through the process of change
to get up in the morning and look at the world and others through God’s eyes and act accordingly

It is the “inner man” (person) that’s strengthened

In our meetings last Wednesday and Thursday, we heard Fr. Romuald respond to the question What defines me? Do my thoughts or feelings define me? He answered, “There is the superficial self and the deeper person. What Jesus comes to activate is this deeper person who identifies with [defined by] mystery, kairos, and the kingdom.”

• this is fundamental to Christian spirituality, that we are able to discern between our:
◦ persona – what we present to others
◦ perceived self – our history and “programming”
◦ the inner self – when the image of God in us is brought to our awareness
– where do we begin? How do we participate in it?
• “through faith” – we cannot achieve this or find our way there on our own
• we’ll soon see why faith is necessary

. . . and that you,
being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend
with all the saints what is
the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know
the love of Christ
which surpasses knowledge . . .

Vv. 17b-19a, Paul’s second request

The essence of this request: that they would enjoy an experiential knowledge of Jesus’ love
– it seems circular that to know love we must be “rooted and grounded” in it
• but it is circular like the seasons or like one tree being planted by the seeds of another
• Paul uses two different metaphors to describe how we relate to love:
◦ agricultural: planted (stable), alive and growing
◦ construction: the foundation (stable), something that can be built upon
– what love is this? My love? my love for others? for God? God’s love for me?
• its “the love of Christ” in verse 19–that is to say, God’s love revealed in Jesus
– when it is said that “love is blind,” the reference is to romantic love
• God’s love enlightens–which may explain the dual themes in 1 John, “God is Light”  (1:5) and “God is love” (4:8)

Literally defined, “comprehend” meant to physically seize or grab
– here it is a figure of speech, but this grasp on Christ’s love is obviously not intellectual
• it is more like us being grabbed by it
• and what grabs us is its dimensions
◦ the extension of Christ’s love in 3-Dimensional space: breadth, length, height and depth
◦ this is not an attempt to locate its boundaries, but to remove them – it goes out in all directions
– in v. 19, “to know” is the intellect, yet it is not a comprehensive knowledge since it “surpasses knowledge”
• still, we need to know that there is such a thing–that it exists and moves toward us
• knowing of it keeps us looking for it and keeps us moving towards it
◦ but knowing it at all, is to discover how little we know it

For example, we pick up shell at the beach and notice a drop of sea water in it
– that drop gives us some experience of ocean–its feel, smell, taste–
• but what we gather from the experience is very tiny compared the all the vast oceans of the world
◦ in Christ’s love, we are participating in something infinitely beyond us
• that’s why his love is always comes as a surprise
– a video clip – CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
• philanthropist hands out $100.00 bills every year
◦ this year, gave them to police officers
◦ they pulled people over, not to fine but to bless
◦ “You’re car has been targeted . . ”
• one woman was upset and ready to argue
“You pulled me over for no cause”
“Well, on behalf of your Secret Santa . . .” he handed her a $100.00 bill
• wiping tears from her cheeks, she said, “I wasn’t going to be able to get my children anything for Christmas”
◦ similarly, we respond with surprise, “He loves me?” “He loves me this much?”

. . . that you may be filled up
to all the fullness of God.

V. 19b, Paul’s third request

The essence of this request: that they would be filled with God
– this is as surprising and radical as knowing a love that surpasses knowledge
• it does not mean that God’s fullness enters us or that we experience God’s fullness
◦ it means that out of his fullness, he fills us (our capacity is miniscule and quickly reaches its limits)
• God can pour himself into us without being emptied or even slightly diminished
◦ he loses nothing of himself or his fullness by filling us
◦ we are obviously face to face with mystery again

Can a human life really reach this degree of spiritual growth?
– that is not really our concern
• all we need to know is that the direction in which we want to continue moving

Now to Him
who is able to do
far more abundantly beyond
all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory
in the church
and in Christ Jesus
to all generations
forever and ever.

Conc: Paul concludes his prayer with a doxology (typically, a statement that acknowledges the glory–doxa–of God)

In Paul’s doxologies we can generally sense a genuine and spontaneous response to the wonder of God
– frequently, in talking about God, Paul resorts to superlatives
• for example, two times in two verses here he has used the prefix hyper (surpasses and [super]abundantly)
– it seems odd that in talking about God’s glory Paul would list the church first and Jesus second
• but this is the view from the outside–the way God’s glory is discovered by the world
◦ the visible church, which is God’s dwelling (2:22) is where God reveals his “manifold wisdom” (3:10)
◦ but the church is unable to explain itself — it always points beyond itself to Jesus, the “Lord of glory”

So what if Christmas morning comes and there are no gifts under the tree?
– what if all we have is each other? what if the only gifts are to love and be loved?
– or what if I find myself alone?
Can we give ourselves the freedom to let the love of Christ enter us?
Can we surrender to God’s gift, filling us with himself out of his fullness?
Can we let all that we have heard today to be enough for us?
If given an experiential knowledge of the love of Jesus for me, it would be impossible to imagine wanting anything more

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