We all have someone in our lives who has brought us a little closer to God. Maybe it was an outstanding preacher, who opened up a connection between your everyday life and Holy Scripture. Maybe it was a friend who always could see God moving in the midst of everyday events. Maybe it was a public figure who seemed to live the life of faith in ways we can only dream to do. For me, it was my Old Testament professor in seminary. To be honest, I never really liked the Old Testament; I found it to be full of violence, an unfamiliar God, or even just books that were hard or cumbersome to read. But then I had this professor, who seemed to come alive with every word in the Old Testament. She overflowed with passion, joy, insight, and light. She opened up the Hebrew text in ways I had never understood and made me fall in love with a set of books I had written off as irrelevant.
In some ways, Phillips Brooks, who we honor today, offered that same insight to others of his time. Born in 1835, Brooks served as a priest in Philadelphia and Boston. He was a dynamic preacher – in fact, he is often called the greatest preacher of the century. Though his sermons are engaging to read, many say they don’t capture the warmth and vitality of his delivery – in fact, many say that he spoke to his audience as a person might speak to a friend. Brooks inspired men to enter the ministry, and was able to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike. In 1891, he was elected bishop of Massachusetts. His personality and preaching, along with his deep devotion and loyalty, gave that diocese the spiritual leadership they needed.
The joy for God that Brooks seemed to have sounds a lot like Paul in our epistle lesson today. Paul says, “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.” What Paul wanted for the Ephesians is the same thing that Brooks wanted for the people of Massachusetts and my seminary professor wanted for that community – a taste of the love, grace, and abundance that can be found in our God.
Perhaps you already know this experience of God. But if you are looking to reconnect with that experience or find that kind of experience with God for the first time, I invite you to take a look at the people God has already placed around you. One of them, maybe even a stranger for now, is present already to show you the enormity of love that comes from the Lord our God. Amen.