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We are all in need of God’s Help

Ephesians 3 vs14-21


A sermon preached by Canon Simon Everett

on Sunday, 29th July 2018

at Lady St Mary Church, Wareham


On Wednesday evening this Week past I had a most extraordinary evening.  Along with some members of one of the house groups, I went to Brownsea Island to the open-air theatre, where they were performing Shakespeare’s  ‘Titus Andronicus’.  If you don’t know the plot let me tell you it is the most blood thirsty, violent and gruesome tale that you are ever likely to see on stage.  The plot revolves around the eponymous character Titus Androncius (a Roman General) who triumphantly returns from war with the Goths, it then goes downhill from then on with executions, seductions, mutilations, rape, murder, betrayal, bloodlust, adultery and a good deal more besides.

You are probably wondering why on earth I would go to see such a play.  The reason for going was because one of the House group was involved in making the costumes and the make-up.  I can assure you this is not normal viewing for your Rector!  But it goes to show the lengths we clergy will go to support our parishioners!

On the way home we were thinking what edification could we take from an evening of such violent drama.  Apart from the beautiful English spoken and the good acting, the only other positive we could see was in fact a negative, and that was that it was the total antithesis of all that the Christian Gospel stood for!  It showed how revenge and evil can so easily self-perpetuate and become increasingly bitter and destructive.

The blood of Christ shed on the cross for us breaks the cycle of violence and despair that so often leads to hatred and revenge.  But even then we need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us see this through.

The central message of the epistle to the Ephesians is recognising the wonderful things that we have through Christ and how we as individuals and his Church should respond and can respond.  He explains that this is part of an unfolding mystery that was seen through the Psalms and the prophets, but was only fully revealed when Christ came to live among us and die for us.  Paul now has been given the responsibility of sharing and explaining this to the Gentiles (those who once were considered outside of God’s mercy and saving grace). (Eph 3:1-13)

From reading this epistle and others, it is clear that this excites Paul greatly and inspires him to keep going, even when he faces hardships.  The epistle to the Ephesians is written whilst he is a prisoner, probably in Rome. (v1)  But rather than languish and feel sorry for himself Paul put this time of incarceration to good use.

Over the past two weeks we have heard how Paul glories in the life and death of Jesus and the salvation he has won.  He can barely restrain himself when pondering the greatness of God and how he has made Jew and Gentile one, thus uniting humankind, through the blood of Christ (seeing them now as one family (v15)).

The opening of this epistle celebrates this in prayer and praise and now in the second part of chapter three, Paul cannot stop himself from turning to prayer once again – this time for the Christians of Ephesus.

 ‘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.’ (v14-17)

From sitting at his desk Paul falls to his knees before God with the Ephesian Christians on his heart.  He recognises the greatness of God and the frailty of humankind.  Coming to Christ brings about a new way of seeing the world, it starts a new life in the believer, a new lifestyle – but this does not happen in an instant.  Even after we become Christians, we will still be tempted to do bad things or fall into old habits and behave in ways that are not in accordance with God’s will.

Christianity is rather like a fitness regime that needs to be adhered to, gradually improving our health and vitality as we persist.  So there is the need in faith for on-going prayer, praise and devotion in our daily lives, if we are to truly enjoy the benefits of all that Christ has done for us.

Yes, salvation is won for us by Christ’s blood shed on the cross – this is God’s gift to us (grace).  But if we are to truly enjoy all the benefits and live a life that is pleasing to God, then we need to work with God in achieving this.  Another way of looking at this could be to liken it to being married.  Getting married is an expression of our love and commitment to our beloved but married life demands a whole lot more.  It needs to be worked at day by day, the greater part is to overcome the primacy of self and our selfish ways.   (It is a daily task, mostly joyous, but it has its moments!)

Paul prays that out of God’s riches and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the Ephesian Christians will know an inner strength to grow and develop, bringing Christ into their hearts to be their strength and inspiration.  And as this happens there will be a growing appreciation and realisation of God’s love shown to the world through Jesus Christ. (carrying on where we left of in verse 17)

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.’ (vs17b-19)

It is important for us to grasp that this is a message for the whole Church: it is a message for us here today.  Each one of us has a part to play in showing God’s love to the world.  This means the way that each one of us is seen in the wider world (or local community) is the way that the wider world (local community) sees the church.  An example of this is the way that the church is being held to account and judged for the evil misdoings of a small minority, who heinously abused innocent children in years gone by.  Their evil taints the image that the general public have of the Church of Christ, which in turn means that we have to work harder to show what the Church should look like.

So whether in small peccadillos or gross transgressions this is the image of God we reflect to the world.  It is no wonder we need God’s help in living as he intended.

But if we truly turn to God in prayer and devotion day by day, then we will not only discover the enormity of God’s love in our hearts but we will live it out in the world around.  Others will come to see the height and breadth and depth of Christ’s love for the world.

I conclude as does Paul:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’  (vs 20-21)

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