This message was delivered July 25, 2021 by the Rev. Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
“For this reason, I bow my knees” Paul begins this exclamatory prayer of praise. The first thing as readers of the text is to ask ourselves, “For what reason is Paul referring about?” So before verses 14 – 21 make any sense whatsoever, we have to stop and go backwards in the letter and find out what Paul is talking about; if we fail to do that, we miss the impact of this glorious prayer.
Fortunately for you, I have done that homework for you! Going back to chapter 3:7-8, we hear the reason for Paul’s prayer. It reads, “Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the countless riches of Christ.” Paul is saying that God uses people even like him to bring the winsome news of Christ’s salvation to all who are alienated were from God.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Verses 20 and 21 are an outburst of praise to God because through Jesus Christ, a once exiled people (i.e., you and me!) have been brought into an intimate relationship with the Almighty God! Have we fully let that sink into our inner being? Have we really taken hold of the fact and understand the immeasurable love of God for us and that in turn we are to have for one another? Do we really have any idea?
When my girls were growing up, I would just marvel at the depth of my love for them. Because of my wife, Kelly’s, aggressive cancer treatment when she was 18, we were told that the probability of her being able to conceive was nigh impossible. The third year into our marriage began our journey of being parents! All children are miracles to me but my two daughters, they are gifts from heaven; they weren’t even supposed to be here! As they grew up, I would ask them, “Do you really have any idea how much I love you?” They would look back at me with a dumb stare and go, “Huh?” For me personally, it wasn’t until I became a dad that I fully understood the breadth and width, the height and depth of what love is and means. I became aware of love’s enormity, its intensity, and its boundlessness that moves me along in spiritual and relational growth with God and with others. The ability to love deeply creates a flywheel effect that gains momentum each time love is expressed to God or towards another person. The more we love, our desire to love others intensifies, grows and seeks new avenues to express itself! Do we really have any idea as to the breadth, width, height, and depth of God’s love for you and me?
Pause a moment and think about it: How does the Great I Am’s love for you make a difference in your life today? How do our lives show that we are God’s beloved? Do our lives even exhibit that we are God’s beloved apart from going to church once a week? Do we have any idea as to how much we are God’s beloved? Really?
Our first scripture reading this morning from 2 Samuel dramatically illustrates the breadth, width, height, and depth of God’s love for His created. This morning’s lection describing the turning point in David’s life when all the wheels began to fall off the bus of his power and success demonstrates this indescribable love of God. As was mentioned earlier, this is not a Bible Story that would makes its way into a Vacation Bible School curriculum!
It was the springtime of the year when kings were beginning their battle campaigns and have gone to war. Except David. He sent others to fight his battles for him. While everyone else was off at the battle lines, we find David napping and slipping into a voyeuristic tendency to spy on his neighbors when they weren’t looking. He gawks at beautiful Bathsheba as she bathed, and David burned with lust. He sends for her and demands that she violate her marriage vows; within the next month, she sends word to the King that she’s pregnant with his child. King David sends for her husband Uriah who was at the front lines of battle and invites him to come home on leave and be with his wife Bathsheba. If David could pull that off, then people would think the baby is Uriah’s! Uriah proved to be more honorable than the King and refused to do it. After all, his fellow soldiers were deprived of sleeping in a bed and even the ark of God did not have a resting place; who is Uriah that makes him so special and set apart from the others?
Well, David gets a little desperate and on the second night of Uriah’s leave, David gets him loaded. He stuff’s Uriah with savory food and got him drunk off lots of wine. Surely now David could coerce him to pass out in his own bed with Bathsheba. That plan did not work out too well either. So now, David the King, God’s chosen, the composer and singer of all the beautiful psalms plots a murder. He loops his friend and general Joab to help him pull it off, too. David was so cold that he had Uriah unknowingly carry his own death sentence in the message to Joab! The next thing we hear in the Story is that the Jewish battle line pulled back leaving Uriah exposed to the enemy and he was killed.
Friends, this Story about David reminds us that he is an archetype for you and me. In David’s fall, we can see our own. In just 15 verses in our Old Testament Story, we read how David broke at least five of the Ten Commandments and committed the sins of sloth, lust, adultery, hubris, lying, showing deceit, creates a conspiracy, planned the harm of another person, and commits murder. By now as readers of this Story, we are shouting, “If only David had gone off to war like the other kings did! If only David did what he was supposed to be doing!”
But David didn’t. David wasn’t. David went from being way up here to throwing himself way down there. What we don’t hear in our David Story today is what happens following. You see, David is confronted with his actions, confesses his sins, and makes right with God but his life was never the same. There’s a cost to and for sin and there’s a cost in our relationships with God and with the Bathsheba’s and Uriahs of our lives when we sin and break relationship with God and neighbor. And David, like Paul, looks at you and me and asks, “Do you really have any idea?” Ironically, it’s only through his gross sin and restoration from God that David learned the answer to that question. The answer to the question is this: No, we really have no idea how much God loves us, will do for us, or be patient with us. It’s only after David figured out the answer to that question that he able was to compose a hymn, Psalm 103 where he writes,
9He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Isn’t this what Paul is talking about in our Ephesians text as well as he prays for the Ephesians Church? He wants them to know and experience the immeasurable breadth and width, he wants them to swim in the unfathomable height and depth of God’s love in Christ. He later describes it to the Church in Rome this way:
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you, do I, do we really have any idea as to how much God loves us in and through Christ? Have you, have I, ever stopped to think about the profundity of that simple question? For those of you asking, “Well, Preacher, so what? I know God loves me,” let me simply say…
Beloved, the “so what” makes a difference in your Christian life this very day. If we take God’s love for granted or treat it lightly, we end up treating our relationship with God and our relationships with ‘the least of these’ in our community lightly as well. But if we contemplate and reflect upon the breadth, width, height, and depth of God’s love for us, then love regenerates in us exponentially and we become the phalanx of the Kingdom of Heaven right here, right now!
Do you really have any idea how much God loves you? Let’s chew on that today as our spiritual homework.
Let us pray.
© 2021 July 25 by Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301 and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Romans 8:38-39.