Scripture: Ephesians 3:20-21
Back when I lived in Sargent, a town about three and a half hours straight west of here, my friend worked at a hunting lodge just outside of town. It is nestled at the edge of the Sandhills amongst what they call the Bohemian alps because a lot of Czech settlers homesteaded there. One day my friend and I were spending a day outside driving the Gator (atv-four wheeler) around the property when we crested a hill and, it just took my breath away. At the top of this hill, you could see for miles around. Miles of rolling hills and trees, a small herd of buffalo. Parts of the town of Sargent and, far off in the distance, we could even make the dotting of wind turbines over near Broken Bow. I felt in awe of this view and this stretching expanse of horizon. Kind of like how I feel watching the sunrise over the ocean, hopeful, inspired, like the world is limitless. Awestruck by God’s majesty, power, creativity, and possibilities. Kind of like how I feel when I read our text today.
A blessing and prayer at the end of chapter three, Paul wrote these words to the early church in the city of Ephesus: ““Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” He follows these words by offering guidance and encouragement on how to live as our best selves through Christ. Basically Paul tells us, God’s great power working within you can do more than you could ever ask or imagine, so seize the fullness of life that God is offering you! I first heard this passage at an annual meeting of the North Texas conference. It was the theme of the conference and everything, missions, sermons, keynote speakers, came back to this idea that God can accomplish more than we could ever ask or imagine, so dream big, trust what the Holy Spirit has put on your heart, imagine the possibilities. And this passage has stuck with me ever since, different aspects of it standing out at different times. Today, it resonates like the miles of rolling Nebraska countryside and stretching ocean horizon. Today, I feel the force of its hope, the force of its potential, and its great challenge and encouragement for us. Dare to believe, it challenges us. Dare to believe that God’s power wants to work within you. Dare to believe that you matter and you are a part of God’s creativity moving in this world.
How does the passage open? “Now to him who by the power at work within us.” Paul could have written, “now to him who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” That’s a true statement. Our imagination, as wonderful as it is, cannot hold a candle to God’s imagination who imagined our imagination and created us in the first place, right? But Paul does not leave it at, “now to him who is able to accomplish.” No, Paul adds, “by the power at work within us.” “Now to him who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” God chooses to move within and through us. God chooses us to be co-creators. God’s movement, God’s imagination, God’s creativity, God’s power and grace work within and through us. We are vessels and vehicles for God’s power and presence. And through us, God accomplishes more than we could ever envision or imagine on our own. Your prayers, your presence, your financial gifts, your service on committees, your service through singing and music, helping with the all people’s panty, bringing the block party to life, your service with children’s ministry, with our youth, with sound, livestream, and video, your service visiting folks who are sick, homebound, or in nursing homes, your service organizing a coat drive donating to that coat drive or all people’s pantry, your witness and sharing how you have experienced God in your life, you matter to God, you matter to this church, and you make a difference.
There’s a quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila that goes like this: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” By God’s power at work within us, God moves through the world. And I’ll be honest, on rough days that idea has led me to think, God, umm, are you sure? Humanity, is not doing the best job living up to what you had in mind. Some days it is easy to think, free will was not the best idea and wonder why God trusts us with so much in the first place. But today, I just feel God’s vision for how we are, our lives, is so beautiful. That trust, that opportunity, that hope God places with us, how amazing. Let’s rephrase the text a bit, make it more personal, bring it home a bit more. Repeat after me:
“Now to him
Who by the power at work within me
Is able to accomplish
abundantly far more than I could ask or imagine.”
God is the prime actor here, God is the main character, the source of power, it is to God be the glory, not us. And, you matter. You matter, every single one of us, you matter. God’s power working within you, can do more than you could ever imagine. It is not prideful to recognize and name how God created us and how God wants to work with us. You are an important part of God’s movement, God’s transforming, loving, work here on earth. This church would not be what it is without you, this town would not be what it is without you, and people’s lives would not be what they are today without you. When I envision what our church and town and world could look like with all of us fully recognizing, fully embracing God’s power at work within us? The hope I feel, the possibilities I picture, stretching out like the endless expanse of horizon.
God is on the move within you, through you, and God chooses to need you. This week, the rest of this year, and as we plan for the coming year, dare to believe that you matter, that you are a part of God’s creative work, and you are a necessary part of God’s movement in our church, in our town, and in our world. May God’s vision for our church, our part to play, our importance, may God’s vision be our vision.