Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-21
I pray that you 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 you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
A number of my friends have had babies through the pandemic. This means that my social media feeds are filled with all things baby. Which is lovely. Babies are wonderful, aren’t they? (especially when they’re keeping someone else up at night) The other day, Bethany showed me a meme from her social media feed. It wasn’t anything special, just an older woman cackling with laughter. The caption read: “my reaction when first-time parents tell me they’re ready for baby’s arrival”.
And I laughed because I’ve been there and most parents I know have been there. We think we’re ready, but until you’ve done it, it’s impossible to REALLY know what it’s like to bring that baby home.
It’s not just babies and kids though. Living with anyone is always an eye-opening experience. You may have discovered this when you first moved away from home whether you were living with roommates or a partner. There is something about “living together” that changes the dynamic of a relationship.
You don’t really know someone until you’ve seen them at their most relaxed, their most vulnerable. When you live with someone, you see all the little habits (good and bad), the little quirks (how they load the dishwasher, whether or not they make the bed), and how they behave when their guard is down. Most people have a public face, the one they show to co-workers and people they meet on the street. There’s the private face, shown only to those they’re more familiar with: close friends and family. There’s also that part of each of us that is really only shown to those we live with.
So, since all of us have lived with SOMEONE at some point in our lives, we all know this to be true. It is also true that living with another person has a way of teaching us something about ourselves as well.
This is important to remember as we hear Paul’s prayer for the church.
He’s not praying for them to receive an attribute of God, or a gift, or love, or knowledge or strength on their own. He’s praying for the very highest thing you could ask for, the full indwelling of God.
Paul prays that the church would be so strengthened in their faith that they wouldn’t just invite Christ in for a visit, overnight bag in hand. Paul prays that the church would be so strengthened in their faith that they would throw open the doors so that Christ can come in, unpack and make himself at home within God’s dearly beloved people.
Because it’s in that depth of dwelling together that we really know and are known. There is no hiding from Jesus when he dwells in your heart. Just like the introduction of a new baby or family member, you cannot help but be changed by such a relationship.
Paul will not settle for any less for the church because he knows what many in the church have yet to discover how wide and long and high and deep God’s love for them really is.
Unconditional love is an amazing gift.
In many ways, it’s easy to love a stranger or acquaintance. We get the best of them and they get the best of us. It’s easy because there isn’t much expectation of investment. We can walk away. We don’t need to make space for them, they don’t need to challenge us. It’s conditional love.
It is the love that the world conditions us to understand best. But when conditions are placed on love, it is not loving, it is a transaction.
It is superficial and fleeting as opposed to the love of christ which is life-giving and eternal.
Ultimately, the love of Christ cannot be defined. Love is even superior to knowledge and can only find its expression in experience. The experience of a love which is present in sorrows and joys, trials and triumphs. The experience of love continues to be present in ways too deep for the human mind to fathom and the human language to express.
Love is always available but must be welcomed in. Paul prays that we the church would be rooted and established in that love because it is only in experiencing the limitless love of Christ which allows us to offer it to others.
What does it look like to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God?
It’s not a secret, but unless you know it’s there, you’re not likely to notice that the sequence A113 appears in countless Disney and Pixar Movies. A113 is Andy’s mom’s license plate in Toy Story, it’s a door number in Monster’s University, and it’s the courtroom number in Up. It’s the camera model number in Finding Nemo, it’s on a rat’s ear tag in Ratatouille and it’s the train number in Cars. The trademark number even appears in live-action films like Avengers.
So what’s the deal?
A113 was a classroom number at the California Institute of the Arts. If it appears in a movie, it means that a CalArts alumnus was involved with the animation. Like a digital calling card or a cinematic fingerprint, it’s a message to the public, a CalArts grad was here.
When we are filled with the fullness of God, we have a calling card too but instead of a digital fingerprint, the mark that we leave on this world is an outpouring of that same love that we experience when we are filled with an understanding of God’s love for us through Jesus.
“in this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” Jesus tells his disciples.
In his doxology, Paul affirms that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us. That power is love. The church may have its faults, each of us as members of the church may be very far from what we ought to be, yet when we allow that love of Christ to move into our hearts, our hearts are strengthened for new possibilities born out of that love.
Studies have shown that children who receive unconditional love from their parents have better stress resilience and self-esteem and even health and brain development. To be clear, this isn’t about building high achievers according to world standards, but about supporting children who grow into strong, confident, loving adults who are resilient and exhibit healthy emotional and physical growth. They are more willing to take risks, to stand up for themselves, and to try new things because of that loving foundation in which they have been grounded and rooted.
Just imagine what kind of power and strength the full experience of God’s love offers us not only as individuals but as a church.
Love stirs something in us. The power of God’s Love opens us up and fuels our creative spirit through the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the fullness of God we learn that Love is powerful and limitless. When we allow God into every fibre of our being, when Jesus moves in and we discover that he loves us even in those places where we cannot love ourselves, we discover just how powerful and limitless God’s love is. In that experience of love, we are empowered to step into everything we were created to be and to help others do the same. In God’s love, we see the highest and best around us.
Human souls cannot be fed by food, money, power or ego – only through love. Boundless love.
What’s the biggest number? Infinity plus one.
One greater than even the greatest thing that we can imagine. That is God’s love for us. That is the love that empowers us. That is the Love that Paul prays that the church will know, embrace, and welcome. So that we might in turn share that loves with a world in desperate need.
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 – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.