What a week this has been. I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to and caring for people. I have encouraged people to sit in and feel their despair, anger, sadness, hopelessness, fear, and uncertainty. We must allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling before moving ahead to action.
It has prompted me to think about times in my life when all seemed lost, and how I was able to claim God’s strength and power. As I think about difficult times in my life I think of a church burning down, a parsonage burning down, miscarriages, losing my mom over the course of 10 years to dementia, and in those same years my dad dying of cancer. My daughter eloping with a man she barely knew and moving halfway around the world. There were times in each of these personal situations that I didn’t see a way forward, I was hopeless and angry, fearful and despairing. One way that I was able to move forward was claiming God’s power and strength through scripture.
I grew up in the northeast when memorizing scripture was passé, thankfully as an adult I have learned scripture that sustains me. It was in the midst of a breast cancer scare a few years ago that I held tight to scripture and this week I’ve found myself doing same. (David/Ulanda has read two of those scriptures for us this morning)
For me these scriptures and some others strengthen me and help me to claim the power I need to move forward in faith and hope. Today I’m going to bring more scripture passages to play than usual; I hope you will hear the assurance these passages offer.
This morning I want to share with you a story that I hope will help us to think about where our power lies.
Once upon a time a man found the egg of an eagle. It had been abandoned for some reason by its mother, but as it was still warm the man took it and put it in the nest of one of his backyard chickens along with the other eggs that were there being brooded upon. After a period of time the eaglet was hatched, and along with the other chicks from his nest began to go about the backyard doing what the other chicks did. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He looked for the corn that the man would throw into the yard. He clucked and cackled as best as he could, and as he grew, he would, like the other chickens, thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air.
Years passed in this way and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. It glided majestically among the powerful wind currents, soaring and swooping, scarcely beating its long golden wings. The old eagle looked at it in awe and asked “what is that?” “That is the eagle, the king of the birds”, said one of his neighbors. “He belongs to the sky and to the high places. We belong to the earth, we are chickens.” The old eagle knew this was true, and so it was he lived and died as a chicken, for that is what he believed he was.
Do you think the eagle/chicken had the power to change? What held him back?
Think with me for a moment about the verses at the end of Ephesians chapter three: 20-21.”Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine; to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Do you have the power to change? What holds you back?
If you drew your power from God what could you accomplish that you aren’t doing now?
Can we believe in new possibilities for ourselves?
The eagle/chicken didn’t see past what he knew,/ there wasn’t a power beyond himself that could help him to soar. As followers of Christ we have that power through Christ. Even when I don’t think I can do something on my own power, I know “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” What we believe is important, BUT who we believe in as Christians is what matters, meeting with the person of Jesus and being changed not by our belief in ourselves but, by his belief in us.
‘We are changed and enabled by the power of God not by anything within us. ‘
What are the new possibilities for you,/ if you draw on the power that is at work in you given by Jesus?
While working on this sermon and thinking about the power to change and where that power comes from it took me back a ministry I remember from the 1970’s. Robert Schuller’s famous Hour of Power worship services in the Crystal Cathedral in the 70’s and 80’s, Schuller had a power of positive thinking approach, if you believe it you can do it. I’ve always thought there was more to having power in our lives then thinking about it positively. In Ephesians I believe we hear where our power comes from. We don’t have to go on our own power, rather we have the power of God in us. That is so freeing for me. Knowing that,/ I feel as though I can be and do more than I imagined. I can engage in the world in ways I would never have imagined.
In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul writes “we will all come to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that lives in us by faith.” Think about that word, immeasurable; you can’t begin to measure it, because God’s power is so vast. And the word, greatness, because the word implies absolute giganticness. It is my prayer that we will indeed “all come to know”, because we human beings don’t really know about the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that lives within us. It’s hard to fathom, because what we know is our own human limitations.
This 3rd chapter of Ephesians is Paul’s prayer for the Christian community. In a way I feel we are eavesdropping on Paul at prayer, but it is a prayer for all who claim Jesus as Savior.
Paul again talks about God’s great power that lies within us. He describes that we have “the power to grasp the length and width, and height and depth of the love of God for us.” This power is the power to finally grasp or know or comprehend the vastness of God’s love for us. We then are able to do far more than we ever thought, imagined or would ask from God.
That’s the good news for today and everyday, we have God’s power in us to do things we would never imagine we could do, even be an eagle, when we thought we were a chicken.
From our passage in Isaiah 40:31 we are reminded “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”.
As we claim that strength and power, let’s remember that our duty now is the same as it has been for Christians since Jesus’ time. It is the vision articulated by the prophet Micah: To do justice, love, kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
In that sense, this election changes nothing.
Finally — however we voted — we must remember and put into practice our theology which transcends human and artificial labels. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; [there is no longer Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative] for all of you are one in Christ Jesus ” (Galatians 3:27-28)
With the apostle Paul, I likewise beg “you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).