I think this is a wonderful part of Ephesians, sometimes called “The Great Prayer”. And to me there are two particular points about it, one is goundedness, or rootedness, and the other is enormous flight. I’ll explain in a bit.
It would be helpful for you to have your Bibles open to the reading, Ephesians 3:14. A brief overview might also be helpful.
It is said that the emphasis in Ephesians is on the unity of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first half of the book is about what God has already done, and the second part is what God is doing, and needs us to do to further his work. Our passage for today is the end of the first half, and it’s lovely that Paul ends it with a prayer.
V14 begins “For this reason I kneel …” – well, the kneeling is easy to understand, it is a visual clue that Paul is praying. But that phrase “For this reason ..” If we go back to the earlier part of Chapter 3 we remind ourselves what precisely Paul had been talking about.
Paul is praying for them because (v6) through the Gospel, Gentiles and Jews are heirs in the promise of Christ, and in v12 through faith in Christ all of them, and us too, may approach God with freedom and confidence. So he’s praying for us all to hear and understand and really take into ourselves the Gospel, and to understand that through faith in Christ we can approach the Father without fear. And Paul doesn’t want the Ephesians to be discouraged by his own imprisonment at this time.
So he continues. In v15, he talks about the supremacy of God, how every family on earth, but also in heaven, derives its name. If we let our minds roam a little reading this, it hints at the fact that he created both.
In v16, Paul goes on to talk of power through the Spirit of God, which was spelled out in Ch 1v19-20 “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”. When we think of the power of creation and the power of the raising of Christ together, that really is a power beyond our imagining!
Who do we think of as the strongest man on earth? Arnold Swarzenegger of Tarzan fame, or Rocky Balboa in the fight movies, or Tyson Fury who’s just won one of the heavyweight titles? Yes, they may have physical power, but they are as a housefly or a flea compared to the power of God … though flies and insects have great strength abilities relative to their weight. But the power of God, that takes some thinking about. The humbling thought is that we can be filled by this same power.
But the clue is in v 17, we need to be rooted and established in God’s love to really be in a position to receive this love. The picture of a plant is useful here – all plants need anchoring whether in good soil or a cleft in a stone wall with just a handful of soil, to thrive. This morning we planted cress seeds to take home as something we could watch and see what happens to a plant when it is rooted in even the simplest of growing mediums. For us, in our spiritual lives, our roots need to be anchored in Christ, in his love, through prayer, Bible reading, and discussion with other Christians.
In v19 we read “this love surpasses knowledge”. In other words, it’s a mystery. Now we are by nature curious beings, and we all know that saying, “Curiosity killed the cat”! When curious creatures try to fathom out a mystery, it can lead up many blind alleys and cul-de-sacs. It’s not that we shouldn’t consider things and try to understand them, it’s just that the mysteries of God and faith, unlike the ones in the Morse or Poirot detective series, sometimes remain just that. They are things we stand back and look at with awe and wonder.
And another thought, at the end of v19 “You may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God”. By now, you probably have the idea that the fullness of God is a pretty big thing. But the measure? Is that our capacity to receive from God? Do we sometimes restrict what he wants to give us? Do we sometimes pray, but then really only want the answer we have in mind, because the answer God wants for us seems too much?
And so we come to the final two verses. They talk of how much God can do, and the fact that it is so much more than we could ask or even imagine, but the amount is according to his power that is at work in us. This is similar to what I said about the measure of the fullness of God, and how we may restrict it.
Have you ever had a friend who’s suggested three or four things you might do on an outing, the first couple are really fantastic, but might require more time, or distance, or effort, whereas the last couple are frankly a bit mundane and boring. And having suggested all four, quickly skips to the fourth suggestion, and you see the excitement of the first two and maybe the third too, recede into the distance, disappear like smoke in the air, the excitement fades, and the effort required to make number four seem exciting looms up as a slog up a hill, instead of an invigorating walk in a new place, the wind strong but refreshing, the view inspiring. The thing is, we don’t usually know, when we turn God’s offer down, what we are missing. So if you are feeling prompted today, try to open your heart, enlarge your capacity to receive from God, to accept the prompting, and act on it. Who knows where God may lead!
But how can this help us for life beyond the Church door, because the majority of our Christian life is lived there!
Well, as I’ve just said, we need to follow God’s promptings, and step out in faith and see where it leads us. It’s a learning process of course, sometimes we may misinterpret God’s word, but if that’s the case, we’ve learned something, so all is not wasted.
Also, we need to make sure we are rooted and grounded in God’s love, and that’s something that can continue to grow and develop as we walk closer to Jesus. It’s up to us really, how far we want to go.
But I mentioned enormous flight too. “Grounded” can mean tied to the ground, but it can also mean based in, rooted in, something from which we can grow, a launch pad. It all comes from being grounded in Christ. When we read a passage like this, we can simply stand back in awe and wonder at the vastness of the work of God, before time, in time and for time eternal. We can try to fathom out the height of God’s love, higher than that bird we saw take off and fly into the sky until it’s just a speck and then vanishes from our sight altogether; deeper than the depth of dive of a whale, some of which can stay submerged to a depth of 2 km for 140 minutes, over 2 hours, even though they breathe air. As for width, my arms aren’t long enough, all our arms together aren’t wide enough to express the size of God’s love!
We can marvel at our God who longs to do for us more than we can ask or imagine – there are no better words, and well, the sky’s the limit. Sometimes it’s good for us to sit in awe and wonder. Then when we come back to today and tomorrow, the routine things we have to do, we find ourselves changed, enriched, energised and what looked routine and mundane can take on a new brightness, it can become a new demonstration of God with us. And opened up a bit more to God, who knows where it may lead! Amen.