Read Ephesians 1:11-23, Habakkuk 1:1-4,2:1-4 here.
Last week while I was on vacation, my husband Rob and I went on a day trip to see some of the important sights of Central Kansas.
We visited the Garden of Eden, and
the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
Google maps is wonderful at showing what other sights are nearby, and so along the way we thought we’d stop by the geodetic center of the United States. Not to be confused with the geographic center, like in the play “Leaving Iowa,” but the geodetic center. I should have googled more about it before we decided to stop there, but I trusted that any sight worth getting a map point on Google would also have information when we got there about what it was. A marker or a sign board or something. And so we followed the map with high hopes for learning more.
And then the pavement ended. Rob said, “Are you sure this is right?” I said, “Yes, this is what the map says.” After several miles on this dirt road in the middle of nowhere, Rob asked again. “Is this really getting us anywhere?” “It’s what the map says. Just a few more miles.”
And eventually we got to the target destination where then Google said something unexpected – that we needed to get out of the car and walk the remaining half mile. But there were no signs, no buildings, and no break in the barbed-wire fence on both sides of the road.
I do usually look on the internet for more information before we go somewhere, and if I had done that with the geodetic center, I would have found this note at the very end of the page on the internet. It says, “Know Before You Go,”: “The historical sign and replica marker are located along a side road off W 80th Drive, across the street from Crossroads Inn. [That’s not where GPS took us.] The actual location of the datum marker is on private property at Meades Ranch some 18 miles away. [That’s where we were.} It is not open to the public, but you could try contacting the current owner of the ranch to schedule a visit.”  […which of course we hadn’t.]
In our quest for the geodetic center of the United States, we had set off on a bit of a whim, and we didn’t find what we’d thought we’d find, but we set off with hope that goes beyond finding a landmark on a map or getting back to pavement. We hoped to learn something or experience something, and we did. But it was really more about getting out and doing something together to enjoy our time off, to enjoy spending time together, and to enjoy this wonderful world that God has given us. It was about the journey as much as it was about the destination.
Today we’re continuing our sermon series about what disciples do. Disciples are about both the journey and the destination because disciples believe in the resurrection. Our reading from Ephesians reminds us of that and helps us to consider how God’s plan of salvation impacts our human experience – how we are called to hope.
We are called to a hope that trusts God for the future so that we can fully live by faith in today.
We profess this hope in the Apostle’s Creed when we say we believe “…in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
We believe in the resurrection because Jesus was resurrected. God raised him from the dead (v20), and it’s because of the resurrection that we’re worshipping here today. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, nobody would have paid so much attention to how he was born or the things he said and did. But it’s more than just something to know and believe in. The resurrection impacts how we live.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us how this happens in verse 13: “…you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” We heard and believed, and then received the Holy Spirit as the “pledge of our inheritance.” That inheritance is salvation and the resurrection of the body. The Message version makes it even clearer that receiving the Holy Spirit is an important beginning, and important part of our journey:
This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life. (Eph 1:14)
We’re on a journey with God, and the Holy Spirit goes with us to help us get the most out of the journey, as we look forward to our ultimate destination, eternity with God.
Paul prays that “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.” (Eph 1:18)
Who are the saints? Today we are celebrating All Saints Day. The actual day is always Nov 1, which was Friday, but since we weren’t here on Friday, we’re celebrating today. You may be wondering why we’re celebrating saints. We’re not Catholic or Anglican. In our tradition, we don’t pray to the saints or have special holidays for the individual saints because we believe we’re all saints.
Paul begins the letter to the Ephesians with the greeting “To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:1) The Greek word for saint is hagios, which means holy ones. We are the holy ones because through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made holy. Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We are the righteous ones. The holy ones. The saints. Did you know that you are a saint? It doesn’t mean we have it all together, it means that through Christ, God sees us as holy and on the journey with Jesus.
All who trust in Jesus are saints, and so we give thanks today for all the saints who have already received their eternal reward, those who have died and are with Jesus in eternity.
What do saints do? Saints believe in the resurrection – we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that we too will have eternal life. This is the hope to which we are called, and this is the hope in which we are to live – hope that influences how we live – how we pray, and what we do.
We pray knowing that we are trusting in God’s resurrection power. Paul says in verse 19 that he wants us to keep remembering “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe,” reminding us that this is resurrection power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Trusting in this power influences how we pray and also what we do. It helps us to live by faith, with our eyes on Jesus.
When Rob and I went exploring last week, if we’d made it to the geodetic center, this marker is what we would have found. A bronze plate embedded in a block of cement. What we learned when we finally did our research about the geodetic center of the United States is that “from 1901 to 1989, it was the reference location relative to which all locations in the United States were measured, and from 1913 to 1989, it was the reference location for all surveys in the continent.” Geodesy, we discovered, is the science of measuring and monitoring the size and shape of the Earth and the location of points on its surface. Before satellites and GPS were developed, the geodetic center was the fixed point they used for mapping the US.
We too have a fixed point. When Paul prays for the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened, and for us to have spiritual wisdom, he’s praying that we will keep our eyes on our fixed point, Jesus, because It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we’re living for (Eph 1:11-12 MSG)
Because life is like a map of the United States sometimes. We can look on a map and see where the lines and points are, but when we actually go to those places, there are no lines. Sometimes there are signs or markers that tell us where we are, but not always. The same is true for life, and that’s why we need to keep on praying, and live by faith, seeing with the eyes of our hearts.
So we pray – knowing that though things aren’t the way they ought to be, though we aren’t the way we ought to be, or how we’d like things to be, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in us and through us in our prayers. We “Set our hope in Christ” (Eph 1:12)
And that guides what we do – not giving up on situations or people that seem hopeless, but asking God to open the eyes of our hearts to see the possibilities and to trust in God’s power to help us keep living by faith like Habakkuk.
Habakkuk is a prophet who lived in the time before Israel was invaded and carried off to exile in Babylon. Habakkuk is frustrated and calling out to God about the all the suffering and injustice he sees around him. God has given him a vision of the invasion that’s coming from Babylon, and Habakkuk is dismayed at this vision. He doesn’t like this solution. So he argues with God about it. And he doesn’t stop there. Habakkuk expects an answer, and so he climbs a watchtower to watch and wait for God to respond. He’s in the midst of great turmoil, but he has not lost hope, and his hope is well placed, because his hope is in God. God tells Habakkuk he’s doing the right thing. He says, “the righteous will live by their faith.” (Hab 2:4)
Though Habakkuk has argued with God, and though things aren’t the way he wants them to be, he still praises God:
Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. (3.17-19)
Because of the resurrection, because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we’re being guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. We’re all on a journey in which we’re in the process of becoming all that God has called us to be. We give thanks for all the saints who’ve gone before us, and we praise God for the fellowship we share with Christ and with one another.
 Ralph P. Martin, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991), p19.