Today we’re continuing on in Paul’s great prayer at the heart of the Ephesian letter, 3: 14-21. Again, prayer is how we move what we’ve heard and know about God from our heads to our hearts, and out into our lives. That’s really Paul’s prayer for his congregation, and by the Holy Spirit for us, in today’s passage.
He says: 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 all the fullness of God.
This is really moving from head knowledge to heart knowledge. When Paul prays that we’d have the power to comprehend the extraordinary vastness—the wild height, depth, length, and width of God’s love for us in Christ—he’s aiming at more than knowing the creeds, or memorizing the right answers about God. Of course, creeds are helpful for learning to articulate truths. And theology—the study of God—has been called the queen of the sciences, a most worthy pursuit.
But that’s not the kind of comprehension Paul wants for us. It’s not all that God wants for us. Because the understanding we’re after defies detached knowledge. It surpasses it. It confounds our reason and expectation. The knowledge of God can’t be contained in books, or creeds, or traditions.
It needs nothing less than a life in which to be known. And marvellously, through which to be know.
Paul wants us to know the extravagant love of God, so that we can be filled with all the fullness of God. How wild is that?
You are made to be filled with the fullness of God. You can tell this is a prayer, because we keep coming up against images and phrases that confound us. What does that even mean? How can these bodies, these lives, be filled with all the fullness of God? It seems impossible.
Filled with the fullness of God.
In another New Testament letter we hear that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus bodily. That’s another way of saying what St. John says at the beginning of his gospel: that the Word (who was with God and was God) became flesh and dwelt among us, moved into the neighbourhood.
I don’t know about you, but often that’s hard enough to understand: that Jesus is God with us, close enough to be touched, to be held, even to be killed for love of this world.
But then Paul makes clear that while Jesus is unique in human history, the pleasure of God to get all tangled up with human life is just how God is. And marvellously, God is pleased, in all God’s fullness, to dwell in us, to fill us, to overflow from us. The love that made the cosmos, is perfectly at home in us. Is delighted to be known through us.
I think that this is a source of great hope and healing. We are made for fullness, for wholeness. The love and grace and mercy of God, the creativity and wonder and delight of God, will work its way into our lives—even where we’re empty, where we’re broken and bruised, those corners that feel dead and irredeemable (and we all have them). And God will make us full, make us whole.
I wonder if we can be as bold as Paul, and invite all the fullness of God to fill us.
Let’s make it our prayer.
May it be so.