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Weekly Sermon of
Dave Johnson

It is a joy and honor to worship and serve with all of you here at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

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Episcopal Church of the Resurrection

“Rooted and Grounded in Love” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
July 25, 2021

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


On a perfect spring day when I was in fifth grade, a couple friends and I were cutting up over lunch in the noisy cafeteria when we came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea—to build a fort, not just any fort, but an awesome fort. We decided on a great location—the top of the hill behind my friend John’s house, on the edge of the woods that bordered their backyard. Where would we gather the wood? Easy. From the scrap piles at the local new subdivision that was being constructed next to our neighborhood. How about the tools and nails? Also, easy—from our parents, without their permission, obviously.


After school we rushed home and began. That afternoon we managed to acquire and drag back lots of scrap plywood, along with various sections of 2 x 4’s, and with some shingles and even a doorknob. The next day after school we assembled the “frame” and then nailed the plywood to the sides. The day after that we nailed shingles to the roof, put hinges on the front door, and even put on the doorknob. We were so psyched about our amazing fort!


But you had to be careful when you entered our fort—because we used really long nails on the shingles, so they were protruding from the ceiling, which was already not quite high enough for us to stand. So we agreed to wear football helmets while inside our fort, because “safety first.” We had “borrowed” some old webbed lawn chairs, but the webbing was rotting so sometimes you just fall through the chair onto the ground, but at least you had your football helmet on.


That Friday at lunch we made our plans to spend that whole weekend in our awesome fort—playing cards, eating snacks, talking about the girls we had crushes on, drinking way too much Kool-Aid. But there was a horrific spring thunderstorm that afternoon. After the storm passed, we gathered at our fort—football helmets and Bicycle playing cards and snacks and a Tupperware pitcher of Kool-Aid on hand…only to discover our fort had been leveled by the storm. It had folded and crumpled over sideways into the dirt. Why? Well, our “amazing fort” had no foundation; it was rooted and grounded on nothing.

I wish that was the one and only time in my life where I experienced something falling apart from some kind of storm because it was rooted and grounded on nothing—but that has not been the case. Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever had plans for some kind of “amazing fort”—a career or a relationship or a business venture or a family vacation—and some storm that you did not see coming levels it and you learn that it was rooted and grounded on nothing?


Along these lines, Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount with this familiar parable:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell—and great was its fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
There was no avoiding the storms; storms hit both houses…but the house that withstood the storm was rooted on and grounded on a good foundation of rock; the house that fell was rooted and grounded on sand, which like our awesome fort was a good as being rooted and grounded on nothing.


In today’s passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians there is a very clear and powerful phrase about the greatest foundation of all, a foundation that can withstand any storm, anytime, anywhere. Paul writes:
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, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:16-17).


“Rooted and grounded in love”—some English translations render this phrase as “strong in love and built on love” (NCV) or “rooted and established in love” (NIV). In fact, the Greek word Jesus used in describing the house “founded on rock” is the same word used by Paul in living lives “grounded in love.” “Rooted and grounded in love”—Paul is writing about God’s love here—God’s unconditional,
eternal, all-encompassing love—God’s immeasurable love he further describes this way:
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 that love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19).


The classic British novel Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte is a beautifully written story about an orphan and the various storms in her life. While at the altar to marry her beloved, Mr. Rochester, the wedding is halted by the revelation that he was already married to a woman who suffered from insanity and had been institutionalized. Jane is devastated beyond words and sets out to begin her life anew. Completely overwhelmed, she begins walking across a vast heath, as Bronte writes, “What was I to do? Where to go? Oh, intolerable questions, when I could do nothing and go nowhere!” She is unable to sleep, “My rest might have been blissful enough, only a sad heart broke it. It plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven chords.”

 

What does Jane Eyre do? Bronte continues:
Worn out with this torture of thought, I rose to my knees. Night was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester. Looking up, I saw with tear-dimmed eyes, saw the mighty Milky Way. Remembering what it was—what countless systems there swept space like a soft trace of light—I felt the might and strength of God. Sure was I of his sufficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish, nor one of the souls it treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Savior of Spirits.
In the immeasurable vastness of that night sky Jane Eyre—her heart broken, the awesome fort of her love for Mr. Rochester leveled by a storm she had not caused—experienced anew the reality of the immeasurable love of God, “the breadth and length and height and depth” of “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Jane Eyre moved forward in her life because it was “rooted and grounded in love”—not the fickle love of people but the faithful love of God.


What about you today? Is there an area of your life that has been leveled by a storm that wasn’t even your fault, but has revealed that perhaps the foundation of the “awesome forts” in your life was not the rock of God’s love, but rather rooted and grounded on nothing?


That is exactly where the gospel of the immeasurable love of God in Jesus Christ meets you. When circumstances have somehow left you unable to sleep, and echoing Jane Eyre—"What am I to do? Where to go?”—and feeling like you can do nothing and go nowhere, that is when you learn that the good news of the gospel is that ultimately your life is in fact “rooted and grounded in love”—rooted and grounded in the immeasurable love of God, rooted and grounded in the faithful love of God.


Scripture assures us that Jesus Christ is indeed “the Source of Life” and “the Savior of Spirits”—that the One through whom the worlds were made, the One whose very word spread the entire Milky Way spanning millions of light years is the same One who is both present on the farthest star and closer than your skin.


Moreover, the same One who spread the stars across the heavens “on the grandest scale” spread his arms on the cross and gave his very life for you because he loves you that much. On the cross Jesus’ “sad heart broke” and “it plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven chords.” On the cross Jesus endured the most devastating storm of all and “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house” but it did not fall because Jesus’ life and death and resurrection are not only rooted and grounded in love; Jesus Himself is love.


Jesus died and was raised for you so that as Paul wrote you could “know that love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” so you could begin to glimpse the reality of “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s immeasurable love, so you could receive that love of God “on the grandest scale.”
And when that happens, like Jane Eyre, your prayer is turned into thanksgiving, and like Jane Eyre, you too can move forward in your life, “rooted and grounded in love.”

Amen.

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