Intercession Ephesians 3, 14-21
Dear Congregation, the miracle of the so-called loaves multiplication is complex. The text that we heard in the Ephesians letters is also complex.
I would like talk about the complexity of the Ephesians letters today, which is really not a text but an intercession. And even more precisely, it is a special prayer, which should also be very familiar to us from our services, it is an intercession.
A very special intercession, for it makes you feel something of the emotion that God’s actions have caused in the author, the prayer of this intercession.
So, my sermon topic will be this intercession, with the depth it shows, and what this may mean for our intercessions.
First of all, we have to view this prayer in context of the entire letter.
The Ephesian letter has a big topic which is the church. The newly emerging church and with that the coexistence of Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. Gentiles, this is what the Jews back then called all those who were not Jewish.
And because today in the year 2018 we have already laid an incredibly long time and history between us and the situation then, I want to try to revive the epochal of this happening again.
In the preceding verses of this third chapter, Paul calls it a secret, that God personally manifested a revelation in him. This is the only way to prepare the significance of this event. What is it about? What happened that was so meaningful?
In the preceding verse 6 of this third chapter it is called: “The Gentiles and the Jews are heirs, together they form the body and share what God has promised the people. This is all possible through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Gospel. “
Naturally Jews today would see this differently and even during the time of Paul there were Jews who did not accept this. This deserves respect, but is a different story.
This is precisely why I made this distinction earlier: Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. For Jewish Christians like Paul, this opening of salvation, this reconciliation with the Gentile, is an incredible exploit of God. A message of reconciliation for the world. An incredible offering of peace, because now the love of Christ can be united amongst all.
One can now understand and be moved and pray kneeling in front of the Father.
The acknowledgement of this unbelievable expanse of God’s actions, that God really loves each person, brings Paul to pray.
This is the background from which praying develops, which has real boundaries which are beyond the thinking and understandable dimensions.
The wonderful image that Paul has brought here is the image of Christ’s love, which can be grasped in all dimensions: in its width, length, height and depth.
Normally in mathematics we need only three dimensions in order to describe a room: length, width and height. With depth, Paul brings a new dimension into play and shows with this, that reality is more than just a natural-scientific description of a room. The reality is more, the love of Christ is more. God does not let himself become narrowed or fully grasped by human thought but is wide. This is exactly what Paul was praying about when he recognized: „Yes, I pray that you can understand his love, which reaches wide beyond all that which can be understood. “ (V19) Wide, beyond that which can be understood.
With this I return to the question from the beginning, what this special intercession from Paul means to the people in Ephesian and what it could mean for our own intercession.
I think, we all, who pray in silence or in public intercessions, could catch this „width“(vastness). Or that there is an acknowledgement which builds up and makes us healthy, instead of us suffering from. What do I mean by this?
Often, sometimes, according to mood, we use the word realization in the sense of a bitter realization. „The world is now as it should be “, is what we say. Unchangeable, nothing new under the sun. With drooping shoulders we claim, that „salvation“is so illusionary like eternal youth and a life without pain.
And naturally we and the people around us, are surrounded by deficiencies, with which we are confronted daily. Sometimes it is „only“a lack of money, which can take threatening forms is some situations.
Sometimes it is suddenly or creeping loss of our health, which makes our world more and more narrow.
Sometimes it is a lack of time, which we need for ourselves and want to use because so much has to be done.
These deficiencies can affect our body and soul, the outer and inner human beings and whenever they come to mind we will talk about them in our prayers. It appears difficult to ask for abundance when currently there are thousands of pressing deficiencies.
But – and I think this is has already been noticed when listing the deficiencies – this attitude is depressing. This also distorts our view of the multidimensionality of us humans.
In our intercession we sometimes pray for, „the sick “or, „the persecuted“or, „the poor or disadvantaged“ and the main reason might really be compassion, care but at the same time we reduce people to their deficiencies. A sick person is not just sick, and an old person is not only old and an unhappy person in love is not only unhappy.
What we can recognize in Paul’s intercession is not only the recognition that people are more than their deficiencies but also the limits of God’s power!
Paul prays about God as the one, „who works on us with his inexhaustible strength and is able to do infinitely more than we can solicit or comprehend.” (V20).
What we can also see and learn from this is that intercession can be both or can be more:
Intercession can be the request for the correction of a deficiency, like poverty, illness or time constraints. That is perfectly fine and helps us see the emergencies of other people and bring these to God. In our intercession, our prayers for others.
Intercession can also talk about joyful knowledge, so in our prayer from Paul we hear: Paul prays for the strengthening of the internal part of humans through God’s spirit (V16), he asks through faith, Christ takes the heart of humans as his apartment (V17)or that people will be fully filled with God’s fillness (V19). Here it is about the abundance and not the deficiency. This can also be an intercession.
God grants us that we have these fundamental approaches to our intercessions in view and can use them according to the necessary situation, with a good sense for the people.
No one will begin to babble in the face of a dead child by the abundance of knowledge but to cry out to God so that the pain subsides.
At the same time a person can also do something for the congregation like cooking lunch. Deficiency does not have to be the center point.
In times of hopelessness it is good and important to point out, that Christ’s love gives us a firm stand, a rooting in life and a hope beyond the visible and recognizable.
And then there is and remains this ineffable joy that, “God can do infinitely more than we can ask or comprehend.”