Friday, 24 July 2015

Prospect

The Rev'd Robert Warren.                                                                                     Ephesians 3:14-21
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12 -Year B

The writer of Ephesians is above all a pastor. As such he has tangible dreams for his flock. He puts these hopes and imaginings forward in the form of two prayers for quite specific things:

Firstly, that the Christians at Ephesus might be strong within themselves

"..and that Christ may dwell in [their] hearts through faith, as [they] are being rooted and grounded in love." 

He prays as well that they 

"...may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [they] may be filled with all the fullness of God."

Pay some attention to these words, please. Do they sound a tad general? Are they, for you, the sort of religious language that sometimes washes over you without sinking in? The indwelling of Christ in a believer and the slow transformation (being rooted and grounded) of his or her life through the power of love was and remains an actual experience in the lives of Christians. Associates, family
members, former friends and enemies recognized in the lives of those whom Christ had seized that these people were being changed and were no longer who they once were. This change then led to understanding (the power to comprehend) how these inner changes were in fact consonant with what God was doing in the world and in the lives of others; there was both evidence within the believer and evidence without.

While the writer prays for specific things - the indwelling Spirit of God and growth in understanding- he finishes this small section by appealing to what he cannot possibly know or, more importantly, control: he consigns his flock to the love and care of God who 

"...by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine".

What all pastors know is that the Word goes out and is received by the senses and the emotions. It mingles with the competing loyalties and the lifestyles of the hearers. It is at once seized on and yet kept at arm's length for a time. People mull it over. It troubles them as much as it thrills them. What do pastors do? Pastors pray. They pray that God will do his work in the hearts of those to whom the Gospel has been presented. God is the gardener, after all - the one who brings in the harvest.

He is the master of the mystery of what happens when folks go home - after the sermon has been preached, the hymns sung and bread and wine have been lifted up to be taken and transformed.