From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
You were marked in Him with a seal--- the promised Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13b)
"...'How can I set twenty loaves of barley bread before one hundred men?...', Elisha's servant asked. Elisha answered, 'Give it to the people to eat, for this is what the Lord says, 'They will eat and have some left over...' Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord." (2 Kings 4:42-44)
"...another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'..." (John 6:8,9)
Gracious Lord and Savior, We are your grateful people. As the Hebrew Bible declares, "...you open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing...". You are gracious to us, you are generous with us, you are forgiving, and insightful in dealing with each of us individually.
You put up with our complaints, our doubts, our procrastinations, and our moods. You are familiar with all our ways. And you love us and remain faithful in the midst of our inconsistencies and waywardness. We are so glad you have introduced us to a life of faith. You, Lord, in the midst of uncertainty, provide assurance in our need for order, peacefulness, and meaning. We are grateful for insight into us...
We commend our lives into your tender care. We ask that you forgive us for our shortcomings...our falling short of your target for our lives. Lord, we praise you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
This is the Sunday in which we consider "the feeding of the five thousand" in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel. Jesus was on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, evidently, near Tiberias. [In our time, near downtown, shops serve some of the most delicious "Shwarma" one can get anywhere in the world.]
Eventually, five thousand people (plus) were fed and satisfied with plenty left over, twelve baskets worth. The people were amazed.
This narrative for me is the proof text for the notion that when we take on a task with faith, no matter our circumstances, it is multiplied when the Lord Jesus is involved. As the Lord satisfied the hungry five thousand (plus) with limited means, He will also satisfy us, though our resources are also limited. We need to proceed in faith.
Presently, we are preparing for a "discipleship retreat" in Pacifica in October.
I wanted at this point to transition over to the Epistle lesson for this Sunday. It is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 3:14-21...
This is an amazing passage as far as I'm concerned and I wanted to tell you why. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks about the personal spiritual qualities we'd all like to have, in fact, qualities we would "die for"... heart knowledge of the Christ's nature and purpose, the clearing away of unimportant priorities that sometimes saturate our lives...escaping the meaninglessness of just seemingly existing without significant purpose...
In fact, taking that step in life is the really the true biblical foundation of genuine Christianity. To let Jesus take over in our lives doesn't mean our identity no longer exists.
In Jesus, Saint Paul talks about having extraordinary strength to deal with the issues of everyday living, but the Apostle does so within the context of uprooting the externals in order to discover and realize our inmost being...that is... ...substantially who we are in Christ through the Spirit and who we actually are in the deepest sense also...
He shares his prayer that the Ephesian followers may have the experience of divine strength through the Holy Spirit to have Christ dwell in their hearts. They're not comprehending the deeper things of faith. Their faith lives are too close to the surface. They need to avoid being doubleminded, proceeding to think they can to go on being the person we were before, and, not sensing the profound nature of embracing Christ.
I get the idea the Ephesians were living their faith lives too close to the surface. Paul was addressing the lack of spiritual depth. Their approach to church was superficial, lacking depth, lacking true spiritual depth. They just weren't digging down into the roots of their spiritual lives and fellowship. The Apostle seems to encourage his readers to seek a deeper expression in their faith lives.
It would be helpful sometime soon to take an in depth study into the power of this epistle. There seems to be a follow up that applies to 21st century folks in the church. Am I wrong? Many folks I have known and shared this life with in the church seem to struggle a bit with genuine faith. They're mixed up between the ethical teachings of the Bible, as opposed to the theological teaching. In short, real, genuine Christianity is not a "Do Right-Do Wrong" religion. It goes way beyond that. Church folks don't always understand some of the deep spiritual concepts of the Bible and so they proceed as best they can. Thanks to the text for today we know we can have a faith that is genuine, based on the Bible. The text of the third chapter in Paul's letter is encouraging. The entire letter by Paul is a call to arms in terms in securing a genuine, personal faith in Jesus. I'm inclined to believe that the issues first-century Christians faced are much the same as ours.
Thanks to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we can not only know about Jesus, but can know Him, especially as the Holy Spirit takes charge in our lives, and we allow the Spirit to have free flow within us. It is such a beautiful feeling of peace, joy, and assurance.
Walking fully in the Spirit, other things that seemed so essential before, now simply become incidental, either important along the way, or necessary, but not the heart of things. This is the wideness, the length, the height and the depth of Christ's love filling us.
NO NEED FOR FILLERS
There isn't any need to collect things as a substitute, as so many Americans do, or to seek after riches, or to coddle ourselves rather than stretch past the limits of our imagination to serve God and His purpose through us, as well as, going on one endless pursuit after the next feeling the frustration of not knowing that God's timing in our lives is always perfect.
Paul writes in Ephesians 3:8:
"...although I am less than the least of all God's people this grace was given me to preach the the Gentiles the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES IN CHRIST and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery...
Let's break the passage down and put it into helpful sections for us to grow into the fullness that is Christ:
Again Paul writes in Ephesians 3:16-19: "I pray that out of his glorious riches He may...STRENGTHEN YOU WITH POWER (able to do and complete whatever you set out to do) THROUGH HIS SPIRIT (we don't do it on our own...we do it with the Lord) IN YOUR INNER BEING (this is not about superficial religion without insight)...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...And I pray that you...BEING ROOTED and ESTABLISHED IN LOVE may have power, together with all the saints to grasp HOW WIDE (we will not be like a horse wearing blinders), HOW LONG (no limitation to the breadth of insight), HOW HIGH (our comprehension is greatly heightened), HOW DEEP (our recognition of God's love is profound) is the love of Christ and to know the love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the THE MEASURE OF ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD."
This is profound Spiritual writing on Saint Paul's part, inspired, of course, by the Holy Spirit, has been passed on to the followers of Jesus for thousands of years. For this and so much more in the Bible, we are grateful to God...
May the eyes of your heart be enlightened.