Holy Trinity image – Sybille Yates

 “The Ground of God”

A Sermon by The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft

Ephesians 3.14-21

In the name of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Amen

The highlight of this past week for me was most definitely handing in my last Ancient Greek exam, across the road at St Barnabas College. Not only was my head full to bursting with vocabulary and tables of grammar, I was also eager to finally complete my Bachelor of Theology after 8.5 years of part-time study. I left Ancient Greek until the last because it was the subject that I had feared the most. I was so surprised at how very interesting it was. Semester 2 intake is now open and I would encourage anyone who is interested either in study for credit or interest only to enquire.

One of my Ancient Greek assignments was a research paper and one of the tasks within that paper was to choose one word from a paragraph of scripture and study it. I’ve since started looking at scripture and wondering about certain words and the depth of meaning behind them. In tonight’s reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians I was instantly drawn to the word “grounded” in verse 17.

In Greek the word is “themelios” which means foundation, either of a building or of a community. Christ is our foundation and Paul’s prayer is that we be planted or grafted, if you like, into his foundation.

My favourite subject in my Bachelor of Theology was The Trinity. It was during that subject that I studied the work of 13th century Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart. I was no doubt drawn to the word “grounded” in tonight’s reading because it was Meister Eckhart’s master metaphor for how we are incorporated into the intra-divine life of the Trinity. The intra-divine life, or inner life of the Trinity can only exist because God is one but also three in one, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

For God to be three in one is so important for who God is. God is love and that love expresses itself in the community of the persons of the Trinity. God is complete in Godself.

It is in the outworking of that love that God creates, expressing God’s love in creation and in relationship with us. God needs nothing from us but by grace, incorporates us into the love in the Trinity. As such God loves us and yearns for communication with us. Some say that when we pray it is God who prays in us.

St Paul gives us a beautiful example of prayer in verses 16-19 of tonight’s letter to the Ephesians. It is an “artistically and symmetrically” arranged prayer. The words “being rooted and grounded in love” are at its very centre. Now my Greek is not very advanced but according to the NIV Commentary those words in the Greek are participles, but all the other verbs in the prayer are infinitives. That is, they denote a prayer for ongoing action of strengthening in our inner being, the ongoing indwelling of God in our hearts, the ever-increasing power to grasp and to keep learning that we are constantly filling with all the fullness of God. This is not just a prayer for a one-off event.

Paul is praying that we, the Church now, as it was in Ephesus, keep on being rooted and grounded in love by these means.

Meister Eckhart explained his ground metaphor with use of scriptures such as John 17.21 “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” Central to his theology was his Trinitarian understanding of every activity in nature which involves “three things – something generating, something generated, and the love of what generates for what is generated and vice versa.” His insight is that we may be conscious of God’s Trinitarian nature in all things: The Creator, creation and the love of each for the other. This translates in the Trinity as the Father who generates, the Son who is generated and the Holy Spirit who is the love between them.

When asked what does the Father do in heaven? Eckhart explained that the Father eternally creates, eternally gives birth to the Son and eternally gives birth to the Son in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to Eckhart it is by allowing the Father to give birth to the Son in us, that we are “rooted and grounded” in the communal love of the Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is by love that we are united with God and we may enter into the inner ground of God.

This is consistent with Paul’s letter to the Galations 2:20 “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” John 6:56 “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Also John 15:4-7 which talks of Christ as the vine and us as the branches.

It is by this ever-flowing creation that we are incorporated into the life of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are constantly at work in us. It is in this way that we are filled with all fulness. It is in this way that we are one with God.

The Son reveals the Father to us in history but also through the divine spark in us. As we allow God to be God in us, so we recognize others who do likewise. We recognize the light of Christ in others.

Another great thinker on the subject of God in us, was 19th Century British mystic, poet and novelist Evelyn Underhill whose feast day we celebrated yesterday. She described the work of God in us as a Profound Mystery. She wrote: “The leavening of yeast must have seemed to ancient [people] a profound mystery, and yet something on which they could always depend. Just so does the supernatural enter our natural life, working in the hiddenness, forcing the new life into every corner and making the dough expand.”

Paul’s prayer for us being rooted and grounded in love resonates with the writings of John Moses in his book “The Language of Love”.

He reminds us that love “is the power in which the divine life has been lived from before the foundation of the world. Love is the power in which the divine life gives itself to the world. Love is the power which loves its own and loves to the end. Love is the power by which the Son lays down His life for us. Love is the power from which nothing in all creation will be able to separate us.” (page xiv)

John Moses explains that it is “not we who pray but God who prays in us.” As we read Paul’s beautiful prayer in tonight’s reading, let us be mindful that it is God who prays these things in us. It is God who works in us, strengthening us in our inner being with power through his Spirit. It is Christ who dwells in our hearts as we are being rooted and grounded in love. It is through God at work in us that we 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. It is God who fills us with all God’s fullness.

It is God who invites us into the intra-divine ground of the Trinity. Amen.