Trusting the Fullness of God – August 5, 2018
Trusting the Fullness of God (or What I Learned on My Summer Vacation)
A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
August 5, 2018
Main Idea – God’s grace is more than sufficient.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The Scripture text for today is a prayer from the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. It is a prayer for us as the church today as well. Its inspiring and encouraging words provide a foundation for our faith; “rooted and grounded in love” to quote the text. Paul gets down on his knees before the Creator of all that is, to pray that we all might be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit and that Christ might dwell in our hearts. He prays that we might have the power to comprehend, “what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God and “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”; that is to know not just with our heads but to experience the love of Christ with our whole beings. To know the love of Christ in this way is to “be filled with all the fullness of God.” Think about that image for a moment; “filled with all the fullness of God.”
Wow, This is to what we aspire, yes? To live our lives, completely rooted and grounded in the love of God, yes? No worries, just love, all the time. Sounds pretty nice! Now how do we live this out in our day to day existence? This is not easy in the midst of obligations, challenges, and distractions. When times are hard we do worry, we seek to control our circumstances, and we find that fear and inertia are powerful influences on our choices and behavior. Circumstances in our lives, or events on the national or world stage cause us to become discouraged and cynical. Sometimes we lash out at God or are disappointed with God when things don’t go the way we want. But behind all that distracts us, the love of God is active and ready for us to recognize and claim. To illustrate the struggle between being in control and trusting in the fullness of God, let me share some of the story of my summer vacation.
We spent weeks preparing for our trip, Mark deep cleaned the camper and made sure that it and the truck were in tiptop condition. We packed all that we needed and all that we might need and a bit extra just in case; clothing and food, of course, hiking boots, sleeping bags, rope, duct tape, s’more sticks, bungie cords, and so much more. We were prepared for every eventuality, we were in control and ready for anything.
This got us as far as Kansas. On the third night of the trip we camped at the Wakeeney, Kansas KOA where we watched a tremendous storm move across the prairie. The clouds and the lightening were beautiful and amazing. When the storm hit us, our popup was buffeted by winds which whipped and shook us so much that it felt like being in a boat or about to be picked up and blown to Oz. But the camper kept us safe and dry. Mark commented “This old camper is in great shape.”
The next morning dawned clear and beautiful. We hit the road, heading toward Colorado. But soon Mark noticed that one of the camper wheels was had smoke billowing out of it. We had to stop on the side of the highway. “Oh No!” we could have thought, “Our vacation is ruined!” Instead, we looked up and saw a blue sign away in the distance. I got out the binoculars and saw that a rest area was only one mile away so we very slowly drove to the rest area. Once there, we googled car repair and discovered a garage at an exit just one mile further on. We limped over to Grainfield, Kansas which seems to consist of a huge grain elevator, this one garage, and not much else. The mechanic took one look at the camper’s wheel and said “It looks like the axel is broken.” “Oh No!” we could have thought, “Our vacation is ruined!” Instead, we knew we were within a day’s drive to Denver where my best friend from college lives. I called her and asked if we could stay with her for a few days. “Of course! Of course! I’d love that!” she said. So we gathered our clothes and the kids’ sleeping bags and left the camper in Grainfield, hoping that it would be fixed in a few days and we could come back and pick it up.
We had a lovely weekend with my friend Liz, her daughter is Margaret’s age and we were so glad for this unexpected visit. On Monday, Mark called the garage. “I’m sorry”, the mechanic said, “We haven’t had time to look at it. We’ll try to get to it in the next few days and then we can order the parts. We can’t say when it will be ready.” “Oh No!” we could have thought “Our vacation is ruined!” Instead, Mark found an RV repair shop in Dodge City, Kansas and arranged to have the camper towed there. Liz graciously invited us to stay as long as we needed.
July 4th is Margaret’s birthday and we were happy to celebrate it with Liz and her daughter. They took us to a community pool where special activities were happening. The girls played in the pool. Liz and I chatted and Mark and Nicholas played basketball. Until, Mark limped over to our lawn chairs. He had stumbled and landed on the side of his left foot awkwardly. It was rapidly swelling and turning black and blue. “Oh No!” we could have thought, “Our vacation is ruined!” Instead we went back to Liz’s and Mark iced his foot.
The next day, he thought it was a bit better so we headed up to Snow Mountain Ranch in Danby Colorado for Indian/Nepali Heritage Camp. On the way we stopped at Target to picked up a tent and supplies. Tenting was not what we had planned but we knew that the camp would be fun regardless of where we slept. The first night it was very cold, our new air mattress was under-inflated, and none of us slept well. “Oh No!” we could have thought, “Our vacation is ruined!” But when we got to breakfast, another family had brought us blankets to use the next night and other families invited us to stay with them. Heritage Camp is a wonderful weekend for families who have adopted children from India or Nepal. It was a great gift to be among families constituted like ours.
On the last day of camp we received word that the camper was fixed so we all piled into the truck and headed back to Kansas. We stopped for the night at a Quality Inn in Colby, Kansas which bills itself as “The Oasis of the High Plains” (it even has fake palm trees!). We had a nice supper, the girls swam in the hotel pool and we all slept great.
The next day was very long, driving to Dodge City, getting the camper and then back to Colorado. Mark’s foot was not really improving, so the next day we drove to Boulder to an Urgent Care facility. They x-rayed Mark’s foot and gave us the bad news that he had broken the fifth metatarsal bone. He needed crutches and a boot and might require surgery. “Oh No!” we could have thought, “Our vacation is ruined!” Instead the nurse at Urgent Care made Mark an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon for the next day. When we met with him, he said that Mark could use the crutches and boot until we got home. Surgery, if needed, could wait until then.
So, with our camper and Mark’s crutches we headed out for the main part of our trip; the National Parks of Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Badlands. Mark was able to drive and the rest of us were able to set up the camper and do whatever was needed. We had wonderful weather and saw so many amazing and beautiful things. It was a wonderful vacation, one we will never forget. As a happy postscript, Mark saw his doctor on Friday who x-rayed his foot again and found the foot is healing well, no need for surgery.
As each challenge arose on the trip, we had a choice to give up and give in to despair or to trust that God was with us and that a way forward would reveal itself to us. We were able to see God in the people who helped us; in Liz, in the mechanic, in the family that shared their blankets. We were able to see God in the great beauty of our surroundings, and in the strength of our family working through these challenges together.
Jesus never promises us that challenges and difficulties will not occur. There is not a secret prayer or practice that will make all of our dreams come true or bends the world to our will. In fact, Scripture tells us that struggles are part of lives lived in faith. But we can know with certainty, know with our heads and with our hearts that God is with us in all circumstances. We are rooted and grounded in love. We can know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. We can be filled with the fullness of God.
As we prepare our hearts and minds for the Lord’s Supper, let us rest in the fullness of our God, “who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to [our God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (3:20-21)