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Your Inheritance, Divided But Not Diminished: A Sermon for All Saints Day: Ephesians 1
November 4, 2013, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Grace and peace to you, Saints of God.

On this All Saints’ Day, we hear from the letter to the Ephesians about an inheritance. We’re going to look deeply at this text and the surrounding verses from Ephesians, so if you have a Bible or a smart phone, it would be worth opening that up to Ephesians chapter one.

An inheritance comes after someone has died, and usually reflects a sense of who was most important to the one leaving their earthly goods behind. An inheritance might mean an heirloom, money, or property received by the grieving loved ones. It also might mean bills, regret for things left unsaid, or rifts kept from healing.

Some of the most horrible family feuds I’ve witnessed come from feelings of being left out of the will, or not being given as much as another member of the family. Knowing what we’ll receive and comparing it to what others will receive can cause a painful divide in the family, well before the grief of the death occurs. It affects how a family interacts even during life.

What can be most problematic about the inheritances we typically think about is that they come from a limited estate. There’s only so much stuff, only one set of Grandma’s china, only one special tea kettle, only a certain amount in the bank account, to be given out and divided among all those who have a reason to receive from the inheritance.

When we read about an inheritance in the letter to the Ephesians, we discover that we’re promised an inheritance that is different in two significant ways from the type of inheritances we’re used to. The first: your place as an heir to this inheritance is secured, not be your own good standing with the gifter, but by Jesus. The second: this inheritance is drawn from an unlimited treasure, the power of God to give life.

You are an heir to the treasures of God.

We read in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 4-5, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love. God destined us for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will.” (Eph 1:4-5).

Through Jesus, you are a child of God. Your place in God’s family was prepared even before this world was created. Last week I preached on Romans and reflected on the life of Luther, showing us the amazingly good and yet hard to grasp news that we are made right with God, given salvation, not because of anything we do or don’t do, but because of Jesus alone. This verse from Ephesians gets at that point another way. Before you were able to choose or to do, before you were born, before humanity was even created, you were chosen, you were given a place, you were saved.

The inheritance you are to receive comes from the power of God, the power at work in raising Jesus Christ from the dead. Your inheritance is life, given through the grace of Jesus Christ. There is no limit to this inheritance, no diminishment of God’s power, even though it be shared out to millions and billions of people throughout the generations and from all nations.

We read in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 8-10, “God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure and he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:8b-10).

Picture this with me: instead of God having armfuls of stuff to divide up and pass out to each person, God continually gathers in- embracing, welcoming, pulling together- all things, in Christ. In and through Christ is the life that never ends, life that is never conquered by death.

Final, crucial things that are unique to our inheritance from God are that we are assured that we will not be taken out of the will, we are given a sign or a pledge towards the full inheritance, and we are called to live as though we have already received this inheritance, which in fact, we have.

You have been “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of (y)our inheritance.” (Eph 1:13-14a). The Holy Spirit, God’s presence within you, is God’s downpayment, God’s sign that you are received the promised inheritance. We especially pray for and acknowledge the coming of this Holy Spirit at baptism, as the baptized is marked with the cross of Christ and claimed as a child of God forever. Baptism is not just to keep us from hell after death; baptism is an entry point into the life of the community of saints: the Christian church active on earth today.

Those we remember today, whether aloud or in our hearts, whose deaths have brought them to be saints in the church triumphant, are not the only ones who are currently experiencing this inheritance from God. From little Abigail and other newly baptized, to those who live each day as saints in the church militant, here on earth, we all experience our inheritance of God’s power right now.

In verse 12, we read, “so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” We join that early Christian community in Ephesus as people who set our hope on Christ and are called to live for the praise of his glory. We’re called to live in such a way that we reflect God’s grace, God’s love, God’s gift of life onto all the world.

We are given the inheritance given to Jesus. Jesus shows us what this inheritance looks like: defeat of death, and all powers on earth and in heaven. Death, war, governments, bullies, bad relationships, or addictions have lost their power over us. They have lost the power to kill us because God’s power to give us life and victory is so much stronger.

God has given you an inheritance of life through Jesus Christ. Rejoice and experience this inheritance right now: live free of fear and confident even in the face of grief. Those you love, who have died, know the power and joy of their inheritance of life. May you know that power and joy today, while death is still far off, and may you enter death with the confidence of one who has already tasted the great gift of God, prepared to rejoice in God’s presence forever. 

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