In today’s reading Paul pours out his soul with thanksgiving for the faith and love that is evident in those who belong to the church in Ephesus: “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” Note that Paul prays for their hearts to be “enlightened.” His words help me understand that my openness to God will enlighten my heart.
When I was a divinity school student, I focused on having an intellectual understanding of the Christian faith. I was intent on trying to comprehend God. I was eager and determined to reflect critically on life from the vantage point of faith. I wanted to love God with my mind, but I knew something was missing.
A young woman who was struggling to figure out God preached a sermon at my church in Brentwood, Tennessee. She recalled her early struggles to understand God. She said to God, “Why can’t I fit you into a nice, neat, intellectual box—especially one that can help me feel like I am in control?” Perhaps that’s what we all desire. She did not understand that God dwells just beyond the power to reason. Like that young woman, I had to come to the place where I could fully believe even when I could not completely understand. If I could not completely grasp God with my mind, I could grasp God with my heart.
With the passing of time I have come to learn that we can love God with our mind and our heart. I believe that Paul prayed for enlightened hearts because he knew that human reason could not contain all that there is to know about God. With our hearts enlightened we recognize the riches of our inheritance through Christ and acknowledge God’s greatness. Then we continue to cultivate a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Mysterious, yet ever-present God, enlighten my heart so that I may realize my richness in you. Amen.
The universal rule of God, expressed in Christ the Shepherd-King, is a dominant theme in all the texts assigned for the week. Both Old Testament texts dwell on the nurturing, protecting role of the Shepherd-King, whose people we are. Ezekiel 34 gives the shepherd’s guiding and defending role a political twist by condemning the succession of shepherd-kings who have neglected and exploited the flock. Both New Testament passages celebrate the victory of Christ: the enthroned Son of Man of Matthew 25 separates the flock, and the risen Christ of Ephesians 1 is seated by God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” Christ guarantees God’s completed reign.
• Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. How does it feel to be compared to sheep with God as the shepherd? What would the sheep expect from the shepherd? What would the shepherd expect from the sheep?• Read Psalm 100. How would a total stranger know that your faith in God brings you joy?
• Read Ephesians 1:15-23. Would you say that you love God more with your mind or with your heart?
• Read Matthew 25:31-46. What is required for you to be so attuned to others that you would recognize the Christ in them? How will you ensure that Christ’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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