Saturday, July 28, 2018

Unleashing the Power of God: Reflections on Ephesians 3.14-21 (RCL Proper 17B, 29 July 2018)

Unleashing the Power of God
Reflections on Ephesians 3.14-21

RCL Proper 17B
29 July 2018

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

Ephesians 3.14-21

            3.14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

            20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

1)    In 1946 a woman entered a movie theatre in Nova Scotia to spend some time while her car was being repaired.
a)    Her name was Viola Desmond and she was forcibly removed from the theatre arrested and fined $20 for tax evasion.
b)    The real reason for her expulsion and arrest was that Viola, a black woman, had chosen to sit in seats reserved for white people instead of the balcony where seats for blacks were assigned.
c)     I remember her story because, when I came to Canada as a person raised in the United States during the 1960’s and who attended a high school that was desegregated by order of a federal court, I thought that Canada had been spared the effects of racism.  I quickly learned that Canada had its own history of racism.
d)    But I will come back to this story.
2)    Today we hear a familiar passage from the Letter to the Ephesians that ends with a prayer that had entered the worship life of the Anglican Church of Canada.
a)    “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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” [1]
i)      What is this power of God?
ii)    Love is the power of God.
b)    But what kind of love are we talking about?
i)      Friendship?  Almost but not yet.
ii)    Passion?  Almost but not yet.
iii)  Family?  Almost but not yet.
iv)   Self-giving, life-giving love?  Yes.
(1)   Love that strives for justice and peace among all people, love that respects the dignity of every human being. [2]
(2)   Love that seeks and serves Christ in all persons, love that loves our neighbours as we love ourselves. [3]
(3)   Love that perseveres in resisting evil, love that whenever we fall into sin, we repent and return to the Lord. [4]
(4)   Love that safeguards the integrity of God’s creation, love that respects, sustains and renews the life of the earth. [5]
3)    How do we unleash this love, this divine power within us?
a)    We unleash this power through eucharistia.
b)    Eucharistiais a life committed to gratitude for the divine windfall gift of life, the gift of time, of talent and of treasure, the gift of family, meaningful relationships, meaningful work.
4)    But eucharistiadepends upon remembering.
a)    Humans have a remarkable talent for amnesia, for forgetting all that God has done and is doing for us and in us.
b)    We need to remember, to ‘re-present’ the past in our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength.
c)     Every time we gather for worship we ‘re-present’ God’s generosity and compassion in this time, in this place, in our lives
i)      by reading and reflecting on the Scriptures and what they teach us about God’s love;
ii)    by offering our intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings with the intention that God will use us as agents of what we pray for; and
iii)  by sharing in the bread broken and the wine poured so that we might become the gift we have received in Jesus, our way, our truth and our life.
d)    In this way we remember who and whose we are, so that the power of God’s love, dwelling in us, can be unleashed to transform our homes, our workplaces, our communities.
5)    Although we live in a culture dominated by an idolatry of celebrities, an idolatry which can diminish our confidence in our ability to influence the course of events in our communities, in our country and in our world, Christian communities such as ours comprehend that we can resist and can do more than we can ask or imagine through the power of God’s love.
a)    History is full of the stories of women, men and children who unleashed the power of this love and changed the world.
b)    Some of them we know and celebrate, some are known to God alone. But the world in which we live is their legacy.
6)    Never under-estimate the power of a human being, fuelled by God’s love, to work with God to renew and to restore the creation, one small piece at a time, one step after another.
a)    Prior to her arrest Viola Desmond had opened a beauty school for black women in Halifax.  Why? Because beauty schools in Nova Scotia did not take black students.
b)    She trained her students not only to be beauticians but to be entrepreneurs who established their own businesses.
c)     She chose a path of empowerment.  Just one woman, in collaboration with her husband, seeking to overturn centuries of injustice.
d)    She died in 1965, having lived long enough to see the movement for equality take sail, having died too soon to see that movement achieve significant changes in our societies, north and south of the 49thparallel.
e)     Never under-estimate the power of God’s love working in us and through us.

God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth is filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea. [6]

[1]Ephesians 3.20-21.

[2]The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 159.

[3]The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 159.

[4]The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 159.

[5]The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 159.

[6]The Hymnal 1982, #534, v. 1.

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