Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Wide and How Long?

Giant Greek Salad . . . one of many food items 

 Three weeks ago, my friend, Phella (used the name Grace in talk), walked into my office and said, “Room 300 is 43 feet long and 31 feet wide. We can set up two serving tables for food, one table for drinks and seven tables with ten chairs each and there will still be a space large enough for Gary and Dona to stand and greet friends.” I looked up at her and said, “how tall are the ceilings?” Room 300 has a peaked roof - she thought for a second before answering, “I don’t know. Maybe the ceilings are 35 feet. Why?” I said, “listen to this passage of scripture from Ephesians – Chapter 3 verses 16-20.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Both of our eyes filled with tears. Room 300 is home to the John Wesley Sunday School class. Our class. We were measuring the room and setting up tables in order to host a luncheon following a memorial service. Jason, the son of our friends, Gary and Dona, was diagnosed with stage IV colo/rectal cancer 7 years ago. On July 5, 2013, at the young age of 40, Jason received his ultimate healing.

During those 7 years, we all saw what it means to be rooted and established in love and we also grasped just a glimpse of how wide and how long and how high and deep the love of Christ really is.

Did you know that the love of Christ might be as wide as the waiting room at UAB Hospital where Jason had many surgeries? Many class members sat with the family during those surgeries. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as long as the interstate to Chattanooga and back? Gary and Dona drove that interstate back and forth as many times as they needed to do so – no matter how tired they were. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as high as 100’s of prayers lifted on Jason’s behalf – asking God for healing. Jason was told that he had only a 25% chance of being alive 5 years from time of diagnosis and he lived 7 years. God heard those prayers. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as deep as a 9 X 13 casserole dish filled with poppy seed chicken?

All of these may seem small – sitting with a friend, driving back and forth, praying, cooking – but as St. Teresa of Avila wrote we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth - Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

When we are the hands and feet of Christ we show and experience just a tiny glimpse of how wide and how long and how high and how deep the love of Christ is . . ..but it is only a tiny glimpse because Christ is able to do so much more than we can even imagine.

Verse 20 of the scripture says - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine . . .immeasurably more. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Jason’s family graciously wanted to invite everyone who attended the memorial service to the luncheon. Those of us planning the luncheon emailed back and forth a few times and in the last email I shared these same verses of scripture with them and said, “It is going to be ok. God is going to do immeasurable things on Friday.”

On Friday morning before the service, the food started pouring in. We fed every single person that showed up. We sent a packed cooler of food home with the family. We sent trays of desserts to the hotel for a hospitality suite for the family’s out of town guests. We had enough food left over to serve a homeless ministry . . .and they even received pieces of yummy pie and cheesecake – a delicious treat for them. Immeasurable – no need to get out that big old tape measure . . .these things weren’t measurable – they were far greater.

I know from personal experience that the love of Christ is indeed wide and long and high and deep –much wider and higher and longer and deeper than room 300 . . .but on Friday, July 12, room 300 all 43 feet by 31 feet – certainly held an abundance of the love of Christ. Most amazingly of all . . . God is indeed able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine in and through us. On that day, a hard day by earthly standards – because Jason will be missed so very much – we were surrounded by a love like no other – a love that can heal all wounds – a love that knows our pain . . .God’s love is so wide and so long and so high and so deep . . . he can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine. Thanks be to God.

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