The late, great Jimi Hendrix said it well. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.” Today that sounds like just another hippy-dippy sixties bumper sticker slogan. In our time the love of power is the order of the day. The pursuit of power overwhelms all other projects.
Power is a major topic in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Last week I introduced the overall theme of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. God pulls it all together in Jesus. In worship God pulls us to the center of all life, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. God does that by sending us the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. Today let’s talk about how that power works in our Christian journey.
Love of power was a way of life in ancient Ephesus. In Paul’s time, Ephesus was second only to Rome as a seat of imperial power. Ephesus was home to a rich and entitled elite who controlled the government, manipulated the markets, and ran the religious life of the city. When it came to power, the Ephesian Christians were on the outside looking in.
Many of us feel like little people in big systems. It’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless when all the power rests in the hands of others. Carried along by impersonal politics, mindless markets, faceless social forces—we know powerless.
So it’s jarring to hear Paul’s prayer today. “I pray that…you may know,” Paul writes, “what is the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power for us who believe, according to the working of [God’s] great power.” Paul is so intent to make his point that he uses three different Greek terms for power in the space of fourteen words. There are no powerless Christians.
Paul longs that the Ephesians will know that this power is available to them for their daily use. The Holy Spirit longs for us to know this as well. There are no powerless Christians.
Paul draws it all together in verses twenty through twenty-three. Let’s take those verses step by step.
Step One: All Christian power is Resurrection Power. That’s where Paul begins, and where we must always begin. “God put this power to work in Christ,” Paul tells us, “when [God] raised [the Messiah] from the dead…” God’s love looks like a cross. And God’s power looks like resurrection.
Step Two: Jesus is now the rightful Ruler of all things in heaven and on earth. God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. Jesus the Messiah is Lord of heaven and earth, right now.
Step Three: Jesus exercises that rule in part through the Church. God “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” The Spirit empowers us for loving service in Jesus’ name.
There are no powerless Christians.
How is God working powerfully among us here at Emanuel Lutheran Church? We are launching our Christian childcare center. We are creating a Christian retreat and meditation center. We have raised $14,000 to send folks to the youth gatherings. We are studying, identifying and using our spiritual gifts for mission and service. We are seeking to support a mental health ministry. We are supporting Angel Tree ministry and camps. We are working on a digital church sign. We are offering Lutheran Lake day camp. We have taken an offering today to support our neighborhood with a concrete expression of love.
ELCA synods have elected not one but two African American women as synod bishops. Make no mistake. They were elected because they are the most competent leaders and best pastors in their respective synods. In the past, that has often not been enough. Now the Spirit is on the move.
This is worth cheers and hallelujahs. This runs against cultural currents flowing in the opposite direction. This is the power of the Spirit at work among us to put all the powers of sin, death and the devil under the feet of Jesus the Messiah. This is Jesus, the strong man, binding Satan and plundering his household. This is real power.
You exercise the Spirit’s power in your lives as well. You use political power to make the world more loving and just. You bring order and compassion to our community and county. You care for the sick and injured, the lost and lonely. You resist the fear, hatred and violence which are so much of our current culture. You welcome all people here with no exceptions or conditions.
There are no powerless Christians. With Paul I pray that “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints…” This is the hope to which God has called us—to make the power of love conquer the love of power. This is the work of the Holy Spirit among us and in us and through us. This is how God is pulling it all together in Jesus.
The world cannot see this power among us. The world is blinded by the love of power. That’s why it takes the vision of an enlightened heart. That’s why this is about the hope to which God has called us.
There are no powerless Christians. Of course, there is no power unless you plug in. The Spirit equips us to see where the power is. It is in God’s Word of law and gospel. It is in our worship. It is in our welcoming and loving community. Next time we will hear more about God’s gracious gift that makes it all work among us and in us and through us. Let’s pray…
Pastor Lowell Hennigs
Emanuel Lutheran Church
Council Bluffs, Iowa