This is the end of the first part of the letter to the Ephesians. As stated in the general introduction, the letter divides into theological understandings in chapters 1-3 and ethical application in chapters 4-6. So, we conclude the first section with what has come to be called the prayer for the church. It isn’t a prayer necessarily, as it is not addressed to God, but to the hearers in the church. “I pray that you may be strengthened,” writes the author of the letter. “You” being the church, or us. Paul is praying that we might come to understand something of what is going on here. He prays that we might know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge! So how do you know the unknowable?
The only way we can know something as deep and as profound as the love of God that we experience through the grace of Christ is through the witness of the church. How do you understand any one’s love? By living it, by sharing it, by talking about it. By giving God thanks for it. Our prayers and our songs should be full of the experience of being loved into wholeness, being “rooted and grounded” in love, so that we can begin to see that all our actions, all our doing in the world is motivated or in response to the love that defines us.
The preaching notes share the concept of “Gotcha Day,” where families who adopt celebrate the day when they became a family with the new adoptee. Perhaps there are families within your congregation who have adopted children and have the tradition of celebrating “gotcha day.” If so, you could invite them to tell their story and how that has become a day of honoring the family that they have become. It is often not just a celebration of the one who was adopted, but of the whole family that was made or transformed by the claiming of this new member. It becomes a tangible way of experiencing what it means be to be brought into the family of God.
It could also be a time of celebrating your membership in the church, the family that you have become as you acknowledge each person, each participant in the life of the church. We are who we are because of each and because of all. Without you, we are incomplete. And it can also be a reminder that there are those who are not yet part of the family, and the congregation still has space to grow.
We are reminded by this prayer for the church that God is glorified through the community. God is revealed through our lives together and our invitation to the wider world. We represent the God we worship by how we live in community. “To God be glory in the church” writes the author of Ephesians, one of the few places where church appears in the New Testament. Let our church be a witness to the love of God in us and among us.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.