Have you ever looked at the sky on a clear night? What do you see? Lots of stars. Have you ever done that out in the country, away from the street lights? You’ll see many more stars. Just a few miles above us is the Hubble space telescope. It’s looking at the same sky, and what it sees is breathtaking.
There is always more to see if you look closely. That is true of God. Paul writes this letter, addressed to the Christians in Ephesus (the Ephesians) but probably meant to go round a few churches to encourage people who had been trusting in Jesus for maybe ten, twenty years. He wants them to see more. This is what he wants them to see.
Paul wants these Christians to know that they have been given good things by God through Jesus. In fact, God has not held anything back from people who follow Christ. We might not see all these gifts now (heavenly realms are the things which are true forever, though we can’t presently grasp them).
And here is the main gift: that we have, in Jesus, become God’s children. Not everyone is God’s child in this sense, though everyone is made in God’s image. The blessing for those who believe is that we’re welcomed into God’s family, with a purpose- to give praise to God.
We’re made to worship God – there’s nowhere more natural to be than in church! But we know that it doesn’t feel like that, at least not to begin with. We’re not naturally God’s children any more than slaves are naturally free – but through the life and death of Jesus our sins are forgiven and we are made free to worship God in our lives.
Then there’s a complicated bit, after which Paul returns to tell these Christians what he prays for when he asks God to help them. Paul prayed a lot for people who had come to trust Jesus: he prayed a lot for people to trust Jesus. Praying for other is nothing new and nothing strange in church.
What is it Paul prays for? He prays that God will help these people to know God better. If I met somebody really famous, I’d probably not know what to say to them, or what to ask about them. It’s the same with God. So Paul asks God to help these people see who God really is. Revelation just means that they see God more like God is. And we all need God’s help to do that.
He prays that they know what’s in store. So often in or world we worry about the future. But here Paul says that the future’s bright – because the future is God’s. More than anyone else, Christian folk are called to hope in God’s future. There is no such thing as hopeless Christianity. A Christian doesn’t ask, ‘Is that glass full or is it half empty?’ A Christian asks, ‘When is the Lord going to fill it to overflowing?’ This hope is for us, it’s for our world, and it’s grounded in Jesus.
The hope is that we shall have a future with God in a life beyond this life. Paul sees that as an inheritance – something that you get through death. We get it after our death, when our lives continue in God’s presence in heaven. But we are given this promise through Christ’s death. And we know it’s true because God is powerful.
If you ask, ‘How can this work?’ then you are forgetting the mighty power of God. God has already shown this power, because he has already raised Jesus from death. And what God does for Jesus, he does for all those who trust in Jesus. This amazing power is for us – for those who believe in Christ. And this power is amazing, a bit like the power God showed when he raised Jesus from death.
These are things we are to believe and to hope for. We are to be sure that everyone who believes in Jesus receives this hope for the future and this power for the present.
We are to look to God to show us more about what God is like. And I don’t mean that in a strange and airy-fairy way. I mean we are to go about our lives believing: that this is God’s world; that we have a future in Christ which is out of this world; that we have a life to live that has to be clearly Christian; and that the invitation to enjoy all this is open to everyone who comes to Jesus.
People sometimes say that familiarity breeds contempt, and by that they mean that things which were once new become kind of dull and even boring after a time. If that happens, we need to get a new impetus, we need to see things we’ve seen before in a new light. Let’s see God in that way.
Let’s think about who God is, who God is for God’s world, God’s church, and who God is for each of us. What has God given you, and what do you believe God has in store for you? Not in a selfish sort of way – the real result of knowing these truths is not that we keep them to ourselves, but that we share them with others.
Think about who you are in God’s eyes, and what God wants from your life. What does your following Jesus look and sound like? Is it so real, positive, powerful and attractive that other people want to have a look? Is it so good, when you stop to think about it, that you want to have a deeper look at God? Why don’t we, each and together, give a wee while to becoming involved in that to see more what it means for us to have Jesus as our king?
Finally think about Jesus, because Jesus is the centre and the key to all of this. It’s through Jesus that we see God and through Jesus that God’s power is made available to us. Jesus is someone we look at to see God’s power in action, and Jesus is also the ‘boss’ now and for ever. Jesus is head over everything, and in fact the life of God in Jesus flows in every thing in this universe, even though it’s beyond us to understand how that can be.
If you do these things, but it’s really just like saying, ‘look at that sky’ on a clear, frosty night. You could choose not to look up. You could choose to let the brightness of the lights around darken the view. Or you could make the effort to get away from other things to have a clearer view. And then you’d see the stars.
It’s the same with God. It is not God, but our understanding, which is too small. Open up your eyes of faith. Open up your heart of loving response to a God who has come in love to us. Let God show you who he is, who you are and what we are to do together to see God’s greatness and power at work and to work with him.
No wonder we finish sermons by saying that glory is all God’s. That’s because it’s true. May we have God’s power to know more just how true it is. Amen.