A Vision of the Church: A Rich Inheritance Ephesians 1: 3-22

create-willYou’re in the will” causes hearts to skip; thinking we get something for no other reason than the graciousness of the one who died. Paul begins this letter, “You’re in the will”. “In Christ, we have an inheritance” he says. We have an incontestable share of Christ’s riches; even as adopted children that nothing can invalidate it. Our inheritance comes with more grace than we merit. We live off Christ’s wealth as a child lives off a parent’s wealth. Our heavenly inheritance includes a privilege and purpose. The church’s inheritance includes the privilege of being a faith community of chosen people, called for the purpose of telling others they too are chosen.

PRIVILEGE of being a faith community of chosen people. He says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will.” Paul is speaking to the Jewish and Gentile believers who were bickering over who is in or out based on circumcision, a ritualistic carving of the flesh. Paul lays out God’s plan revealed in Christ who came to gather up all people and things to share in the privilege of his inheritance.

Our choseness is established by God’s good pleasure, not by our good bloodline or achievement. God’s choice is wide, a choice for all, not just some. To be chosen before the foundation of the world means, regardless of the context of our birth we’re all made in/out love and for/to love. We can’t earn it or mess it up, God decided on our blessing from the beginning.backyards

Privacy fences section off our towns into tidy squares. Our backyards are our treasures, maintaining the American dream of a place to call our own. Fencing out and hedging in are the ways we create this space not only in our yards, but in the way we relate to some of God’s other children. Yet, we love stories of walls broken down. Frost said, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall; that wants it down.” Through the grace of God, Christ broke down every wall to choose us; so we might be reconciled to God.

Still, from the earliest days, we’ve struggled with unifying our diverse parts. We’ve walled off people with differences we claim are rooted in God. Jewish faith was the first to be elected; yet they wondered about their specialness as Gentiles claimed a chosen status. When Gentiles came to know they were chosen, we said or implied God didn’t choose all. We have created communities of faith that excludes those who lack merits we have contrived as sinful people generation after generation.

Hands of RaceWe divided by race and ethnicity; turning biological and cultural differences into reasons God chose some and not others without any basis for such claims. Such ideas of God’s choseness are more than mischievous. It’s past time to put away pernicious notions of inferiority or superiority based on race or ethnicity. These social inventions are plain sinful. God elected us by Christ’s dying for everyone, red, yellow black and white, all covered by God’s grace, thus chosen by God. Let us drop our dividing ways and walls.

Our relationship with God has more to with God privileging us than anything else. God included all in Christ, not picking and choosing whom God wills. Some people may separate from God by their own insistence. We can’t root that loss in the God whose good pleasure is to call all. Our faith declares it’s God’s prerogative to include all who by faith say yes to s grace of God. Nothing restrains our host Christ Jesus from pulling into the fold the strange and the stranger who feel left out. There’s plenty of room in Christ. We are privileged to be a community of faith of chosen people.got privilege

Called for the PURPOSE of telling others they too are chosen. He writes: “In Christ we have an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of God’s glory.” The responsibility that comes with the privilege of being Christ’s church is we’re to fulfill our purpose by deliberately offering the privilege we have received by the grace of God to others.

God adopts us in Christ, so we might live to the praise of God’s glory. We do this by telling the world that doesn’t know it belongs to God, it belongs to God. We announce the grace of God by inviting others to receive it. We embrace the different graces and gift of different people because they were given by the same God who graced and gave us life. This clears space for those left out, so they may come to see there is room for all who will come.

We weren’t chosen because God wanted to privilege a few of us along with the Jews. God first chose Jews to bear the light of God to the nations and in due time he chose others for the task. God doesn’t love some people more than others, drawing a circle to keep people out. We can’t act like 3rd graders shouting, “Game’s locked” sending the others off to tire swing exile.

We have moments when we prefer to be separated. We hide behind the modular furniture at the office. Pews can sacredly segregate, keeping us a safe distance from unknown persons who may be different. We esteem or diminish persons based on where they live or work. A raised eyebrow and a barbed wire fence both cut while cutting off. Fences come in a wide array of colors, textures, thicknesses and heights. Yet, when we classify persons we create barriers that prevent us from living God’s purpose for our lives.

The greater we sense the privilege of choseness, the more we will engage our purpose to widen the invitation that others can choose to receive the privilege they too have been chosen. Let’s put on our hardhat and grab our hammer and join Christ in tearing down walls, so we might make more room for the others who are also chosen in Christ. Let us embrace our chosen state in Christ, fulfilling our purpose to call others into the fold.

Rulers set up images of their eminence, not only as a matter of his self-praise. They remind subjects that though they don’t see him in the far-flung parts of the empire, they are still reminded he is their king when they look upon his likeness. The church is a visible reminder of God in the world. Though the world does not see God, when it sees the church, it is to see everyone and everything is being pursued by the grace of God.

History is narrated by stories of grace, persons giving beyond what’s required. One grace story comes from the Bosnian wars. A man with long hair and mustache, dressed in formal wear, sat in a bombed out café in Sarajevo for 22 days. He played his cello the way he once did in Sarajevo’s Orchestra. He played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor over and over again. This sad piece was constructed from a manuscript fragment found in the ruins of Dresden’s death camp during different ethnic cleansing.  This man couldn’t stop the killing, but he played a tribute that claimed truth against the lies of narrow choseness.  He was a sign of God who gathers all things together in Christ, no matter the rubble we make of our lives.

Ex_Yugoslavien01Christ gave beyond what was required; leaving a legacy of breaking down walls and expanding God’s dwelling space so there is room to draw others into this gracious space. The way to pass on our rich inheritance is to live out the purpose of our privileged choseness; blessing others with the message they too are chosen. Chosen people in the community of faith are reminders of God in the world; images that bears the likeness of Christ.

Clarence Jordan who founded Koinonia Farms modeled how whites and blacks live together as a witness to his rich inheritance in Christ. Many things came of his vision, notably Habitat for Humanity. When some interns left, Clarence would hand them an envelope with a signed blank check made out to them. The note said, “In case you ever need a thing”. Most never cashed the check, but they spiritually drew on the account every day.

The vision of the church begins by relishing in our rich inheritance made possible by Christ alone. The vision continues by passing this inheritance to others. It’s fully realized when the privilege and the purpose of our rich inheritance becomes the foundation for everything else we do at First United Methodist Church Irving. We are rich; let us invest it wisely!

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