So last week on vacation with my mother and my brother, we went to an aquarium. A totally normal thing for a mother and children to do… never mind the fact that she’s in her 60s with her two children in their 30s.
And while we were in this aquarium, there was an ocean depth interactive screen that showed how deep the ocean is. A meter starts going down and says where the Crustacea are, and then where the Titanic sits, and then where light goes, where the deepest sea creatures we know of are, the deepest that humans have been, and then it just keeps going. Down, down, down. To this incredible depth. One so deep that I don’t even know how we know it exists if we can’t really measure it.
This is kind of like what Paul is praying for today. I hope you comprehend this love of Christ that is so wide and deep that we literally can’t comprehend it. Like humans have only explored to a certain depth, but then this love just keeps going on and on and on. How can we begin to comprehend something that is incomprehensible?
This is a prayer that we get at the end of the 3rd chapter of this letter. But this key phrase here sets the whole theme of this letter. That Christ’s vast, incomprehensible love fills us so that we may love others.
See the thing about the book of Ephesians, is this little line in the first verse of the first chapter that identifies the letter to the Ephesians, was not original. This was added later.
This line that says “to the saints who are in Ephesus”. The Ephesus was added in later manuscript editions. And still in the Jerusalem Bible edition , it’s not there.
See many scholars believe this was a form letter. One that Paul had dictated to his assistants so that they could send it out to ANY church that was in need of some pep talk.
So they could pull it out at any time. I can just see someone like Timothy or Barnabas or Silas, talking to some church leaders who are arguing with them and then turning around to their pockets, pulling out this letter, quickly writing in some church’s name… “to the saints who are in South Baltimore” Turning back around, and being like, “Here! Paul wrote a letter just for you to explain everything!”
See the way this letter is formed is for us to see ourselves inside the text. I know I’ve said this before, but I want you to know I checked the Greek of every single one of these in our text for today personally…. All the “yous” are plural. This letter is to an entire community, whatever community it is. It very well could read something like this, insert your church name here:
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 God’s glory, God may grant that (Redemption/Salem) may be strengthened in (Redemption’s/ Salem’s) inner being with power through God’s Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in (Redemption’s/Salem’s) hearts through faith, as (Redemption/Salem) is being rooted and grounded in love.
18I pray that (Redemption/Salem) 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 God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Maybe it seems cold, or distant, impersonal for this to be a form letter…. OR
Or it’s exactly personal. It’s for us to understand that no matter who we are or exactly where we are, we, too, were prayed for by Paul.
We, too, are included in the riches of God’s glory, we, too, are strengthened to our inner being with the power of God’s Spirit, and we, too, have Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith, rooted and grounded in love.
And we, too, may receive this power to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ that is so deep and wide that we can’t even fully get to it all.
That is something powerful… that about 2,000 years ago, Paul was talking to us. Paul was including us in these powers and promises of God.
For the next few weeks, we will be journeying through this letter, seeing ourselves in these promises and love of Christ. Inserting ourselves into this form letter. Exploring what this letter can say directly to us, (Redemption/Salem), here in South Baltimore. And how we can see ourselves in this story.
And journey together farther into this vast expanse of Christ’s love. Amen.