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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible- Ephesians
The Power of God Living Within Us 

Ephesians Series  Ephesians 1:19; 3:7-20
(Also, this sermon is for Reformation.)

In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul writes  “we will all come to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that lives in us by faith.”  I like the word, immeasurable; you can’t begin to measure it, because God’s power is so vast.  I like the word, greatness, because the word implies absolute giganticness.  I like the word, know, because we human beings don’t really know about the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that lives within us. I like the word, power, because that is what the sermon for today is all about.

In the third chapter of Ephesians, Paul again talks about God’s great power that lies within us.  He describes that we have “the power to grasp the length and width, and height and depth of the love of God for us.”  The power is the power to finally grasp or know or comprehend the vastness of God’s love for us.  We then are able to do far more than we ever think, imagine or ask from God.  I like that.  I like that God’s power inside of God does more with our lives than we can ever think, imagine or ask. 

I would like to share with you three dreams.  In the first dream, I am sitting in my old ’63 Volkswagen bug up the stoplight on Highway 99, near Kinko’s.  You may recall that my first car here at Grace was that old Volkswagen bug, gray, dilapidated, frowning fenders.  In fact, it looks quite a bit like me at this point in my life.  I was sitting there in my VW bug and in the next lane was a red Porsche with its motor running. He gunned his engine, and I then gunned mine, sending a signal to him that I was willing to race.  In that red Porsche, sat a young man with dark black hair and a mustache.  That’s the way my hair used to be, but no mustache.  He glanced at me as he put a cigarette to his lips.  I glanced at him as I lifted a carton of milk to my lips.  A young chick sat on his right, making him look good.  I well worn hen sat on my right, making me look mature.  (I thought of the “well worn hen” line this morning as I came it work; the line paralleled the young chick and by using it, has already cost me a dinner out with my wife.)  He gunned his engine again to a quite roar; I gunned my engine again, to the sound of a whining tight rubber band. The light changed.  Wheels whirled and there was blue smoke all over the pavement as I pulled away from him.  The night before in my dream, a new Ferrari engine had been installed in my VW bug, and I had power, real power, fast power.  As I pulled away from him, his young chick was heard to exclaim:  “What does he have under that hood???”  And therein lies a tale and a question:  what kind of power is hidden underneath that hood?

The second dream.  I was desperately poor.  There were holes in my jeans, holes in the knees and in the elbow of my shirt. Such holes are downright fashionable in jeans nowadays, but in my dreams, holes in the jeans were signs of poverty.  My tennis shoes were well worn with worn spots all over them.  My beard was shaggy, as was my long gray hair, and my shirt was old, old, old.  You just could tell that shirt had been worn for many a day and night.  In my poverty, I ran to the church, our church, Grace Lutheran Church, and the doors were closed and a big sign was slapped across the doors:  “Out of Business.” I stumbled to the front of the church where there was a sign with the names of the pastors on it:  Pastor Markquart, Pastor O’Neal, and the letters “fired” were painted across both of their names.  Tired, worn out, desperate, I then went to the bank, the Sea First Bank in downtown Des Moines, now Bank of America, and Mary was still there.  “Mary,” I said, “I am broke and starving and desperate.  I have no money.  Would you give me any money I have in my checking account?”  And she went to and came from the bank’s vault and began to give me $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars.  What a miracle.  What a dream.  I was rich.  I was filthy rich, and I didn’t know it.  And therein lies a tale.

A third dream.  In this dream, I was repairing my car in my carport at home.  Now, this must have been not a dream but a nightmare because I was actually working mechanically on my car.  Like other men, I had my doors open to reveal my tool chest that consisted of ten rolls of duck tape in varying widths and colors.  (A sad joke.  My friends realize how unmechanical I am and have chosen to be.  If I can’t fix it with duck tape, then hire it to be fixed.)  My wheels of my car were jacked up on blocks and my grandchildren were there, Ben and Kate.  Suddenly and awfully, the car fell off the blocks and onto my grandchild’s blue-checkered dress.  In this dream, it would have been too awful for the car to fall on the leg of my grandchild, so the cart only landed on her dress and pinned her down.  My wife screamed.  I hollered to call 911, and then flexed my muscle and stood behind the car.  I bent my knees, placed both hands on the rear bumper and slowly picked up the whole car with my own muscle and power.  Superman.  I didn’t know I had such strength inside of me, and therein lays a tale.

It is with these three dreams that we attempt to listen to the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians when he writes that he wants us to know about this immeasurable power of God that lives inside us who believe.  Paul wants us to know about what we don’t fully comprehend, that we don’t know about this enormous power inside, within our spirits.  Paul wants us to have this power to grasp the length and width, the height and depth of the love of God.  Paul wants us to know that God’s power within us can do more with our lives than we can ever imagine, think or ask.  And there is something about us as human beings that we don’t quite get it; we don’t quite grasp the power within.

It’s time for a story, the story about Ollie the Oyster.  It is an old story that is like a weathervane for me on the top a house in rural North Dakota.  This old weathervane points in the right direction, and this story about Ollie the Oyster has always pointed me in the right direction.  Ollie the Oyster was swimming along one day in the ocean and he was having a wonderful time, with the sun out and weather warm.  He was cruising along at the bottom of the ocean happily and joyfully when suddenly, a piece of sand, a piece of ocean grit, got into his skin.  Ohhh, what pain.  That piece of sand hurt so much.  Ollie didn’t necessarily do anything wrong to get that sand in his life; it just happened.  But ohhh, how it hurt!  And so Ollie the Oyster cried.  How he cried!  He cried and cried and cried, tears and tears and tears, so much so that the ocean slowly rose over the days, weeks and months and years.  After he had cried for two or three years, Ollie stopped and…and…the sand was still there,  causing him pain.  What to do?  So Ollie the Oyster started to cuss.  He used every cuss word that he learned in grades school and junior high school.  He cussed and cussed and cussed, so much so that a plume of blue smoke came up from the ocean where he lived. When Ollie the Oyster was finished cussing, he stopped….and…and…the sand was still there in his side, causing him immense pain.  So Ollie the Oyster started to pretend.  He would pretend that the piece of sand was not in his side. He pretended and pretended and pretended.  He repressed and repressed and repressed.  When after all those months and years of repression had passed, he woke up to reality enough to realize the sand was still there, causing him pain.  What to do?  And slowly, ever so slowly, it began to dawn on Ollie the Oyster.  Slowly, o so slowly, he remembered that he had a special power within, and so he grunted and groaned and groveled and slowly an excretion of gooey oil came out and surrounded the piece of sand, insulating the sand and the pain went away.  What a miracle!  The pain was gone.  And ever so slowly, over time, that gooey substance began to harden around the grain of sand, and in time, it became a pearl.  Yes, a pearl, for that is the way that pearls are made.

That story of Ollie the Oyster is true for me.  That is, we has human beings are forever trying to escape the sand in our lives, the painful and piercing grains of sand which causes so many tears and headaches within.  We cry and the pain is still there.  We cuss and the pain is still there.  We repress and the pain is still there.  We try all the tricks of the human trade and none of them work.  But slowly and surely, we discover that we, like the oyster, have a miraculous power within us.  That Inner Power goes to work and slowly the pain is transformed into a pearl, the piercing problem is transformed into a healing.  And over time, many of my friends and personal acquaintances had developed pearl earrings and pearl necklaces and pearl bracelets.  Many, many of my friends have tapped into this Inner Spiritual Power and now they have jewels, valuable jewels in their possession.

Lorraine Hendricks is an example for me, a weathervane.  She is now living in a new retirement home, thanks to her friends at church, Jan Dann and Lavonne Sorenson who look after her.  In Lorraine’s younger years, I remember that she was a hunchback, to use a politically incorrect phrase, and every time I met Lorraine, she seemed to have another inch cut from his spinal cord and she became shorter and shorter.  She has suffered as much as anyone in our parish, but you wouldn’t know it. Not because of repression, but because he wears pearl earrings, necklaces and bracelets.  So much of the pain in her life has become transformed into jewels of beauty.  And this is not pious rhetoric for a sermon.

Most of us have learned that we as human beings consist of three parts:  1) mind, 2) body and 3) spirit.  We have also learned that we use very little of our minds and cranial capacity; that we use only about six percent of our brains.  What would happen to us if we ever learned to use nine or ten percent of our cranial capacity?  Who knows what human beings would accomplish?  … We also realize that we human beings have bodies; we have muscles and skin and tissues and bones.  But most often, we don’t realize the wonderful capacities of the human body; that we use so little of our body potential.  For example, the other night, Jan and I attended the Cirque de Sol in Seattle.  Cirque de Sol is a gymnastics group from Montreal, Canada, and we witnessed the human body do all kinds of things we didn’t think the human body was capable of.  We saw men and women climb ropes with their hands and not legs, with their bodies stretched strait out from the ropes, and their muscular arms and bodies climbed the ropes perpendicular to those ropes.  How could the human body do such a thing?  We saw a woman juggler with the greatest eye/hand coordination that I have ever seen; she could juggle seven balls so fast that the balls were a blur.  The point is:  we as human beings barely tap the potential within the human body, and we had to go to Cirque de Sol to be reminded of the capacities of coordination of the human body.  … The third part of a human being is spirit.  Human beings consist of mind, body and spirit, and I would like to suggest to you that we don’t realize the potential, the immense potential, the enormous potential of the human spirit when God lives in our spirits and expands our spirits.  I would like to suggest to you that the greatness of the human being comes, not from mind nor from body, but from our spirits.  The greatest of human beings have great spirits inside of them, enlarged and expanded by the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and this is where human greatness is to be found. There is an Inner Spiritual Power in us that we often don’t touch, that we often don’t tap into. 

What is this inner spiritual power within us?  The authors of the Bible suggest that the inner Spiritual power is God living inside of us, inside of our spirits.  The Bible, God and Jesus give us our core values, our solid principles, our moral and spiritual compasses within.  But the Power inside of us is more than values, principles and compasses.  The Power inside of us is God.  The authors of the Bible clearly understood this.  Paul writes:  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; not I but Christ who lives in me.”  Christ lives in us;  not only the principles and values of Christ.  Luke writes:  “When the Holy Spirit comes, you shall receive power to be my witnesses.”  Inside of us, is the Power of God, not simply good evangelism principles. John writes “Christ shall dwell in us always.”  Christ lives in us.  Paul, Luke and John have experienced this inner Power of God living inside of them, and that is why they write to us, that we too would experience and know and grasp the immeasurable greatness of God’s power inside of us, whereby we can do much more than we ever imagined, thought or asked. 

So, preacher, why don’t you give us some examples of this Inner Godly Power in people’s lives?  I will.  I will tell you stories of people who have this inner Jesus power.

As I have thought about this, and I have concluded that there are at least three consequences of God’s inner power:  l) The power to do the dreams.  A lot of people dream, but God’s inner spirit gives you power to do the dreams.  2) The power to carry momentous burdens in life.  Jesus talks about the power to move mountains and this is an Aramaic colloquialism for carrying momentous burdens. 3) The power to do far more than you thought you ever thought, imagined or asked.   These three powers, the power to do the dream, the power to carry momentous burdens and the power do more with your life than you ever imagined, will be woven into the following contemporary stories from my life. 

As most of you know, I have the privilege of sitting on the Board of Lutheran World Relief, now headquartered in Baltimore. I will first tell you three stories from LWR and then I will tell you stories from our congregation.  The first illustration of this principle of God’s great power living within us is of the Aroele family, Raj and Marjorie.  The Aroeles are both graduates of medical school from John Hopkins University, but rather than using their education to become enormously rich, they began to train untouchable women in India to become rural nurses aids and administer drugs and give medical advice.  The Aroeles transformed hundreds of thousands of square miles of India with their trained women.  And it was not their minds; it was not their bodies; it was their spirits, the Spirit of God living inside of their spirits and expanding their spirits with the Holy Spirit.  That’s why the Aroeles did what they did.  God used their lives so much more than they ever thought or imagined or asked God. They did their dreams.   When Marj died of cancer recently, I would suspect that they learned of another facet of that Great Power within, the power to carry momentous grief. 

A second story.  I visited Sister Mary in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.  In my childhood, I visited the slums of Cicero, Illinois, but these Nairobi slums were far, far worse.  There in those slums of Nairobi, I saw Sister Mary and her vocational school.  I had never seen such large, broad smiles as the smiles of her students, and she was working miracle after miracle as these students graduated from vocational school and received their certificates of graduation in carpentry.  It wasn’t her mind and it wasn’t her body, but what made Sister Mary great was her spirit, the Spirit of God living inside of her spirit.  It was incredible what she was doing, far more than she ever imagined, thought or asked for. 

Third story.  Linda and Bob Jacobson in Arusha, Tanzania.  60,000 people visit their hospital each year, and the Jacobsons provide top-notch medical resources for each of these 60,000 people at only a dollar a visit, paid by the self-respecting patients.  Wow.  It wasn’t their mind and it wasn’t their body, but it was their inner spirit that made the Jacobsons great.  It was the Spirit of God living inside their spirits and expanding their spirits, and they were doing far more than they ever thought, imagined or asked for. 

But these are stories from other continents and time zones. How about illustrations of people inside our congregation who have God’s power living within them whereby they do their dreams, carry momentous burdens and do far more than they ever imagined, thought or asked. 

How about the story of Gary and Mary McLaughlin?  The McLaughlins, soon to be retired, will be our missionaries to Haiti. Gary and Marilyn were both divorced; then remarried each other with George and Suzie Eims being their witnesses; and then gradually became involved in Bible studies and mission trips to Haiti. About the time that many people are pondering what to do in their retirement to avoid boredom, the McLaughlins are training for and going to Haiti as lay-missionaries.  Who would have guessed that God would give them the power to do their dreams, that God would be able to do with their lives far more than they ever thought, imagined or asked.

Or the story of Al and Marilyn Lamb who are both infected with cancer.  Al gets skinnier and skinnier; we all worry when he loses weight and celebrate when he puts on weight.  The other day, I was speaking with Marilyn and she couldn’t sleep one night and so she worked on her computer and the Internet until five in the morning, having a grand time researching many families.  She was so filled with life.  Al and Marilyn never quit!  They never quit!  In the midst of their cancer and whoever knows how long they or we shall live, they never give up.  The Lambs are doing this dance of life, not because of their brains nor because of their bodies, but because of the Inner Spirit of God who empowers their lives, living inside of them not merely as principles or values but as God’s real inner presence. God is able to do more with their lives than they ever imagined, thought or asked, even when they are seriously sick.

Or the story of Bob and Ruth Stoll.  On this past Friday, we had a memorial service here at church for the son of Bob and Ruth Stoll. I sat in the back pews and heard all the stories of their son, Neil, who died prematurely of cancer at the age of 47, having been married 23 years.  My mind then flashed to my old friend here at Grace Lutheran, Ray Osterloh, who similarly died of cancer at age 47 after 23 years of marriage. The loss of a child for Bob and Ruth Stoll is immeasurable.  Those of us who haven’t lost of child try to understand their feelings but can never do so.  The Stolls are here today, not because of their brains and not because of their bodies, but because of their spirits, and it is the Spirit of God living inside of their spirits that help them to carry momentous burdens, and their lives inspire us in how they handle their grief. 

Or the story of Martha Higginbothum. Martha has had a stroke recently at the age of 85, and she is in Highline Hospital.  Her head was tilted up after the stroke but she could understand me and me her.  I told her how fortunate she was that she had survived all these previous bouts with death. She agreed.   I told her how fortunate she was that she was surrounded by such a family of love.  She agreed.  I told her how fortunate she was that she was living on borrowed time and was still alive.  Martha then communicated to me “I really like living on borrowed time, and I wish to be granted to live on more borrowed time.”  The family and I laughed as Martha told us she wanted to live on more borrowed time, like us all. She then recited the Lord’s Prayer through her groggy words.   Martha is another one of these common and ordinary saints, these great saints, and her greatness is not because of her brains, not because of her body but the Spirit of God inside of her, that Spirit of God who gives her power for living and dying.

In a dream, I was sitting at the light on Highway 99 the other day.  A red Porsche wanted to race my little VW bug.  The wheels spun and the rubber was left on the road and there was a cloud of blue smoke on the road as his young chick asked:  What is that power underneath that hood?  Her question remains:  What is that Power, that Spiritual Power that lies hidden within your life and mine?  Amen.

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