Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rooted and Grounded

Here I am, back after an absence of two weeks, ready to resume a more consistent regimen of writing and posting. The biggest thing that worked against me the last two weeks was my employment. Last week I was in Nashville, TN, attending the conference of the IECA and presenting a paper there. The week before that had preparation for the conference. Other writing tasks had entered into that, as I had a book out on inter-library loan—research for a future book, which I'll write about on my other blog—and that took up a lot of evenings.

So here I am, on a Sunday morning, ready to post. It's a time when I would normally be in church, soon to finish the first service and go into life groups in the second hour, for fellowship and study. It's my week to teach. But I'm not there because of the storm we're having. I can't say a storm is raging outside The Dungeon windows, because the white stuff is barely coming down. But earlier we had sleet and/or ice. Yesterday the church decided to cancel life groups and just go with one service at 10:45 a.m. Anymore I really minimize driving in bad weather or bad roads, so I decided we wouldn't go in today if in fact the forecast storm occurred. Lynda didn't object, so here we are.

I arose at 8 this morning, took my blood sugar (it was good, a subject for a future post) and shot. I heated coffee from last night and settled in my reading chair. I decided to read Ephesians 3:14-21, which was the lesson for today. Then I read Ephesians from the beginning up through and including this passage. Since, knowing the storm was coming and we most certainly wouldn't be venturing out, I hadn't actually prepared a lesson, I decided to at least read in one of the commentary's on it. I chose Adam Clarke's commentary, two pages of 8 point font on this passage. Actually, I don't read in Clarke's actual commentary; I read Ralph Earle's abridgement of the commentary. One day perhaps I'll write about this.

From Clarke I picked up several things about the passage that I hadn't noticed on my own. This is Paul's prayer for the Ephesians: "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family  in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may...." Clarke pointed out that this prayer isn't so much an intercession as it is a prayer of dedication. Paul prays lofty things, the types of things you might pray when dedicating a church building. Clarke drew parallels between this prayer and that of King Solomon when he dedicated the temple.

Another thing Clarke mentioned, which I can't believe I missed on my own, is the double metaphor Paul uses: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love...." The King James version, which Clarke used, has "rooted and grounded in love." He says this double metaphor comes from agriculture and architecture. Rooted clearly refers to plants. The roots push down into the soil and hold the plant in place. This is a subject oft heard at the conference I attended last week, Environmental Connection 14, the annual conference of the International Erosion Control Association. Much has been said in recent years about the importance of vegetation in preventing erosion. Since my mind was on this subject already, I'm especially surprised the fact that this was an apt metaphor escaped me. Perhaps it was because I've read and thought about this passage so much over the years that I wasn't drilling down to the nuts and bolts of it. I was skimming, in a way.

Clarke says the grounded metaphor has to do with a building. A building is fixed to the ground, oriented, provided first with a foundation, then rises into a superstructure. Clearly the translators of the NIV thought established was a better word here than grounded. This destroys the building metaphor, but strengths the plant metaphor. A plant that is rooted is established. It is firm in its location, immovable, holding together the soil around it, interrupting the raindrops falling all around it, preventing them from impacting on the soil and dislodging individual soil particles. The roots prevent those raindrops from washing away soil particles from the root zone. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers might be like the plants: affecting their environment, holding things together, preventing that place from eroding. It is a great metaphor.

Clarke also pointed out a curious phrasing of Paul's: "And I pray that you...may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...." How can you know what surpasses knowledge? How can you know the unknowable? So what is Paul saying here? Perhaps that it is beyond human knowledge, but perhaps it is only known with special insight granted by God. Or maybe, as Clarke suggests, the know in this case has to do with acknowledgement. We know we can't really understand the love of God, and we acknowledge that and grasp what we can of it. This is something I will have to ponder more fully. It will be a good discussion point in life group.

Paul ends his prayer, before moving on to a section about living the Christian life in an unChristian world, with a doxology. "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, to him be flory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." A great ending to a great prayer. I shall have to read this again and again. And, I still have to read Matthew Henry's commentary on it. Though next week won't be mine to teach, I'll still be prepared at the substitute, and who knows what more I'll learn from the preparation.

Since I began writing this the storm has changed. Then it was light sleet, barely visible. Now it has changed over to snow, the light and fluffy kind, but heavier, clearly visible, drifting slightly from north to south in what appears to be a gentle wind. The temperature is around 15 degrees F. I don't know that I'll go out for my usual snow walk. But I know that this is fun to look at.

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