The motto for our regional body, the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky, is “Together on God’s Abundant Journey”. It’s a phrase our Executive Minister, the Rev. Soozi Whitten Ford, has introduced through her ministry among us. The Scripture reference Soozi draws from for this thinking is Ephesians 3:14-21:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with the power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with the fullness of God. (vv. 14-19 NRSV)
Now, that’s quite a prayer! It has a real Pauline flavor to it – lots of long sentences filled with descriptive words and phrases, offering a blessing. Just consider the following objects and attributes for which Paul prays on behalf of the folk in Ephesus:
• Riches of (God’s) glory
• Strengthened in your inner being
• Power through (God’s) Spirit
• Dwell in your hearts
• Rooted and grounded in love
• Power to comprehend – breadth, length, height & depth (four dimensional) – the love of God
• Filled with the fullness of God.
There truly is an abundance of God’s goodness, nature, being, presence, love, and grace being poured out in this prayer of Paul’s for the Christ followers in Ephesus. What’s most striking about it to me is that this prayer for abundance is for the inner being and benefit of those for whom Paul prays. In other words, it’s an internal abundance of God that he seeks for these brothers and sisters at Ephesus.
That’s a refreshing a-ha for me today. When I think of abundance I generally think externally – of all those things God has given and granted to be at our disposal. I think of the provisions of life as echoed by the psalmist in Psalm 24:1 – The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! I think of the natural resources that provide food, shelter, and clothing. I think of the human resources of family, parents, spouses, and friends. I think of things outside of my own person, that I readily and freely name as God’s blessings upon and for my person (and yours too, for that matter). But I don’t as quickly think of the abundance within my person that comes to dwell and grow and develop there because of God’s gift of Christ Jesus. I don’t know why, I just don’t go there, initially.
Paul’s prayer takes us there, quite purposefully. He wants a church that is internally filled up (breadth, length, height and depth) with no emptiness. And he wants a church that understands it is filled up with God – why?
The answer to that appears in the next verses which bring the prayer to its climax: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (vv. 20-21)
Did you catch it? All that for which Paul has prayed – that of God which he asks to fill us abundantly – is here commissioned to pour forth from us “abundantly” to, for and with others. Paul is praying for a church that knows God’s power and love, is filled with God’s power and love, and willingly empties itself of that power and love to, for and with others in the name of Christ Jesus!
Abundant filling for abundant mission. Abundant filling for abundant spilling. Abundance is never to be held, harbored or hoarded. Abundance is to be shared. Sharing gives definition to “together”. Together on God’s abundant journey!