Immeasurably more than you can ask, or even imagine! Ephesians 3:20-21

The last three months have been very hard for everybody! So our verses for this morning are especially relevant and encouraging.

Ephesians 3 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
We need to hear this reminder about the power of God at work in our lives more than ever in these days.

As 2020 began life for most people was going along smoothly as ever. Then Covid19 came along and so much has changed. First, we had to cope with a form of grief as most of our everyday lives of working and shopping and leisure and even ordinary face-to-face relationships, were taken away from us. At the same time all our usual activities and events of church life ended abruptly. Then we had to invent new ways of being the church. We had to find new ways of worshipping and praying and learning and sharing fellowship together, and for many people that has meant wrestling with new and unfamiliar aspects of technology. Now we are at the stage of supporting each other with all kinds of needs in this strange new world. But there are still so many restrictions about actually meeting together. We all need God’s help so much in these days!

Glory to God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

But now life is changing again. Our immediate next task is to steer our way forward towards to safely resuming some of our activities again. And now is also the time for us to begin to prayerfully consider the future of the church once lockdown is lifted. The reality is that until a vaccine or an effective cure is found, just the same as in offices and factories and shops and public transport and the hospitality industries, church life will never be the same as it was before. What will worship and teaching and mission and outreach and evangelism and pastoral care look like in “the new normal”?

“Home working” is likely to become part of “the new normal” for possibly millions of people. In the same way churches will continue use technology to enable people to join in worship and prayers and Bible Studies from their homes, especially to help folk who may be housebound or elderly or vulnerable. Services like this will be recorded on video and put on Facebook for those who have to be at work at service times.
On the other hand, the sad reality is that some common elements of the way church used to be may not return for years, if ever. Coronavirus and some measures of social distancing are going to be with us for years and there are some things we aren’t going to be able to do, at least for a while. When we are allowed to gather together in person, fewer people will be able to be in one room. Sharing food and drink will be much more difficult and activities with young people and children will look very different. Many of usual activities may not start for a while. What will outreach and evangelism look like in “the new normal?” I have three thoughts.
Firstly, for decades churches have tended to meet needs in the community by organised activities and events and projects. In the future the mission of the church may fall back much more on to the shoulders of individual Christians loving their own neighbours. More than ever evangelism will be about ordinary Christians “gossiping the gospel” and simply talking about Jesus.
Secondly, I think the church will need to focus more on its core identity – worshipping God and praying for people in and outside the church community. I think churches (and perhaps particularly ministers and church leaders) will devote less time and resources to running events and projects and more on prayer and pastoral care and teaching with individuals and small groups. Equipping Christians to be salt and light by loving their neighbours and talking about Jesus. Making disciples who make disciples.
This may all sound very new and very difficult and indeed very exhausting. Which is where my third thought comes in. We will all have to put ourselves completely in God’s hands. In ordinary times Christians and churches have put lots of time and energy into our activities and events and projects. Now is the time for us to put our trust in God. Our human ideas and our hard work will not be enough to take the church into “the new normal”. Instead we will need to rely on God. And this is where our verses this morning are so inspiring.
Ephesians 3 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
As the Covid lockdown is lifted and we move forward into “the new normal”, we do not need to be worried or afraid. We are never on our own. God is with us. We will always be able to depend on the Holy Spirit, the power of God which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, at work in our lives. Thanks be to God
We have already learned a great deal from Ephesians about the work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and of the church. The Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation guaranteeing our inheritance and a foretaste and our first installment of heaven. And it is the Holy Spirit who helps us to know God better. We saw three weeks ago that it is the Holy Spirit who makes us into God’s family , the church, God’s holy Temple.
2 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Yes, the church is not the building. Nor is the church the programme of activities or events which we run. The church is the people of God. But even more than that, we are the people in whom God lives by His Holy Spirit. The church is not the building, not the programme, not even the people. What makes us the church is the presence of God. It is the presence and activity of God the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers that transforms a group of Christians from just a club or a human organisation into the church, the Body of Christ, God’s Living Temple. If God isn’t here, it isn’t church at all! But when God IS present, there are no limits to His love and grace and power! If any of us want to move on in our individual Christian lives, we need to be open to the working of God the Holy Spirit. And if any church wants to move on with God and become the church God wants us to be the secret is the same – we need more of the power of the Holy Spirit, more of the presence of God!

And that is because of the glorious truth we learned from Ephesians 1. The Holy Spirit comes and releases into our lives that same almighty power which raised Jesus from the dead.

1 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … 19 … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

It is that resurrection power of Christ in us which means that God can accomplish in our lives, and God will accomplish in our lives, immeasurably more than we can ask, or even imagine! That is such an encouragement to us in these challenging times. And such a reassurance as we step into an uncertain future.

Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth, can accomplish whatever he chooses in our lives and through us. The prophet Jeremiah prayed
Jeremiah 32 17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
As the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” And Jesus taught his disciples, “With God all things are possible.”
We may be struggling with life in the present. We may be anxious and fearful about the future. But God wants to lift all our hearts to him.
20 … all glory to God, who is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think, through his mighty power at work within us. (NLT)

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