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May 16, 2021

“The Spirit, Part I:  Wisdom and Revelation” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, May 16, 2021, Year B / Easter 7 / Ascension –  Acts 1:1-11  •  Psalm 47 or Psalm 93  •  Ephesians 1:15-23  •  Luke 24:44-53

The big idea:  The Holy Spirit, which is God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead, empowers us in the church to do God’s will.

Application:  Trust in the life-changing and world changing power of Christ working through his church.

 

With all the talk this past week about the Colonial pipeline and the panic-buying of gas and lines at pumps, it reminded me of the 1970s.  If you are of a certain age, you no doubt remember those days, I’m sure.

That was the real start of our search for vehicles that could run on alternative fuel.  We got serious about investigating ethanol and diesel and hybrid cars.  The fascination with alternative sources of energy to power our cars and homes carried over into the movies. 

When the movie “Back to the Future” came out in 1985, I can remember being absolutely captivated by Doc Brown’s time machine:  It was actually a car, a DeLorean.  And what it made it truly incredible was it could travel in time and it could fly. 

It required a wopping 1.21 Gigawatts to operate.  But that wasn’t a problem because it ran on nuclear power.  When plutonium became hard for Doc to come by, he retrofitted the car with a nuclear fusion generator, and it ran on household garbage.

Part of the plot involved Doc Brown and his side-kick Marty McFly getting stranded, without enough power to go anywhere.  But by the end, they came to understand that they actually had access to an almost endless supply of power.  They just had to figure out how it worked, where to look for it and how to use it.

The church in Ephesus is in that very same position.

One of Paul’s disciples is writing to a congregation he does not know.  He has, however, heard quite a bit about them.  And what he’s heard fills him with gratitude.  This congregation in Ephesus is the kind of congregation every church hopes to be.  They walk the talk.  They are faithful, caring and loving. 

But he wants them to know that, as good as they are, there is even more to their faith.  What this disciple prays for above all else is that they would know the true fruits of faithfulness.  He wants them to know nothing less than the life-changing power of God’s Holy Spirit.

        This is what he means by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.  It will give them new sight, or, better yet, new insight.  By enlightening their hearts, the Spirit will grant them wisdom to know the truth of the gospel, and to live it.  

It will give them new eyes to see the extraordinary and utterly unexpected hope of new life they’ve been given in Jesus Christ, now and forever.  In Christ, they have become the beneficiaries of a divine adoption, a royal declaration that, through Jesus, they are now nothing less than God’s own children and the inheritors of his Kingdom. 

It’s as if Christ has arranged their adoption by the most important, generous, loving and powerful person the world’s ever known, who has simultaneously written them into his irrevocable will to inherit all he has.

        And the basis of this wisdom and hope is the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  It’s the power that was on full display in the life and ministry of Jesus.  It’s the power God used to raise him from the dead. And it’s the power God used to seat him at his right hand. 

In short, the Spirit is nothing less than the power of God.  And it is the greatest power there ever has been or will be.

The Ephesians are familiar with power, of course.  They live in a world dominated by earthly powers.  As citizens of Rome, they confront these powers every day.

Rome has more power than any other earthly kingdom ever had before.  That power is concentrated in one person:  the Emperor.  The Emperor holds the power of life and death, of slavery and freedom; the power to gather armies and crush enemies; the power to grant land and liberty, and the power to take them away.

The Pauline disciple who writes this letter also has a keen appreciation of the power of the Empire.  Like the Ephesian congregation, he confronts it every day.  As Christians whom the Emperor occasionally persecutes, they have an especially acute sense of what these Imperial powers can do.

But Paul’s disciple no longer fears earthly powers, not even Rome’s.  Because he knows there is a power higher and greater than even the Emperor.  That is God’s power.  More than anything, he wants the Ephesians to come to know God’s power.  

But what exactly is it?  And how do they use it? 

But before we can answer these questions, we have to first answer another one.  Where is this power located?

Paul’s disciple gives us the answer.  God’s power is his Holy Spirit and it is vested fully in Jesus Christ.  God has elevated Christ to be the head of all things, including the church.  So, for those of us un the church, Jesus is the source of our power. 

In fact, the only power we have is rooted in him.  Without him we are powerless.  But with him, we have all the power we will ever need.

That also tells us the kind of power we have.  It’s resurrection power.  Just as the power of God’s Spirit raised Jesus from death to new life, so God promises that his power can do the same for you and me.

What God has given to us is nothing less than the power to reorient and renew our lives.  It’s the power that says you do not have to be the person you have always been.  It’s the power that says our families do not have to be wounded and alienated and fractured as they have too often been.

It’s the power that says an emphatic “Yes!” to our quest for relationships that are mutually fulfilling rather than exploitive.  And it’s the power that says an equally emphatic and joyful “Yes!” to our quest for harmony in our congregation, our country and our world.

But how does that happen?  The answer for us is the same as it was for the Ephesians.  God’s power comes through Christ, IF, that is, we keep him at the center of our lives, IF we re-orient our individual lives and our congregational life to revolve around him, and no one and nothing else.

With Christ as our focus, you and I are guided by the same thing that guided him:  God’s will.  We are empowered by the same thing that empowered him:  God’s Spirit.  And we are inspired to do what he did, and to love the way he loved.

So, then it is no longer about us and our capabilities as individuals.  It’s about the way Christ works through us.  This is what makes a healthy and dynamic congregation.  But, sadly, not every church is like this.  Maybe you’ve known some churches like that.

These churches tend to stagnate because they rely on other forms of power – like wealth and status and past reputation.  Consequently, their worship, their ministries and their programs inevitably become tired and lifeless.  They run out of power. 

They are like sailboats whose sails have come down.  They can’t catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, so they drift. 

But there are other churches that keep Christ at the heart of what they do.  You can tell it right away.  It’s in their worship, in their fellowship, and in their mission.  It’s in the way they care for one another and how they reach out to others beyond the church walls, especially those whom Christ called the least and the lost. 

Regardless of the age of their members, their politics or their geographic location, these churches have energy and they have it in abundance.  They have tapped into the power of God’s spirit through Jesus Christ.  

So the question remains, did the Ephesians ever locate and use that power?  Looking back through the lens of Revelation and Jesus’ messages to each the seven churches, we get a snapshot of what happened to the congregation in Ephesus.

Jesus affirms their hard work and their perseverance in the face of many hardships.  But somewhere along the way, they lost their first love.  They no longer had the same passion for Christ as when they first believed.

Jesus called them to repent: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”  He was calling for a revival in their church.  And they didn’t have to look outside for the power to do that.  It was already with them in Jesus.  Just like Doc Brown found, the power they were seeking was already in their midst.  They just had to locate it and learn how to use it.

I’ll close with a story of the wealthy newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst.  Mr. Hearst was a billionaire who spent a fortune collecting art treasures from around the world.  One day he found a description of some rare and valuable items that he felt he absolutely had to own.

So, he sent one of his representatives overseas to locate them, buy them and bring them back.  After months of searching and researching, the representative reported back with good news:  he had finally located the treasured items Mr. Hearst was so desperate to own.

They were already in Hearst’s own warehouse.  He had been searching for treasure he already possessed!

Friends, if you are a Christian, the power of God’s Holy Spirit is already yours, and it is already ours as a congregation.  We don’t have to search for it, because Jesus is already here and seated at our head.

Are we focused on him?

 

Last Published: May 17, 2021 1:25 PM