A Vision of the Church: An Undeserved Mercy Ephesians 2:1-22

OrdinationA man I didn’t know made the sign of the cross on my forehand when I was ordained. He said: You know this is more about God loving you than you loving God. God is love, and as such God can only act lovingly. God’s love isn’t abstract; it acts by giving itself away.

God sent the Son to unbind souls wrapped in unnecessary ego concerns. Christ didn’t come asking how we got ourselves into this bind. Christ came to cut the ropes that bind. God so loved the world because there’s something so irresistibly lovely in God’s nature and God simply can’t help it. I describe the essence of undeserved mercy, which is our rich inheritance. It’s a mystery to those who have yet to receive this gift and those who have received it they stand amazed at such a great gift. This rich inheritance of undeserved mercy comes to the person and the people freely.

Our rich inheritance of an undeserved mercy comes to a person. Each person receives a rich inheritance of undeserved mercy because of the grace of God. We won’t focus on why we don’t deserve it; fueling the cycle of shame that permeates our world. Instead, we’ll focus on how God looks upon the person and sees Christ in us, calling us children of God. We receive this inheritance of undeserved mercy because God sees us as a person who was beautifully made by God’s hand, filled with the life giving breath of God, and stamped with God’s own image. God sees a reflection of God’s own self in our person and God finds that irresistible.Made by God

Mary Ann Bird writes about her childhood. She was born with a cleft palate and afraid of how other children looked at her. That changed in the second grade when her teacher was giving the children a hearing test. The child would stand by the door, covering one ear and listen for what the teacher would say in whisper from her desk. When it was Mary Ann’s turn her teacher said in a whisper like God speaks to each person, I wish you were my little girl.” I wish you were fully my child.

A person who receives the rich inheritance of undeserved mercy discerns it comes by grace alone. “Children of wrath,” poetically describes how we can’t self-help into a full life. The Hebrew poet cries out for God to dig ears. He’s of a woodenhead needing God to create the conditions for hearing. “Dead in our sins” means we’re tuned out and it takes something outside of us to bring life. Real life begins as God draws near, so our hearts are stirred to see it’s by grace alone that we ‘ve received a rich inheritance.

Paul says we’re ‘God’s workmanship’, “poiema”, a poem God is writing gracefully as our lives unfold. To the point, this suggests the power to believe comes from beyond us. So, we look to the cross and hear God’s Son whisper, “I love you this much”. That love changes our life if we will draw near, so we are close enough to hear we are God’s own children

footprints-tattooA person who receives the rich inheritance of undeserved mercy responds by faith. God’s graceful activity ignites our spiritual longings by planting a seed of faith, so we may respond to God’s grace with faith. God desires for us to respond so much by faith to this grace that God keeps pouring great mercy on us even before we get the big idea that believing is a big idea. A choice to act in faith because of this grace launches us down the road; moving us from one faith step to the next step that waits.

God’s grace is at work in the lives of our children; creating space for the child to embrace what God is doing in their lives. Parents cultivate grace so our children grow in their faithful responses to God. In molding our child into the person God is making, we cooperate with what God is doing in our children we share with God, so they may be faithful servants in the world.

We’re spiritually formed as children when we receive our rich inheritance of an undeserved mercy that comes by grace alone and respond in faith to that amazing gift. Then, it is from faith to faith. God doesn’t give us start-up faith and then leave us to make our way. Faith is a gift God keeps giving. A person whose relationship with God is beget by grace and lived by faith fully lives the benefits of our rich inheritance of an undeserved mercy.

Our rich inheritance of an undeserved mercy comes to THE PEOPLE. Our rich inheritance of an underserved mercy asks us to create open spaces so we might be connected to God and each other. Christ has more room to dwell in our hearts when we create space for all God’s creation to intersect our lives. Conversely, keeping someone out by walls of our own creation keeps us from fully experience God in our lives.peace_hebrew_mc

The people who receive their rich inheritance live in authentic peace with each other. Christ proclaimed peace to those far off and near. Paul says, “For Christ is our peace; [he] has broken down the dividing wall, that he might create…one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace. [He] proclaimed peace to both the near and far.” Peace abides where unity is exist. It’s realized when there’s room all people in this place.

There was a wall in the Temple that divided Jews from Gentiles, dividing people by race! That racial and ethnic wall came down when the temple fell! There was a wall in the Temple that divided Jewish males and females, a gender wall in God’s house! That sexist wall came down when the temple fell! There was a wall in the temple that separated the priests from the lay people, saying “No laity beyond this wall!” That clerical wall came down when the temple fell! There was a wall in the Temple that separated the holy things of God from the common things of life, a spiritual wall in the middle of God’s house! That spiritual wall came down when the temple fell!

Youre-InvitedWe construct walls of comfort that deceitfully soothe; making us feel safe from those we do not know or do not want to know. Our walls that divide make peace impossible. Peace is made possible when we welcome each other because all lives matter. This reflects the broadness of God’s love.

Jesus tears down any walls that divide, so we might rebuild a new dwelling for God among undivided people. Christ’s guest’s list to God’s banquet includes all people. If we feel excluded it is probably because some guests refused to welcome others the host invited. Christ tears down and builds up a new people at the same time, we might live in peace.

The people who receive their rich inheritance create a connected community. Paul says, “You’re no longer strangers…but … members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple … in whom you are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the spirit”. Through Christ we are being built up on the cornerstone as God’s holy temple. The new temple is made of the likes of us. The people are God’s temple, the dwelling place of God!better-together

Spiritual formation requires we put faith not only in God, but also in God’s people. Let us not befall to the temptation to isolate ourselves when people behave badly, like this week. Others help us find our true selves. People are our mirrors, telling us the truth about ourselves we can’t see. We risk vulnerability with others; so we might create a community for all people.

Authentic peace and connected community are the gifts of our inheritance of undeserved mercy. When peace and community are absent the soul of the people are at risk. A café owner said as segregation in public places was coming to an end, “If I don’t divide persons of color from others, I will lose my customers. Yet, if I keep dividing people, I will lose my soul!

Bishop McKeePeople come to church to sing Amazing Grace, practice faith in God and in each other, hoping the peace of Christ can be found in a community of people who seek to be made one with God and others. Yet, the events of last week cause some to question those assumptions, particularly our African American sisters and brothers. You should expect a word from your pastor about this horrific tragedy. I can’t say it better than, our episcopal leader, Bishop Mike McKee in his open letter. Read it here:

People whom we break bread at the Table and in Hargrove Hall will be a people undivided in this place. The people who choose to sing and pray in these pews will be welcome regardless of their status in life in this place. The people we serve with in this community will be treated as members of God’s family in this place. May each person who intersects this community faith know without a doubt because of our words and actions, this is a place for all people that share in a rich inheritance of an undeserved mercy.God's Workmanship