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According to the Riches of his Glory
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Ephesians, chapter 1, tells us that this same power—the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead—this is the power at work within us, within deeply flawed people like us! God is able to do not only what we ask, but also what we imagine. God is able to do more than we ask or imagine. God is able to do FAR more than we ask or imagine. In fact God is able to do abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine. Paul piles up the superlatives in this great burst of enthusiasm for what God is able to do according to the riches of his glory. What God does is to put the power, the dunamis, the dynamite of the resurrection into the lives of ordinary people.

Click to view a larger imageIn one of Douglas Nelsonís sermons thereís an account of a Salvation Army Band playing out in the rain on a street corner. The incident happened maybe fifty years ago. The band was soaked and a little bedraggled, but they managed to toot and honk their way through a couple of hymns. But "one man didnít toot. He blared." His trombone blasted away, ruining the balance and harmony of the performance. This player was "a hulking tough, with a red, bloated face and a prizefighterís nose. Someone spoke to him afterward about his zest, and the man beamed." Then he lifted his trombone and said, "Listen, Mister. When I think what God has done for me I could blow this thing out straight!"

The incident reminds me that Charles Smith, former conductor of the Calvin Alumni Choir, had a general warning for conductors: "Never look at the trombones. It only encourages them!"

The great prayer of Ephesians 3 reaches for the heights and the depths with such grandeur that it comes as a shock to recall that the man who prays these words isn't a pope or a governor. Paul's a prisoner. He's a soul on ice. He's been converted by God, and jailed by Rome, and from his tiny world he pours out a magnificent chorus of prayer for the Ephesian church. How heroic, this is, said John Calvin. How heroic for a suffering prisoner to pour himself out for believers on the outside, praying God for great things to happen to Christians who are safe.

Great things according to the riches of his glory. Great things "by the power at work within us." Great things that send the glory back to God who gave it.

And what are some of these great things? Theyíre the things that belong to the resurrection. Theyíre the resurrection things. Iím talking about the Church of Jesus Christ preaching the gospel of grace, so that men and women who were dead in their sins may stand up, throw off their old lives, and come into the morning light like Jesus walking out of his tomb. Iím talking about the billions of Christians across the centuries and across the globe who have bowed their knees before the Father, and prayed "Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And then those Christians got up on their feet, and went out and built a hospital. They built cathedrals, but also factories. They built farms and also farms to grow ministers, which is what seminaries do. They fought the Devil and his hosts, and sometimes they did it by hiding Jews.

They had the power at work in them, and so they bore children, and wrote poems, and dug canals. They fixed teeth, and taught geography, and did it to the glory of God. They sent missionaries, and they sent plumbers and electricians right along with them. The power was in them. The Spirit was in them. The family in heaven and earth was around them. They had the sense that they could bring something to the Kingdom of God, and God would take it and do with it way more than anybody could ask or even imagine.

Click to view a larger imageAnd so, one day on the second floor of an elementary school on Williams Street down by the train station—one day Gerrit Boer began to teach seven students seventeen subjects so they could eventually minister the gospel. One winter day in 1876 these wonderful schools were born. Gerrit Boer had noise, ignorance, and poverty to contend with, but he also had the power at work within him. The power was in him, and in so many across a century and a quarter who have given their money, and their prayers, and their volunteer labor to sponsor these schools. They wanted students, faculty, and staff to explore the breadth and length and height and depth of the things of God, and then serve the church and the world with what they had learned. And God has seen fit to bless these efforts according to the riches of his glory. Doc DeVries and Nicholas Wolterstorff and Henrietta Ten Harmsel; Henry Stob and John Kromminga and Tony Hoekema and James DeJong; Tony Diekema and Gaylen Byker and Carol Smith and RhaeAnn Booker—all with the power at work within them. And in this Fieldhouse today, sits President William Spoelhof, who built so much that endures, and who did it with such grace and truth that on this campus his name will stay in memory like a triumph.

These people and thousands of others, including the donors of buildings and scholarships, the architects and engineers of buildings, programs, and curriculums—all these and the students who work and think and form lasting loyalties on this campus—all these and, of course, the students who have come today to play their trombones in the band—all have had some of the resurrection power at work in them. All these and so many more family members in heaven and on earth have had the kingdom and the power and the glory in them.

But now we have another 125 years to begin. So "to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever."

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga
© Calvin College 2001

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