“I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…..that He would grant you….to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith……that you may be able to comprehend….what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ….that you may be filled with the fullness of God!”  Ephesians 3: 14-19

The church at Ephesus had its work cut out for it.  For Ephesus was reputed to be the fourth greatest city of the ancient Roman empire behind Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.  It had a population of 300,000 and was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Artemis.  The city was filled with countless pagan worshipers and festivals.

Into this den of iniquity steps Paul.  First preaching in the local synagogue, when he is rejected there, he moves to the school of Tyrannus and preaches to the gentiles.  Some, hear his message with joy and convert.  Others see his message as a threat to their way of life in worshiping and paying money for the upkeep of the temple of Artemis and try to have Paul arrested.

After three years of preaching in Ephesus, Paul had to move on.  The church, while established was still nowhere near the size of the other more established religions of the city and surrounding area.  It would seem that it would have been easy for that church to wither and die once Paul had left.  How did they have the strength to withstand the hostility, the belittling, the derision that came from them from all sides?

As a single religion, according to a Pew research study printed in 2010, Christianity is the world’s largest religion with 31.5% of the world’s population.  Yet even there, it means two-thirds of the world, does not believe, with some with an outright hostility to the message of Christ.  So while we might not be able to quite say we’re the little, just starting church like Ephesus in the first century, it does not mean that the basic message of Jesus Christ is not under attack.

For in many places around the world, any display of Christian symbols can warrant a death sentence.  Though even in places where seemingly the environment is one of more tolerance, it does not mean that Christ’s message is any more welcome. In how many places is Christ’s message concerning our falleness and need for redemption, along with His teachings of universal love, non judgement and equality for all met with a sense of derision; a sense of an antiquated message only good for the feeble-minded and uninformed?

Christ and those who call upon Christ are often mocked and ridiculed.  Christian symbols and Christian sensibilities are to be compartmentalized and segregated away from mainstream, into niche places called churches and only then on certain days of the week.  Instead we are bombarded with the messages concerning the accumulation of wealth, the glorification of sex, that almost all is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught.  Relationships and responsibilities are to only last as long as they serve some good purpose for me and then to be cast off when they get in the way of my self-possessed interest.

Where is our strength to come from to combat the messages of the world and do battle with the evil that is desired by the Prince of this world.  What exercise does it take, where do we purchase the lessons from or where do we get the degree?  What device can we buy to guide us to the place where we are to find that strength?  It is said that strength, true strength comes from within; comes from the heart.  Yet Paul makes it clear until we look without, that is to say outside of ourselves, even that inward look will be futile and only discover weakness.

Where then do we look?  Where then does our strength come from?  You know Dear Sisters and Brothers it comes from God.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul does such a wonderful job of describing it.  It starts with the connection of God’s Spirit to our spirit; the “inner man”. It is through the gift of God’s Spirit that Christ can come and dwell with us and in us in love.  That love that surpasses all knowledge gives us a sense of the entire dimensions; depth, height, width and length of Christ’s love.  Then we may be filled with the fullness of God.  A fullness more powerful than any earthly or spiritual foe.

Please note this; Dear Sisters and Brothers.  This does not come by us spending some exorbitant amount.  It does not come after years of intense academic study.  It does not come through miles and miles of arduous journey.  No, it comes simply through faith.  Through the believing in the One True God, in believing in His Son Jesus Christ and accepting that we are sinners and that He is our Savior.  In the metaphor of spiritual armor, Paul goes on to describe later in Ephesians how this strength is to be worn and used.  Yet for now, let us just revel in the mystery.  Let us rejoice in the gift of strength from the Creator of all things to His creation.  Let us, like Paul, fall on our knees and ask for the strength of God and give thanks for His faithful reply.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are in need of Your strength.  Pour out Your Spirit into our hearts that through Your Spirit we may come to understand and rely on the Love of Christ and be filled with Your Fullness.  That so filled, Dear Father, we would go forth in the strength of the Love of Jesus Christ ever ready to withstand and defeat the forces of evil arrayed against Your People we pray.  In the Name of Your Most Precious Son Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen