Sunday, December 26, 2010
Claiming Our Inheritance
Today's sermon is actually from next week's texts. The privilege of knowing next week's sermon is going to be on the Epiphany texts!
John 1: 1-18
"I am a child of God, and I claim my inheritance. All of it."
These words come from a dear and much beloved friend I met while in seminary. I heard them more than once, and they were always spoken with absolute conviction.
"I am a child of God, and I claim my inheritance. All of it!"
In two of our readings for today, Ephesians and the Gospel of John, we read that we are children of God. Jesus, whose birthday we celebrated yesterday gave us the power to become children of God; children born not of blood or flesh or the will of man, but of God.
This is one of those truths I hear so often that I easily forget what it means. It's everywhere. I think about eighty-five percent of the publicly recited prayers I have heard started with "Heavenly Father" or "Father God." Or, they were interrupted every few words with "Father," "my father," "our Father," or again the ever so popular "Father God, Father God, Father God." Every single week, we sit in the pews on Sunday morning and begin the same prayer, the same way, "Our Father, who art in heaven..."
We read and hear and talk so much about our Father-God-in-Heaven that we sometimes forget the counterpoint to this statement. We are His kids.
I am His kid!
I am His kid. I am a child of God. And so are you.
You were made by God. You came into being through God. And before you ever came to a knowledge of any of this, you were claimed by God.
Being God's kids means that we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. There is a world apart from and beyond this world in which we live, a world that at moments intersects with our lives--a heavenly realm, a place full of blessings. And God, who claims us as His children, at various times and places reaches through through from that realm to this to bestow those blessings upon us. These are sacramental moments; moments when God's grace is made palpable, concrete, something we feel so deeply in our hearts we can proclaim with total conviction: I am a child of God! These are moments when God's grace becomes more than just something we know with our heads--it is a reality we begin to live into from our hearts.
These moments of grace come to us through Jesus, who chose us, who makes us holy and blameless. We have been set apart. God chose us. And when God looks at us, set apart from our sin, He sees us without blame or blemish. He sees us as we were created to be. Who you are is not determined by the things that you do, but rather by Whose you are! And we are children of God.
We have been redeemed and forgiven. We have received wisdom and insight. And God is gathering all things to Himself--and that includes you and me. Being God's kids, we also have an inheritance.
Now Paul, when he writes to the church at Ephesus about this inheritance, isn't super clear about what it entails. But then Paul isn't ever really super clear about anything. I won't pretend to know Paul's precise meaning concerning this inheritance, but I've got a couple of guesses:
1) All those spiritual blessings. This is, admittedly, vague. But remember those sacramental moments I mentioned a minute ago? Well, I'm guessing we get more. And I'm guessing they're less intermittent. More continuous.
The concept of an inheritance hasn't really changed at all in the 2000 years since Paul put brush to papyrus. The cultural expectations are a little different, but ultimately, the idea is the same: Somebody dies, and somebody else gets all the good stuff.
Back in ancient times it was the first born son who received pretty much everything. Subsequent sons might get a token, but lion's share went to the first born. And forget the daughters. Seriously. Forget about them. They didn't count.
But here Paul is, telling us that we--men and women, young and old--get an inheritance from God. And why? Because when God looks at us, He sees us through Jesus--the first-born of all creation.
And why does God see us through Jesus? Because Jesus, the Word, the very Word of God, even God himself, who was in the beginning--not hanging around at the time things began, but in the very act of beginning, in the act of creation itself, in the beginning from which sprang all this--Jesus, the Word of God, Jesus who is God, came.
He left those heavenly realms and was born in this earthly place. He came as life and as the light of all people. Jesus came and brought the light of Christ into the world. The light of Christ we invite into our worship every week when the acolytes begin our service. The light of Christ we take into the world when we leave this place.
All because the Word became flesh and lived among us.
It's that whole "living among us" part that allows us to see God.
It's that whole "in the flesh" part that means Jesus is really, well, and truly alive today. And he is alive in each one of us.
Being a Christian does not (only) mean having Christ in us. The word "Christian" literally means "Christ followers" or "one who follows Christ," and as such necessarily requires that we see Christ in others.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
"If we do not recognize God in the flesh, we do not recognize God."
I remember the first time I truly understood this; one of those sacramental moments when my knowledge about God became my experience of God in another person.
My friend from seminary, standing in front of me, proclaiming with conviction:
I am a child of God, and I claim my inheritance. All of it!
My friend who loved me deeply, and unconditionally, and well. My friend who, in the short time we had together, showed me what it was to see Jesus in someone else.
That's the point of incarnational faith--the logos en sarki, the Word made flesh--the very reality of God, as Jesus in each one of us--the body of Christ.
Having God as our father means we each can proclaim with conviction:
I am a child of God, and I claim my inheritance. All of it.
My hopes for you this morning and in the coming year are that your knowledge and experience of God will continue to deepen; that you will have those sacramental moments when more than knowing about God's grace you find yourself living into God's grace; that when you look at those people whom God has placed in your life, you'll recognize Jesus in them, and that you find yourself able to say with all conviction:
I am a child of God, and I claim my inheritance. All of it!