To Leave Us Speechless
by Michael Fitzpatrick
Reading from Ephesians, 3:14-21
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Perhaps the great choice the gospel puts before us is whether we will live for ourselves, or live for the glory of God. St. Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 captures the whole of Christian life in one glorious effusion of committing to life with God.
If you are asked by a non-Christian what it means to be a Christian, St. Paul gives us a model answer. A Christian is a person who draws power for life from the Spirit of God, so that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, which results in being “rooted and grounded in love.” Our whole anchor is love received in Christ by the Spirit.
Yet this is easy to forget. Common responses for why we go to church in this age include: for the community, for clearing our heads, for how it makes us feel. Do we come to church more for what we can get emotionally, or for the good social connection, rather than to encounter the presence of the living God?
St. Paul gives a different purpose for gathering as the Church. He prays that we will be possessed with ability to grasp, in the communion of the saints, the “breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ that, in the end, “surpasses knowledge.” When was the last time you got to the end of Holy Communion and heard someone say (or suspected, if they spoke, they might say), “This encounter with Christ’s love leaves me speechless!” Yet that is what we are here for.
God can accomplish in us more than we could ever dream or ask, so let us set aside our meager hopes and ambitions, and feast our hearts on the love that transcends understanding, that we might be filled with the fullness of God!
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in Philosophy at Stanford University and a student leader for the Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry at Stanford. Michael attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, CA.