A Vision of the Church: An Inward Presence Ephesians 3: 14-21

Think-Like-a-FishChad Hall was a pastor in Hickory, North Carolina wrote of quitting the church in a professional journal. He said his immersion in the church caused him to feel no longer connected to the people he was called to serve. He likened himself to Brad Pitt’s character in A River Runs Through It, citing the wilder-spirited son of a Montana minister who was lousy at life, but good at fly-fishing. The son said, “It won’t be long till I’ll think like a fish!Hall said he stepped aside because he came to believe the church forgot how to think like the fish. He felt the church was acting like the captain of a charter boat, preoccupied with keeping up the boat, and who’s in and out, thus losing its fishing instincts and what life is like in the open water. So, he gave up his position to reconnect to the world he felt called to serve.

Paul’s is concerned the church could forget what makes the church the church. He reminds them and us: We are a visible reminder of God’s love in the world. The church that burst forth from under the covers of history through Jesus Christ is to announce the message God desires all to be in union with God and live in peace as sisters and brothers.

Paul pauses and prays. It’s like when we’re in the middle of the email and say, “I’m praying for you.” His language changes from talking about a pot roast with a friend to talking with a lover in a gazebo. The words are poetic and passionate; moving up from the heart rather than down from the head. Praying by heaving his heart toward heaven while on bended knee.rogers_praying-hands-framed

He pleads with the Trinity to strengthen and stretch the inner presence of God in the church and us. Our identity (who we are) and mission (what we do) in life and in the church comes from within. Thus, he prays we may be filled with God’s fullness. The more we’re filled with God within us, the more we’re perfected in God’s love. This happens by faith in Christ who dwells in our hearts, enabling the Spirit to root and ground us in God’s love. The more we’re rooted and grounded in that love, the more our lives reflect the fullness of God. This takes strengthening and stretching so we make room for the inner presence of God within us. The inner presence of God enlivens our soul to be strengthened in knowing who we are and is stretches us to do what we are called to do.

We strengthen God’s inner presence so we know who we are. We must settle who we are in Christ. If not, we will fruitlessly try to make it true who we are not. We will try to find life by having enough money to live in right neighborhoods, send our kids to the right schools, be with only people like us, and engage in the politics of protecting our possessions; a life that leads to insecurity and anxiety, instead of well-being and peace. I am not sure if it leads to heaven, you’ll have to ask the rich young ruler?

Weights

We know we’ve been graced and loved by the God of the universe when our inner presence is strengthened. We take our family name from the Father from whom all families in heaven and on earth take their name. Our heavenly Father who gives us our name refuses to play the shame/honor game that permeates culture. God made us, created in Christ Jesus. God desires to strengthen our inner person so the unrelenting inner presence of God that resides within us can confirm who we are in the eyes of God.

I was playing golf with a older guy who was hitting the ball past me all day. I asked him where he gets his power. He pointed to his left forearm. He said he started working out with some dumbbells and discovered his right arm was much stronger. He concentrated on building up that left forearm. He worked until both arms were equally strong. He now hits the ball past the youngest because he exercised the right part of his body.prayeronmyknees

We strengthen our inner person by exercising the right part of our body, our knees. In the posture or prayer, we enter into intimate union with God’s inner presence, not just to ask what we want. We spend time with God so we may be strengthened by God’s Spirit so we may better we know who we are in Christ. The more we know who we are in Christ, the better we reflect the loving nature of God made possible by faith in Christ, whose Spirit, (the inner presence) is day by day strengthening our inner person.

We stretch God’s inner presence so we might know what God can do through us. We wrongly define ourselves by our knowledge. Play Trivial Pursuit and be reminded of the limits of our knowledge. We think we know something about something then a question comes and we discover we don’t know squat. The spin-off game Bible Trivial Pursuit humbles me. The team that usually secures the pastor feels they had pulled off a sure victory. Every time I play I say, “I will never I play this game again!” The game is like a mirror reflecting back to me what I don’t know.

yoga_stretchWe think we know the answers to life’s questions until we find ourselves in a situation that is off our map. We allow the issues before us to loom large; feeling we don’t have what it takes when we come to the end of what we know. Our usual answers and buzzwords don’t suffice. Thus, we conjure up fear-ridden conclusions, making up it on the fly. We take the low road; pretending we know what we need to know in the midst this crisis.

Judging circumstances based on limited knowledge makes a preemptive strike against faith. It’s a crisis of faith when we wrongly decide the lost job represents failure; or we assume bad communication ends it all, or haughtily believe a certain choice will lead to disaster. Faith isn’t faith when we have an investment in one particular outcome over another. Certainty about where an experience leads presumes we know more than God.Questions

What we know only tells part of the story. God gave us knowledge and grace to live by faith. God is bigger than our minds. The breadth, length, height, and depth of love is accessible by stretching ourselves to places we have yet to imagine. The inner presence within stretches us, making our world bigger than we can know within the limits of our own being.

St. Aquinas, one of the world’s great minds, produced a compendium of theology, Summa Theologica, which purported to gather all the knowledge of God and the world. He believed by expanding human intellect, we would journey toward union with God. In December 1273, he quit writing. He had a mystical experience while saying mass in Naples. He said: I can do no more. Such things have been revealed that all I have written seems as straw, I await the end of my life. Aquinas put God back in the driver’s seat.

God hasn’t misplaced our file and is still is in the business of creating and redeeming. God’s inner presence is stretching us, taking us to a new place so we might be even more filled with the fullness of God. In this new place, we’ll come to know an endless power, the fullness of God within. The inner presence of God within possesses the power to change what we perceive cant be changed; guiding us from the fearful conclusions we easily form.

stand-firmWhen we stand in faith, light pours forth from us. When we stand in faith, God who makes life-giving events occur. Let us set aside our urge to control outcomes. We don’t know where circumstances might lead. Place our trust in a God who knows the entire movie backwards and forwards.

The premise of the Matrix movies is: we’re caught in a matrix of slavery; ruled by rules, and so assimilated we don’t know the real world from the lie is movies. The film indicates the way to freedom is to progress from knowing the truth to love of others: from comprehending the nature of things to transcending them by a greater force. Knowledge leads us to the door, but only love takes us through it. Love isn’t anti-intellectual; it gathers up the intellect and perfects it. The heart knows things the mind can’t grasp. We don’t have the ability or awareness to understand the outcomes of life. Soon, the pieces will fit together when we trust God’s inner presence within us stretching to places to do things only God could imagine for us. Languageoflove

Stretching exercises deal with skeletal muscular issues. Tightness in the back is dealt with by stretching the hamstrings, relieving the strain because the legs are able to carry more the burden of our frame. When we are rightly stretched it’s like we have been made brand new. When our spiritual lives are rightly stretched we are made new, willing to enlarge our world so we can do what our loving God desires for us to do.

Finally, our inward presence must be strengthened and stretched by the language of love. It takes some pillow talk with God to be led into the fullness of God. Friends, we don’t have to quit the church; we just have to exercise our spiritual lives, strengthening and stretching our inner person so that the fullness of God’ love has room to reside in our hearts.

Bended Knee

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