Preached FCCW, July 29, 2018
There are times when the Bible sounds like an episode of This Old House or The New Yankee Workshop. At least three major construction projects are described in the Old Testament, with painstaking detail.
In the Book of Genesis, you find God’s instructions to Noah for the building of the Ark. Blueprints for Solomon’s Temple are in 1 Kings. And it takes a full 13 chapters of the Book of Exodus to lay out cubit by cubit plans for constructing the Tabernacle.
If they made an Audible version of those Biblical texts it would definitely be Bob Vila or Norm Abram doing the narration.
And, whether you were Noah putting together a boat to survive a global flood or if you were Solomon or Moses building a structure for God to call home, the do-it-yourselfers’ mantra of “measure twice, cut once” must have played continuously in the back of your mind.
“Measure twice, cut once” is a prudent reminder that one should always double check one’s measurements before cutting materials, to minimize the chance of mistakes leading to a wasting of resources, time and money.
But the “measure twice, cut once” principle can be applied to many facets of life and to more significant decisions than where to saw a piece of wood.
Maybe that’s why there’s a hint of “measure twice, cut once” in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.
While Paul didn’t publish any home improvement manuals, that we know of, he did write more than anybody else in the New Testament about what goes into an improved relationship with God.
In the first couple of chapters of Ephesians, Paul describes how Jesus had demolished the walls that divide people, and through grace had made it possible for all humankind to be reconciled with God and united with one another as one family.
Then, halfway through Ephesians Paul pauses to pray for those who were reading his words.
His prayer is that they, which also means we, will embrace the new life that is available to us in Jesus.
A life that is rooted and grounded in love.
He says, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend the breadth, and length and height and depth” of the love Christ has for you.
Friends, there is not a tape measure known to man that can calculate those dimensions for you.
There is not an imagination on earth expansive enough to comprehend what the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love would be.
Paul himself admits that even if you could take these measurements, in the end the only thing they would tell you about Christ’s love is that it surpasses all knowing.
In the Bible though, there are different kinds of knowing and different forms of knowledge.
There are measurable facts we can know about a person.
Like the measurements of height and weight; or the measurements of waistline, the length of arms and legs that it takes for a tailor to produce a suit to fit.
But the Bible also describes knowing in the sense of sharing an intimate relationship or friendship with another person.
That is a kind of knowing that surpasses a knowledge based on numbers.
Which is why Paul’s prayer in Ephesians is for us to be strengthened in our “inner being.”
For it is here that the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love, which defies measurement, miraculously is able to dwell in our hearts and fills us with the fullness of God.
Paul names the moment when we have measured the love we experience in a relationship to God and are ready to trust in Christ’s love with all our heart.
The name he gives to the act of making a clean cut with our “what has been,” in order that we may give our “what will be,” to Christ, is faith.
Baptism is, in a way, a “measure twice, cut once” event. Where we dsicard our inaccurate measurements of what in life is of utmost significance and see with a clarity of precision what truly matters.
Like that moment of faith when the carpenter puts saw to wood, or the tailor commits scissors to fabric, Baptism is a decision to commit to a life shaped by a relationship to God.
Maybe we’ve measured life twice or maybe we’ve measured it a hundred different ways and with each of those cuts discovered that what we had put our faith in came up short and left us unfulfilled.
Or, that a cut made in the wrong place turned out to be too long and we wasted too much time and energy stubbornly trying to force something to fit that wouldn’t.
Baptism is the moment when no matter how many inaccurate measurements we’ve made of life, and no matter how many cuts we’ve made and come to regret, we are ready to say out loud that, “though I can’t measure the dimensions of Christ’s love, I am ready to put my faith in that love, trusting that there is more there than I can ever ask or imagine.”
While a church full of people who witness your baptism will celebrate with you because they too have followed a similar path to the Baptismal font and understand what it takes to get there.
And promise to walk with you, as we all explore the dimensions of Christ’s love, together.
Which is what Paul might’ve alluded to, when he prayed for believers to have the power to “comprehend with all the saints” the length, breadth, height and depth of Christ’s love.
Copyright 2018 Raymond Medeiros