Blessing and adoption,
forgiveness and good pleasure,
mystery and will,
wisdom and insight,
fullness and time,
inheritance and redemption,
counsel and glory.
If the writer of the letter to the Ephesians wanted to confound us as to where to enter this text they’ve done a fine job.
What we can feel is the writer’s energy.
We can smell the confidence.
We can touch the sincerity.
We can taste the liveliness.
At the center of the action is the inheritance, our inheritance of God’s grace.
You know there are times when using the word GRACE, we downsize the word, we economize, we downscale. We say things like, “She’s a very graceful person,” and we mean she moves well. Or,
“They’re always a very gracious host,” and we mean they give great dinner parties.
Or, “Gracious me!” and what we mean is Holy Smokes.
We tend to use the word grace in small ways. But when the writer of Ephesians uses the word grace, it is lavishing, plentiful, sumptuous, generous, and everlasting.
When the New Testament uses the word grace, it is actually the translation of the Greek word for gift. Our inheritance of being loved by God is gift and grace.[ii]
This inheritance is of gift and grace is given to us in the midst complicated times and messy lives.
Frederick Buechner says it best: If you tell me my inheritance of the Christian life is a kind of nice thing that happens to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say “forget it, forget it.” [Or as we might say in New Jersey: Fugedabawdit.]
You’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine.
Every morning, Buechner says, we should wake up in bed and ask ourselves this:
“Can I believe it all again today?”
No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side right next to your Bible.
Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for this particular day. If your answer is always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing is all about.
At least five times out of ten, he says, the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so.
The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it.
And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes!, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and……great laughter. [iii] Yes!
You see, in Christ, the legacy of the past; it’s dead. And what we are bequeathed for the here and now is born. Lord Jesus is our past, our present-day promise, and our future heritage.
- We, he says, are members of one another.
- We do not make room for evil.
- We share with the needy.
- We put away bitterness and anger.
- We are tenderhearted and forgiving.
- All the very things Christ has been for us.
And my friends when you have experienced an inheritance of grace like this:
- You can never keep quiet;
- never slink into oblivion;
- never shy away from suffering
- because you know in the depths of your soul you are here to serve the One who has created you. You are here to be responsible for the mending of the world.
When you have experienced God’s grace, you understand God has lit a fire so big that you will never be lost and can always be found.
Long before God laid down the foundations of the earth God had us in mind and sealed an inheritance delivered by the Holy Spirit. [iv]
When you have experienced God’s grace and gift, you understand that the blaze of God’s grace is so fierce that it will never leave you. For you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and you belong to Christ Jesus forever and ever.
Thanks be to God.
[i] Ephesians 1: 3-14. 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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that 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. 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. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
[ii] Thomas G. Long. Sermon: “Amazing and Uncomfortable Grace.” The Chicago Sunday Evening Club/30 Good Minutes, Program #4902. Chicago, IL, October 9, 2005.
[iv] Adapted from Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary English. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1993.