“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 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 being rooted and grounded in love. 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 the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSV)
The Apostle Paul wrote these words while he was in prison to the house gatherings (not a church like we imagine it) in Ephesus. Ephesus was a multi-cultural important trading port and crossroad of the world in the day. The entire letter is a message on how followers of Jesus should order their lives, relating to all family members, those who are different, and he writes it into a culturally chaotic, temptation-laden environment in which his implied purpose is to instruct and encourage Ephesian believers in their calling to unity as the Body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, and in their growing in Christian maturity.
It is as though Paul is saying, Yes, you are in fact individuals with your own individual strengths, weaknesses, preferences and gifts – BUT these individual attributes are to be subservient to the collective Body of Christ, that is, to the community living in harmony and unity in Christ. It is not to be the other way around, where the Church exists as a place to build, house and showcase “me, myself & I.”
My friends in the Pilgrim Church family, I only wish that I was as eloquent as Paul as I write to you for this last time. It has been both my privilege and perhaps one of the most challenging opportunities to serve as your supply preacher for the past six months. I know, it was only supposed to be for two weeks, but God had plans that none of us could have ever imagined. To lead worship remotely, recording as I often did from the butterfly pavilion and other locations in the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, was a once-in-a-career experience (I hope!).
We have all survived, we have all been changed, and we have all experienced loss of fellowship in communal worship, frustration of unfulfilled plans, even depression, not knowing the course of this virus that has touched the world. Despite all the angst, Pilgrim will be embracing a new Senior Pastor just around the corner. You will be blessed by the ministry of Pastor John and enlivened by Cathy and Charlie. They are wonderful people. I know you will welcome his leadership and his faithfulness with joy, hope and promise.
I selected the segment of the Ephesian letters, not just because I’ve been privileged to walk the streets of the city, imagining myself to be in the footsteps of Paul. I selected it because of the final verses: “to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.” Nothing is more important to the local congregation, to Pilgrim Church, than to be reminded at all times, but even more so at the advent of a new pastor’s arrival, that God has called you and equipped you to do even more than you “can ask or imagine,” to share the love of God through Jesus to one another and to the community. I have seen it in your past, and I can see it in your future.
I close with my deepest thanks to every one of you, and the congregation’s leaders, especially Don Anderson, as well as my colleagues for these past months, Pastor Ken Ewing and Cat Foster. My thoughts end with the memory of the theme of the 2011 UCC General Synod held in Tampa, which always reminds me, “Imagine What’s Possible!” Keep Imagining, Pilgrim people!
Blessings to you all and may God’s Spirit touch you always, Rev. Bill Klossner