To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on Ephesians 1:15-20
Throughout the course of the week while driving around town I have an opportunity to view several bumper stickers on cars. Some of them I have discovered are witty and at times amusing. Others I am thankful that young David is not traveling with me repeating what he might read on a sticker. Some of these bumper stickers are often religious in nature. There is one sticker that has proven to have a lasting appeal to me. I saw this bumper sticker the other day and it is one that still resonates with me. It reads, “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
Certainly this attitude is reflected in the words of Paul to the Christians at Ephesus. Our scripture passage from Ephesians is often known simply as “Paul’s Prayer.” We see that Paul writes about thankfulness in his heart. He has learned the lesson of what it means to pray with thanksgiving. He knows about the joys of praising God’s grace. For this reason he begins in the 15th verse by offering praise for the church at Ephesus as he writes:
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints…
He continued to offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for their good work. Paul then points to the future, knowing that there is more that needs to be accomplished.
As we speak of the future today we celebrate the reign of Christ this morning. We are offered through Paul’s words a glimpse of what was important in his prayer life. Perhaps these things are equally as important in our prayer lives. Paul prays for the wisdom to know God better and to have his eyes opened in appreciation for all God has done. Next Sunday in worship we officially enter the church season of Advent. We remember that we are to prepare ourselves and wait patiently for the future coming of Christ in glory. Paul’s hope and prayer was that Christians would gain more wisdom about God and that this would help them to develop a deeper relationship with God.
As we speak of developing deeper relationships, there was once an ambitious boy who had always dreamed that one day he would become a general in the army. He was intelligent, and the qualities he possessed were more than enough to get him anywhere he wanted in life. Growing up he was very religious and would often thank God for the opportunities provided him. He would often pray that one day his dream of becoming a general in the army would be fulfilled. Unfortunately when the time came for him to join the army, he was denied entrance due to a preexisting medical condition. He gave up the idea of ever becoming a general, and for this he blamed God for not answering his prayers. He felt alone, emotionally beaten, and most of all an anger he had never experienced before. Eventually he entered his local university, graduated with honors and went on to medical school. Years later after his training and residency programs, he became a surgeon specializing in cardiology. He became a pioneer in his field and gained a reputation for being the surgeon who often could give his patients that second chance in life. Through the years he operated upon thousands of people. Adults were able to see their grandchildren grow to become adults themselves. People who thought they would not be around to help raise their family were given second chances. As he grew older he trained other aspiring surgeons and more and more lives were saved and were still being saved upon his retirement. Yet throughout his life he still had this anger inside him. This anger most of the time was projected against God. He knew that there was a God but did not trust God anymore. He never prayed and would rarely attend church as an adult. When conversations with friends in social circles would often turn towards a religious nature, he would ask difficult questions, which often left people having questions themselves about God.
Upon his death, he met God in heaven. The doctor asked God why his prayers were never answered and the God answered, “Look out in the skies and see how your dreams would have been fulfilled.” There he could see himself as a young boy praying to become a soldier. He saw himself getting into the army and becoming a soldier. There he was proud and ambitious, and with a look of confidence in his eyes leading a group of soldiers, well on his way to becoming a general. As he continued to view this scene he saw that he was called into battle, and as he was in battle a bomb exploded nearby. The scene fast-forwarded suddenly to a view of his body being sent home to his family in a coffin. Startled, at this scene of what his life could have been, God said, “Now look how my plan has been fulfilled although you did not understand.” Once again he looked into the skies. There he watched his life day by day and how many lives he had saved. He saw the smiles on his patient’s faces and on their family’s faces and the new life he had given them by becoming a surgeon. Then among his patients he saw a young boy who had a dream of becoming a soldier one day, but unfortunately his heart problems made him very ill as a child. He saw a scene of him operating on the boy. Today that boy had grown up and had indeed become a general. He only became a general because the surgeon had saved his life. At that point he knew that the God was always with him. He understood how God had used him as His instrument to save thousands of lives and provide a future for many others.
As this illustration shows our faith in God can deepen when we place our trust in God and God’s plan for our lives. As Christians we should always be moving forward in our journey in faith. This journey at times is difficult because we do not know what the future might hold. Throughout this journey we must learn the lesson of thanksgiving. Paul wanted the Ephesians to be thankful and appreciate God’s grace in their lives. Paul had offered his prayers of thanksgiving and now he prayed that these people would have their eyes opened in appreciation and learn to express this spirit of thankfulness among others. Too often in life, many of our blessings every day go unappreciated. We do not remember to be thankful for many things in our life. I know for many in our church family this recent holiday of Thanksgiving has been difficult because it is another reminder that family whom we have loved are no longer with us. It is easy to neglect being thankful for simple blessings that are ours to enjoy each day until they are gone. While we all experience loss and hardships in life, in my opinion there is no greater hardship in life than living life without faith. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have an awareness of God’s grace shared in verses 18 and 19.
So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is immeasurable greatness of his power.
Paul challenges us to appreciate the hope we have in Jesus Christ, the riches of his glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power made possible by the power with the Holy Spirit.
As we remember Christ the King Sunday, I have shared before in messages on this Sunday that there is an image of Christ that we often see depicted in portraits and mosaics. This has Christ seated on a throne with the Book of Life in one of his hands and the other lifted in a gesture of blessing. While those images demonstrate the majesty of royalty, somehow the love that Jesus showed on earth is hard to visualize in this image at least for me. I see Christ our King, as one leaving his throne, his comfortable palace going out into the world to help others. Christ is one who would bring food to the needy, and help the helpless. Empowered with Paul words of wisdom, let us demonstrate the true qualities of kingship here on earth not through the powers of authority, but through the powers of generosity. In the weeks of Advent ahead of us let us take time to discover the blessings God has given each of us. Indeed God is not finished with us yet!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
November 26, 2017