WE HAVE A BIG GOD
Dear friends in Christ,
I am sorry not to be able to be with you this weekend. These are weekends that a pastor doesn’t want to miss in the history of a congregation, but my family is my family. When my sister-in-law informed me of my brother’s passing, she said that there could be a funeral on Thursday or Friday so I could be there with you. I knew that would be pushing it. My brother and sister-in-law have six children and they are scattered all around the country. Saturday was chosen for his funeral so all had time to come.
I have noted that my brother, Ed went to heaven at the end of December. Now Al went to join him two and a half months later. There seems to be a pattern setting up. There is my next brother, Charlie, might have to watch for late May and I might be concerned about the end of July. We should have VBS done and a vacation in Colorado done though. I know that is a little dark humor. Yet we can smile. Ed and Al are with Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad are with Jesus and all who have gone before and are in heaven.
There was some question whether this would be a good weekend to have “God is able to do more than we all ask or imagine” Sunday with my absence. I wanted this to go on for a few reasons: 1) We advertised it for a long time I hope you made plans so you could be here; 2) I know the plans. I don’t need to be informed; 3) This project that is being presented is the congregation’s project. Lots of people are involved here. Bob, Tim and Steve are coming to you with information with the hope that you will respond approvingly. We believe this is something that needs to be done for God’s kingdom. It is a big decision and needs the support of everyone.
This expansion project is for the Lord. He will get it done if it is his will. Is it his will? Well, there is one way to find out. Let’s do it knowing full well he has to bless it. .
Can he get it done? Paul says clearly “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” “We Have a Big God.” 1) He does big things to little people; 2) He does big things through little people.
The letter to the Ephesians is a prison epistle. Paul was in prison when he wrote it. Yet it appears that he was about to be set free. Why was he in prison? You know this Jesus guy - Paul just couldn’t stop telling people about him. He had spent three years in Ephesus a few years earlier telling people about Jesus. As a result of his preaching, God gathered a church there.
He loved that church like any pastor would. He wrote them this letter of encouragement from Rome where he was imprisoned. During the writing of this letter, twice he bursts into prayer. The sermon text is the doxology of the second prayer. A doxology is an expression of praise.
What was in the body of the prayer? It was not what some would think. Lord, spring me from this prison! It was not, “Dear Lord, my bank account is low and when I get out of here how about drumming up some business for my tent making business. I need to eat.” A lot of times prayers can be like that when we address the temporary and not the eternal; when we address the earthly and not the spiritual. Not this one! Listen to what Paul prays for, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” I am not saying we shouldn’t pray for the job interview to go well, or that your child gets through the test at school, but the prayer is deeply spiritual.
He says he kneels before the creator of all, the one who constructed the moon and stars and earth on which we all reside. He is also the creator of every angel, every man, every woman and every child that has or will ever walk the face of the earth.
He prays, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” There are all kinds of restaurants that are the all-you-can-eat kind. Barbeque is the best. That is hog heaven. But the Lord says there is no limit, no end of the resources he has to create and strengthen faith. He asks that those resources be used to strengthen more.
The church in Ephesus was proof of that power. Even before Paul arrived the people of Ephesus showed themselves to be spiritual people. They weren’t atheists, but they weren’t Christian either. One of the wonders of the ancient world was in Ephesus, the temple to the goddess Diana. She was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing. I guess if I were a student in a Diana goddess seminary, I would have asked questions that that all meant. But they revered her. They built an 80,000 square foot temple with marble floors, 106 marble columns that were 40 to 60 feet high. Yet she did not provide salvation. She didn’t lift the burden of sin on her back. She didn’t do what Jesus did.
By the riches of his grace the Lord delivered so many Ephesians from the powerless Diana. By His Spirit he created faith in Jesus in their heart. Even when Paul left town there were preachers and teachers left behind to continue to be vessels of God to continue to build the church.
Sometimes families are all screwed up. There is jealousy and hatred among the siblings. That is not the case in my family any more. I grew up in a family where there were five boys. Believe me, there were plenty of arguments and fights that must have driven Mom and Dad nuts when we were young. But Mom and Dad had us in Sunday School and church every Sunday. We never missed Catechism when we were at the age when we needed to go - every Saturday morning from 8 until noon. Our family could have used more family devotional time, but nevertheless, God the Holy Spirit was at work. Church was pretty central in our lives.
Now that two of my brothers have gone to heaven since December, all that my church did for my family is all that more precious and appreciated. Through Sunday School teachers (we didn’t at that time have a Christian Day School at the time), through the catechism classes our congregation’s pastors, through the VBS we went to over those formative years the Spirit was working in the hearts of Mom and Dad Zahn, Ed, Al, Charlie, Ron and me.
We were members at a church out in the country where we felt the fellowship of fellow saints who were also our neighbors. Our Church had a pretty big narthex by which we entered and left. Yet every Sunday the congregation spilled out on the lawn to renew their fellowship with each other because Christ brought us together. I know that St. John’s Lutheran Church is where my family received God’s grace that has no limits, at the Baptismal fount, at the Lord ’s Table, in the classrooms of our church.
The same is needed here. The same is available here. Everyone needs the same things the Zahn family did and the Rhode’s and the Bittners and all the other families from my home church did. While expanding Messiah’s facility won’t make the Spirit’s work any easier or harder, we will have more room to serve more people so the Spirit gets his shot as we invite more people to come and experience his grace. Adding more space will certainly be a testimony to all in Johns Creek and Alpharetta that we are serious about our task of educating with Christ our kids, our teens and adults.
In fact, Paul expands his thought in words that really are thrilling to listen to and comprehend. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Many years ago a man who was very new to the faith was reading some Scripture and was so marveled by its depth of the thoughts that he was reading. I will always remember what he said. “These words must be inspired by God. No mere man could write like this.” I feel that way about this verse.
Growth as a Christian must never stop. He prays that “being rooted and established in love, (God grant that we) may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” He prays that we know more and more the love of God, even though we will never know it in its completeness because we aren’t God.
As we consider more classroom space, I pray that you are not thinking that only other people fill it. We all need to grow in our understanding “how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is.” This is what I mean that God is a big God does a big things to little people like ourselves.
But Pastor, taking on such a task of building classrooms at a cost of…Isn’t that a lot? Can we really do that? Seems to me that is the easy part. God has the answer. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” God has done and will do all kinds of amazing things without us. Yet, when we work together, we can see some amazing things God has already done to extend his kingdom. It would be interesting to see what he wants to do still.
Listen to Bob and Tim and Steve this morning. Consider the honor bestows on us when he wants to work through us. As Paul closes, so do I. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.