Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
It is easy sometimes to forget who — or even whose — we are. The messaging we get from those around us in society and sometimes even our families and friends is a constant stream of not being enough. We’re never cool enough, rich enough, attractive enough, smart enough, good enough, worth enough — the list goes on and on. It would seem we never have enough to merit attention.
Merrit, that’s a key concept in our society. You’ve got to work and earn attention and the benefits it brings. “There are no free lunches.” You’ve got “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” If you “work and study hard, you’ll go far in life.” Naturally, there are truths in these statements. The Devil rarely tells straight out lies. It is much easier to deceive folk with half-truths.
We talk a lot at Church of Another Chance about “putting in the work” here on Tuesday and Thursday nights so you’ll have a plan and a future when you leave this place. Outside there is much work to be done through mentoring and other programs to rebuild and realign a life towards God and away from destruction and enslavement. This is indeed work, but it is a work that is very different from the work Satan wants to bind your mind up in.
Our New Testament reading tonight was from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Over the several pages of this letter St. Paul is doing his best to clearly share what Jesus means and how Jesus' death and resurrection is more than just “good news,” but the best news. God revealed through Jesus Christ redefines our notions of God and humans. In the Holy Incarnation — God becoming fully human in the person of Jesus — ideas about work, merit, attention, and reward are reframed in a way foreign to the society of Jesus' day and our own.
Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, ESV
God “has blessed us.” Not will bless us. Not might bless us. He already has. What has he blessed us with? “Every spiritual blessing.” From us, he holds nothing back. God freely gives us everything he has.
Ephesians 1:4-7 – even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, ESV
God chose to make humans holy. He didn’t have to. He wanted to. Also, we’re still talking in the past here. This is something already decided. Not something he might do. God chose to make us holy, chose to love us, chose to adopt us as children. God’s choice has already been made.
Ephesians 1:8-10 – which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. ESV
Listen to the language here. God is “lavish” with his giving. He’s not just generous, giving us a lot, he gives us so much and of such great quantity that it is “lavish.” Though so much is a mystery — Christ himself being known as the “mystery of the Kingdom of God” in St. Mark’s gospel — God’s plan is to unite “all things” in him.
Ephesians 1:11-12 – In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. ESV
As adopted children of God we “have obtained an inheritance.” Again, not will or might, but have. God chose to adopt humans as his own before he created anything. God chose to share the inheritance of his might and holiness with us. Because of God, through the Son becoming human, we are inheritors of a vast fortune.
Ah, now we get to it. The great mystery. How can we already have all these great gifts and blessings from God? I don’t know about you, but at times I don’t feel like I’m being lavishly gifted. My Kroger brand peanut butter I had for lunch didn’t seem lavish. The cloth seats in my Ford Fiesta don’t feel very lavish. I wouldn’t call these “beautiful” depression blue walls lavish. So what’s the deal?
This is where the half-truth about work and merit come into play. Society tells us work is about earning merit. If you don’t have nice things it’s because you haven’t earned them. It’s not a far walk to apply these ideas to God. If you’re poor, if you’re suffering, if you don’t have good gifts from God, it’s because you’ve done something to make him mad; you haven’t earned his love. Paul shuts down this lie.
Look back at what we just read. Do you see any mention of price? Do you see any notion of merit? No. At every step of the way, it’s God’s action, God’s choice. He chooses to love us, to make us holy, and to adopt us as his children. God chooses to sanctify our nature by taking it on in Jesus Christ. God desires and makes a way for us to unite with him even as the Son and Spirit already are.
Ephesians 1:13-14 – In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ESV
This is one of the great mysteries of God’s plan for us. We are his children, we have an inheritance, but we do not yet have possession of it. At baptism, the Holy Spirit is called upon the water. This is to remind us that his presence in our lives is the sign of the inheritance that is already ours. The Holy Spirit is our reminder that we are forever sealed to God and that “in the fullness of time” we’ll be united in him.
Hear the Good News, you are a beloved son of God. Before you even existed God chose to love you, to make you holy, to adopt you as his own child, and pull you into his eternal movement of love.
Work is not about earning. Work is a shadow of Gods image in us; it is a shadow of his power to create and change; it is a gift. We work to glorify God. We work to mold ourselves and our surroundings to shadow the holy perfection of God’s coming New Creation. We work to proclaim to Satan and society that our inheritance is secure in God and that despite the lies and half-truths we’re told, we’re going to live in God’s Kingdom now. We’re going to practice for the day we know will someday come.
God’s choice is already made. His will is to love, to sanctify, and to elevate all of us into the forever life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Pslamist says in Psalm 85, “Yes the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.”
Jesus is the way. In moments at this table, we will share in the blessed Body and Blood of Jesus. In this sacrament, we unite with God’s own Body and through his body, with each other. This is a privilege lavishly given to us, not earned. Cherish this moment together. Keep the Spirit’s presence in this place as a reminder of your inheritance as a son of God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.