Please pray for my dad, Roger who has been in the hospital in both Oct. and Nov. He's home now and we hope for a full recovery! I am trying o catch up to Advent on my posting! Thank you for your patience and prayers! :)
One of Hollywood's favorite plot devices is the reading of the Last Will and Testament. We have witnessed this scene dozens of times: the family is gathered in a law office, a lawyer, usually a man in a dark suit with glasses, begins to read. There’s a familiar cadre of family members leaning in to learn what their fate will be. There’s usually a much younger, often gold-digging spouse, a dead-beat kid, an over-achieving kid who did everything right, often the kid who was never good enough, and lastly there are the hangers-on—a stepchild, a long lost brother, a bitter business partner–all showing up to get their due.
They all hope to find out not just about the money, but how much they were loved. And we cannot wait for the surprise twists:
- It may be to settle a score: “I have always known that you were cheating on me, and now I leave you nothing.”
- It might reveal unexpressed love: “I have always loved you and regret I never had the courage to tell you. I leave you my beach house in the Caymans.”
- Often it’s a way to reveal secrets: “The maid who tended me so faithfully is actually my love-child, whose mother I met while on tour with the band.”
- Or it offers a redemptive twist: “I now regret that my millions were made at the expense of poisoning the ocean, so I leave my entire estate to Greenpeace.”
These dramatic ploys are popular and effective because they play on our own deepest anxieties: Will I be remembered? Do I make a difference to others? Will there be enough for me? Am I loved? Is there a more powerful moment of explicitly hearing approval, of knowing for sure whether or not we were loved, than the reading of a Will?
The issue with these worries and anxieties, is that it seems like a zero-sum game. This scene often happens at the end of the movie or TV episode—there is only so much money to go around; there is only so much love to be shared. There are winners and there are losers. No wonder everyone is full of anxiety.
The very first chapter of Ephesians includes the reading of a Will and Testament—it's God's Will and Testament for us. But this Will and Testament is far different from the ones that we encounter in the movies. Ephesians does not contain a LAST will and testament that is only revealed at the end of our lives; no, this is a FIRST will and testament read at the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians. Indeed, it is shared with us at the very beginning of our lives of faith.
Paul in Ephesians says: In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
Paul is saying that God has made us God's own heirs and that everyone is guaranteed an inheritance. Why say this up front? Why put this at the beginning of the letter rather than the end? Because the Christian faith is not designed to leave us in the dark, to keep us hanging, anxious and worried about God's love and intention for us, but rather our faith and relationship with Jesus is to free us up for joyful and hopeful lives, here and now.
God sent Jesus that we might have life and have it more abundantly-- not if we behave, not if we are perfect, not if God is in the right mood.
No, God has made us children of God and has given us an eternal inheritance in Jesus Christ so we have no doubts, no anxiety, no worry about whether we are loved and forgiven, or about whether we matter to God or whether our life makes a difference. We will not be sitting in a stuffy office to find this out.
This isn't a “let's wait and see if we are good enough to earn God's love” gospel.
This isn't a “we can never be sure if we are on God's favored list" gospel.
This is a “God’s love for you in Jesus Christ is boundless and given without reserve” gospel.
This is a “God loves you so much that God wants you to know that NOW, upfront, FIRST, with no hesitation” good news!
This is a no-suspense, no anxiety, no drama FIRST Will and Testament!
There is only God's love and the hope that it provides–not just for you, but EVERYONE in abundance–a limitless well gospel!
God answers the questions: Will I be remembered? Do I make a difference to others? Will there be enough for me? Am I loved? before we barely have a chance to ask them!
The answer is:
have no worry or anxiety,
God made you and loves you,
God sent Jesus to make sure you know that you matter to God,
and your life makes a difference because Jesus’ love and God’s presence shine through you.
Our life in God’s care is signed, sealed and delivered in our Baptism–which we receive at the beginning of our life of faith–it’s our First Will and Testament.
So we receive God's lavish and overflowing inheritance, love, forgiveness and abundance up front, first and foremost,
- so we can know it’s true deep down to our soul and into our bones
- so we can live joyfully and free from anxiety and
- so that we can share it with others,
- so we can help bring about God's Kingdom on Earth.
And in case we missed this reading of the will early in this passage, Paul reemphasizes the point: 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 hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
This is an inheritance that enriches us here and now and finds its ultimate fulfillment when we die and are born into eternal life.
Today we celebrate the saints who have gone before us in the faith–don’t you imagine they would tell the inheritance that matters–the one to expend our energy on is the inheritance of our life in Jesus Christ, the blessings of which we experience here and now?
As we remember them, we do so affirming that they have received the fulfillment of their inheritance in Christ. Not because they were good or faithful or hard-working or committed – even though they may have been.
They have received their crown of righteousness, not because of who they were, but because of who God is.
And even better – they haven’t used it up! This is an inheritance that cannot be used up or given to one at the expense of another because it is rooted in the immeasurable, unlimited greatness of God's power and love. There’s no zero sum! There is still an abundance of grace, forgiveness and eternity left for the rest of us!
The news of this inheritance is not just offered once, but is shared with us over and over again:
At our baptism, and every time we remember our baptism in the Forgiveness of sin that we hear every Sunday, in Passing the Peace of Christ which we share with each otherm
in receiving Communion together at the Table of our Lord, in sharing the light and love of Christ with other in relationships– in prayer, love, listening, support, joy, conversation, assistance, laughter, and community.
So this frees us up to live as Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on Plain as it’s called in Luke. We don’t have to compete with others, we don’t have to hoard possessions and resources, we don’t have to win, we don’t have to earn it.
We are released from anxiety and worry, so we can live in hope and share our blessings with others, because our abundant God is going to provide what we need. Every time I tithe and give away resources something else comes my way–I am always provided for. We can love our enemy and do good to those who hate us. Why? Because they need to see and hear through us, of the inheritance available for them in Jesus Christ.
God calls us to be the messengers of this great inheritance through our behavior in the world. We can rejoice with those who already know the blessings of this inheritance. We can witness to those who are full, and rich, but still racked with anxiety about whether they are loved, have purpose or will have enough.
We can share that they too, have this great inheritance already, so all their stuff, and all their worry does not need to get in the way of true joy, and real love, and being freed by the deep acceptance of undeserved forgiveness and relationship with Jesus Christ.
I love movies for entertainment, but God’s First Will and Testament says there is an infinite supply of grace, love and hope in Jesus Christ. You will be remembered, just as we remember the saints today; for your name is already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
So live lives of joyful hope, freed of worry and anxiety, and invite others to share with us the abundant inheritance we all receive now in Jesus Christ.