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The Morning After

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God* put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead. — Ephesians 1:17-20

So what? Those are the two words a wise seminary professor told me I should write at the end of every one of my sermons – “So what?” What does this sermon mean for everyone come Monday morning? What is its practical import for our lives?

At the end of every Easter sermon that has ever been preached we all would do well to ask, “So what?” After all the high rhetoric and celebration of Easter Sunday, “So what?” What does it mean for us with bills piling up, chronic pain to endure, teenage children who are straying, and hopelessness setting in? So what?

The ever practical, Apostle Paul, is answering the “So what?” of all our Easter celebrations in today’s text. And notice that Paul is not praying for more power for believers, but he is praying that believers might know and tap into the incomparable power that we already have:

…so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

Paul points out that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is now available to every believer. This is a power that is nothing less than God’s resurrection power to raise us to a new dimension of living.

With the development of the steam engine in the early nineteenth century, a way was needed to define and describe the new steam engine’s power. They decided to describe that power by comparing the output of draft horses to that of the engines that would replace them. Hence today, we speak of “horsepower” in describing the power of piston engines, turbines, electric motors, and other machinery.

The Apostles thought and lived in terms of “resurrection power”. They went everywhere preaching resurrection power, telling how the same supernatural power that raised Jesus is available to every Christian for the challenges and opportunities of each day.

The American minister Phillips Brooks, and author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” (1835-1893_ wrote about this resurrection power in the Christian: “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection.”

The “So what?” then, of Easter is that there is this possibility of new life for us now. The resurrection power that raised Jesus is not something that awaits us after death, but is available to us today.

This resurrection power is for the widow whose husband died too young. It is power for the man meandering through midlife and job loss. It is for all those who are afraid to ever hope again. God is a God of resurrection power and new life. The gospel message is not just that Jesus rose from the dead in A. D. 32, but the message is that Jesus lives today in us!

When four Franciscan nuns were killed in a shipwreck, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in their memory the poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” In the poem Hopkins invites people in the midst of trouble and tragedy to come to Christ: “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

What splendid words! I think Hopkins’ words are much like Paul’s prayer. Let Christ Easter in us! Let Easter happen to us, right where we live. Let the transforming reality of Jesus’ life get into us, permeate our lives, and be ‘the dayspring of the dimness of us’.

In Water from Rock’s 2011 Lenten Devotional, “Lift High the Cross,” I suggested in each day’s reading that we take a few moments for Soaking in Scripture. Paul’s rich scripture text today calls for some soaking time. I invite you to take just a couple of moments and let yourself soak in this great gospel text of Ephesians 1:17-20.

Here are the four steps of Soaking in Scripture:

  • Read the passage through slowly and prayerfully two or three times
  • Reflect or meditate on the words of the text
  • Respond to God’s word to you in the text by talking to him; asking for understanding; asking God to help you know the power in you; giving thanks, etc.
  • Rest a few moments in God’s presence! “Be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10).

Blessed Easter every day!

Tim Smith

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