Have you ever asked yourself the question… “How big is your God?” I did recently when preparing a few words on Ephesians 3 for the clergy of this diocese. I was struck when reading Ephesians 3:14-21 by the words;
“Now to him (God) who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Ephesians 3:20
Almost immediately I heard my somewhat sarcastic inner voice say, “well I’m not so sure about that Mr Apostle Paul – I have a pretty healthy imagination!” Then before I even had time to bask in what I thought was amusing I sensed a more authoritative voice say, “is that really true Greg?” Yep, once again God’s Spirit cut to the heart of the matter in my internal dialogue.
After being stopped in my thoughts it became obvious how extravagant and larger than life this passage is – but not in an embellished sense. Consider the language and techniques that Paul uses. It is not just “out of God’s riches” but “out of God’s GLORIOUS riches.”
Did you also notice that Paul doesn’t pray for his readers to simply “know Christ’s love” but rather that they “GRASP how WIDE and LONG and HIGH and DEEP is the love of Christ”. Then there is this wonderful play on words in verse 19 where Paul prays that we might “know” this love that is “unknowable” or more rightly “beyond knowing”.
And here is a fun fact – verses 14-19 are one long sentence in the original language which further highlights Paul’s passion and excitement. It is as if Paul can hardly draw breath let alone bother to use punctuation. Wouldn’t it be fun next time that this passage is read in church if those verses can indeed be read as one long sentence and in one breath without passing out from lack of oxygen.
Paul’s point is not merely that God is able to do more than we can expect or imagine but that he is already at work in and through all of us and that is liberating. I may think I have a healthy imagination but I wonder how many times I have aborted the process of growth because I don’t have the necessary discontent with my current self and the desire to explore uncharted waters. Or is it simply a case that my imagination might be sizeable but my “God is too small”?
Please note this is not meant to be an exercise in self-loathing but rather a gentle rebuke I sensed God’s Spirit bringing to my attention. I might joyfully sing the kid’s song “My God is so Big” but be duped into believing in a very small God because of my lack of faith or courage.
Are there some big, overwhelming and somewhat terrifying issues in your life at the moment? Are there matters that can only be dealt with by a big God? The good news is our God is that big!
I pray that we all might grasp the extent of Christ’s love. That we may all have healthy imaginations when it comes to our prayers and the courage to engage with God in his plans. Finally, may our gracious God – Father, Son and Spirit – be glorified in our church and throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.
Greg Harris is the Rector and Senior Minister at Holy Trinity Bendigo