16th Sunday after Pentecost                                                                          Rev Mark Duer

Ephesians 3:13-21                                                                                  September 16, 2018


Our society and culture worship power and those who wield it. Elected governmental leaders on all levels exercise significant power. Parents possess power given by God and when they properly use it--raise their children according to His will.

People who are monetarily and materially wealthy have power that they sometimes use to influence, manipulate, and control other people, situations, and decisions. Pastors possess God-given power to proclaim God's Word in its truth and purity.

But when it comes to ultimate power that surpasses all the combined power of mankind, namely, the power to create, sustain creation, heal, and raise the dead back to life, the triune God alone possesses that power. 

In Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. Paul addresses the division between the congregation's Jewish and Gentile members." 

For that reason, "Paul returns to the themes of unity, Baptism, and prayer repeatedly in the Letter." The Reverend Martin Luther wrote, "In this epistle St. Paul teaches, first, what the gospel is, how it was predestined by God alone in eternity, and earned and sent forth through Christ, so that all who believe on it become righteous, godly, living saved men, and free from the law, sin, and death."

Then he teaches that false teachings and the commandments of men are to be avoided, so that we may remain true to one Head, and become sure and genuine and complete in Christ alone. He goes on to teach that we are to practice and prove our faith with good works, avoid sin, and fight with spirit weapons against the devil, so that through the cross we may be steadfast in hope. 

In today's text St Paul reminds and encourages you to, Honor Your Heavenly Father, Who Strengthens You with Spiritual Power. Verses 14-16 14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Many people sinfully perceive power to be something that causes others to serve the one who possesses that power. Divine power, however, doesn't show itself in causing others to serve you but in you serving others. Jesus Himself made that absolutely clear in Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 

Jesus fulfilled that prophecy by dying on the Cross and 3 days later rising from the tomb defeating death, the grave, and Satan for all time.

Saint Paul certainly grasped that concept as he indicated when, as he struggled with his unidentified "thorn in the flesh." 

He wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So, how do you deal with your weaknesses, physical diseases, injuries, or other infirmities that plague your body? How do you deal with your mental or emotional struggles; your relational issues with family and friends?

How do you deal with financial problems? 

Do you fall into a personal pity party, blame other people or situations for your predicament, or worse yet, do you turn against God and even abandon Him, 

Do you live that faith by frequently praying to Him? Are you daily listening to Him by reading His Holy Word; reflecting upon your Baptism and the promises of forgiveness and new life in the Spirit?

Are you seriously taking to heart the Holy Absolution that I speak on behalf of Christ in each divine service; and properly partaking of Holy Communion for the certain assurance of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and for the strengthening of your faith? Are you truly sorry for your sins and sincerely repent of them?

Today's Gospel Reading gives you much-needed assurance about our Savior's love for you and all mankind. Luke 7:12-16 12As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise."  15And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  16Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"

Ephesians 3:17-19 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In the Letter to the Hebrews we read this marvelous invitation and encouragement to pray to God, in Hebrews 4:16 6Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

That's what Saint Paul is doing in today's text. praying to God on behalf of the congregation in Ephesus then and all Christians (including you!) today. In essence, Paul asks the Ephesians to stop and think of Christ's amazing love. 

When they were dead in transgressions and sins, God sent his Son to suffer and die for them. In this way he made them alive and by faith brought them into his church. "The Ephesians experienced that marvelous love in their own lives, but they had only begun to learn about it. Paul now prays that God would enable them to grasp or understand the full extent of Christ's love. 

And that's equally true for all of you as well! God loves you so much that He sent Jesus into this sin-infested world to defeat Satan, death, and sin itself. He did so with His holy life, innocent suffering, crucifixion death, and majestic resurrection from the dead. 

Romans 11:33, 36 gives an appropriate response for you to echo, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, "Thank and praise, serve and obey" God the Father, who created you and provides all that you need for your body and soul. Do so by taking to heart and patterning your lives after this Sunday's Introit, I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 

For great is your steadfast love toward me; and you delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. 

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

After all, He is your merciful and gracious God, who made promises and keeps them. 

Ephesians 3:13-19 13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.  14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,    17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  18may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

So, it is that as your appropriate response you: Honor Your Heavenly Father, Who Strengthens You with Spiritual Power. At the same time, because of His strength and Spiritual power, you can be Certain of Christ's Presence in You That Fills You with Divine Fullness. 

We pray: "strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love You will rescue us from all adversities." God grant it all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His humble Son, our holy Savior. [Amen.]