Ephesians 3:14-21 “Spirit of Love”
Last week was Father’s Day, again thank you to the ladies here who made such a grand celebration of it with the Aloha meal of sloppy joes, nachos, and salads. It was super! Although I did not see people getting really sloppy with the sloppy joes, that is okay.
My daughters honored me with cards and presents. Thank you Kim and Carolyn. I got Fig Newtons in handy travel packs from Kim, and from Carolyn I received a very interesting gift that I would never have anticipated in a million years: She gave me a “Spock.” I brought it this morning to show you all. It is pretty cool. It is not a toy, as it says right on the packing. It is an “adult collectible.” As such, one should never take it out of its packaging. There is even an “edition numbering” on the bottom side of his foot.
I recall from the old Star Trek series that Commander Spock, not being fully human, that is to say half Vulcan, from that other planet, he lived his life without emotion. Spock used logic always to make decisions in life. The strongest emotion of love was something that he could not feel.
In one old episode, Spock finds himself on an alien planet where the inhabitants practice mind control. They try to force Spock to love someone, but as it is seen in the episode, this feeling of love just about kills Spock. It is more than he can handle. He prefers his emotionless life of pure logic.
Our Bible reading for today tells us that love is the greatest force of the universe. In Hawaiian we say “Aloha ke Akua!” That is “God is love.” When we think about God, we equate God with the greatest love of the universe. In verse 19, we read how the Apostle Paul states that it is this great love in its height and depth that surpasses all knowledge and human understanding.
Okay, I want to share one more thing from Father’s Day: this is the card I got from Kim. It is a picture of a shark flying through space with an Abraham Lincoln’s beard and stovepipe hat, lifting barbells that have lasers coming out of both ends. This is a fine representation of God’s love in so far as it is beyond human understanding! But, does not that card beat all?! I think it is the greatest Father’s Day card! As Spock would say “It is not logical.” Yet, plenty of love in the receiving of the card.
We continue this morning in this post-Pentecost sermon series about the Holy Spirit. Last week we talked about having the Holy Spirit in us as we are connected to the vine of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is alive and flowing through us. As we say in pigeon: “We are ‘da vine.’”
Today we are going to score that vine to see that what is flowing through it is in fact the very Love of God. We are just going to cut that bark away a little bit to see the sap dripping out of it. It is okay to be a little sappy, no? When we talk about love, we tend sometimes to be a little bit sappy.
We look at verse 17 and read: “. . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” We are to be grounded in God’s love.
When Helen and I were missionaries in Thailand, we lived in a house that was not grounded electrically. This is something that we take for granted here that our electrical systems are grounded. It was such in Thailand when we moved into the house in Chiang Mai that we became a little bit afraid to even turn on or off light switches. We were never sure if a bulb would burn out just at that moment and the electricity would be sent through us instead! It did happen twice actually to us.
In fact, a missionary that had been sent by the US churches to Thailand actually lost his life just turning on a table lamp. His body was returned to the US in a coffin. Helen and I did not want to go home that way!
So, I went to the hardware store there in Chiang Mai to buy new wiring only to discover that they did not sell Romex style cable with a bare ground wire as we have here. They only sold the two-wire style cable. I had to buy a third bare wire to run along side. I asked if they had a wire that was sheathed in green—the standard color for a grounding wire--but they just looked at me funny. “Why would anyone care what color the wire was!” So, I spent the next two months rewiring the house so that it would be properly grounded.
I want to use this story as a metaphor for our Christian homes today in this country. A lot of our homes do not have that third wire of love grounding them back to God. You see, Christianity in itself can be really shocking if you do not have that grounding in love back to God.
Indeed, Christians are not paid to worship God. They do not worship God out of fear or some inflated sense of duty. Nobody is holding a gun to our heads, telling us to worship God. God is not sending down thunder and lightning upon those who will not worship. No, Christians worship God because we love God!
When people burden our hearts with anguish and hatred, we allow all that to flow through us back to the Holy Spirit. In this way we are grounded literally in the love of God.
All things biblical must be grounded back to the love of God. You cannot read this Bible unless you are willing to accept the Love of God that is contained herein. If we pretend that we are like Commander Spock from Star Trek and try to read this Bible, our response will be—“That is not logical, Captain.”
Even worse than not surviving atheistic logic, the Bible is a really raucous book to read. You want to read about wars? Slavery? Adultery? Torture? Then, truly you can get all that out of the Bible. It is all there. That is why some people react to the Bible in such a way as to say that it is a violent text that should therefore not be read at all.
Only by quoting John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son. . . .” can we turn a horrific act of bloody crucifixion into the beauty of one making the ultimate sacrifice for another out of LOVE. We cannot even begin to understand that death of Jesus without first accepting the love of God in that act of offering himself up for our sake.
This last Easter, actually just before, I heard another pastor telling a group about the crucifixion of Jesus. He went into incredible and almost a medical description of what happens to a body when it is put on a cross and left there. We should not make light of the pain that our Lord suffered for us. I do not wish to diminish that. However, I was waiting to heat about the “WHY” Jesus had to suffer for us. I was waiting to hear about the conquering of death on that Cross and that Jesus though he died, yet did he live upon that glorious morning of his resurrection. That pastor just never made it that far in his message to the group. He just stuck on the blood and gore. And, yes, it is there, in the Bible! If you read the Bible without being first grounded in the love of God, you are missing the point completely. We have to start with a Spirit of love.
You have heard me state before, not too long ago, about the level of violence that we are facing in our society. You know what? There is something else. I was driving the other day and switching from one radio station to other. There was one song about love, then another song about love, and then another song about love. So, I have come to think that it might be so that we are being bombarded by the idea of Love equally or maybe even more than the idea of violence in our world today.
This is the same thing when we read the Bible: when we focus on the love that is in the text, then the violent parts seem irrelevant or inconsequential. In fact, I think one of the major themes of the Bible is simply that violence is a useless endeavor if you accept God’s love over your life.
This is the great message that Saint Paul is sending to the church in Ephesus. This church has proven in the past to be the most violent church setting. If you want a bit of homework, you can read about the riot in Ephesus against the Christians in which the new Christians Gaius and Aristarchus were literally dragged through the streets and were about to killed. That is found in Acts 19.
Saint Paul later writes to his protégé made Bishop of Ephesus Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12 “To fight the good fight of faith. . . “ in the realization that there was a real fight going on in Ephesus. Only God’s love would save the day for the Christians there. Would God’s love win out? Would the Spirit of love keep that church grounded in faith?
In Revelation 2:1 and on we find a whole other letter to the church in Ephesus in which the Angel sent from heaven tells John: (verse 4) “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love that you had at first.” Ephesus is known among some as the “church that lost its love.” By the way, the church in Ephesus is no more. In fact, the town of Ephesus did not survive. To this day it lays in ruins. It was first ransacked by the Goths and then mostly brought down by an earthquake.
Paul’s admonition to that church, and to us today, is to accept the love of God. It must always ground us in faith to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Without this love we cannot begin to understand what God is doing in our lives. Accept God’s love over your lives. It is greater than all knowledge and it is by God’s love that He gave us our salvation through Jesus Christ.