This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on December 3, 2017.
Two branches stem from this passage on the power of God. The text illustrates the enormity of God as it relates to the individual and the church. The preacher may speak to the individual in the congregation about their own path as it relates to the power of God. However, the more fitting sermon may bend toward the church. There is a strong emphasis here on the nature of the church as God’s power on earth. Either way, you go, individual or communal, the power of God is at the heart of the message.
Verses 17 and 19 provide a starting point for discussing the unimaginable power of God. God’s power is beyond us as humans. God operates in ways that are inconceivable in scope and time to our minds. This fact, however, does not limit the prayer of the text for us to know and receive that inconceivable power of God. The preacher could note two things here. One, the power of God surpasses all on this earth. There is nothing here that will overwhelm our God. You may list many hurdles that overwhelm us, recognizing that God can calm those fears with a single breath. Two, Ephesians 1:20-22 puts all this divine power in Christ. To deepen the Christology of the church, it may be fruitful to consider the supremacy of the name of Jesus Christ and that every knee will eventually bow to that name. There is a whole sermon on the grandness of God here, but practically it is worth the preacher’s time to point from the power of God to the individual or the church.
To the individual, it would be worth parking in verses 17-18. Here you find a prayer for wisdom, knowledge, calling, and inheritance. The truth is that every Christian can be filled with these things through the Holy Spirit. Most individuals in the pews are unaware of what that looks like in their life. The preacher could fill in those gaps with stories of answered prayers in these areas. Calling though may be the one that resonates with the congregation. They need to hear that the calling of God is hopeful and generous. God has surely placed a calling on each of their lives for a specific purpose in His Kingdom, and when the time is right, they will have full wisdom and authority to live out that call. God does not abandon us without purpose but gives a call. This calling into God’s work is far greater than anything we could come up with on our own. We tend to chase after other things, like Jonah, but our lives will always flourish when we recognize what God has in store for us individually. The preacher could list all the kinds of dreams that people have for themselves (e.g., sports, school, financial, recreational) and show how our dreams pale in comparison to God’s dream for our lives.
The conclusion of the text lends itself to considering the power of God within the church.
Verse 22b-23 may be the most compelling text on the power of the church. The text notes that God has given unlimited resources to the church through Jesus Christ. Several points could be made here to enliven the church. To begin, the church matters deeply to God, you could argue the church matters more to God than the world. The church is where God’s work in the world now happens. It is worth mentioning that there is no human institution in the world as capable as the church through the power of the Holy Spirit. You could list organizations, governments, and institutions doing good work, and point out that none of them can match what God wants to do through the church today.
Another point that could be made here is recognizing what church is not. So many people who come through the doors of the church want it to be a social club, a self-help session, childcare, etc. when the church is really the surpassing greatness of God that was revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church is not the Rotary club, the church is power for Godly living. All these other things are activities tacked on to the end of our week. Church should never be something tacked on to the end of our to-do list. It is a meeting with the creator to glorify His holy name together.
The church is an expression of God’s glory and power on this earth. If the power of God is greater than any human authority, injustice, or might, why are we not seeing that in the church today? The preacher could probe this question with tenderness offering the church a different, Spirit-filled way that we have strayed from. God’s future for the church is filled with power and much greater than anything we can dream up. We need to submit to that power of God in the church to realize our full potential as God’s witness on this earth. There is no reason for us to be dimly lit. We reflect the full glory of God.
First Baptist Church San Antonio
Tags: Power, Ecclesiology, Christology, Calling