November 6, 2016

The Vision of Christ

 

Scripture: Ephesians 1: 11-23

11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. 12 We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. 13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.
15 
Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that 16 I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, 19 and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. 20 God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, 21 far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. 22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

 

I still can’t believe he let me have it. When my grandmother passed away, and my mother, brother, and I were divvying up her possessions so that part of her could still remain with all of us, my brother could have taken the table. The prized possession – her dark wood farm table – came to me. I would have thought my brother would put up more of a fight. Either he loves me more than I think or somewhere down the line I’ll realize what he got that is somehow better.

 

Her table was her legacy for me. It’s where we learned what family was. It’s where I learned about our history, in the traditional sense. I know that I got far more than a table from her. I got her eyes, her accent, and her love of making people feel at home. I also got her meticulousness, but years of living with other college males knocked some tolerance into me.

 

She left too soon, so I celebrate her today in memory. I celebrate her as a saint that went before me, teaching me about God’s desire for my life. All the affirmation and love she showed me was meant to go to others. That, truly, is my inheritance from her.

 

Paul speaks of an even greater inheritance in his letters to the church in Ephesus.  He speaks of the wisdom and power that was brought to them by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit’s presence meant they were to accomplish great things, which they did. The church in Ephesus remained strong and influential even under the greatest Christian persecution.  Their meeting place markers, in the shape of a spoked wheel, are still carved in the marble pathways of what is left of the city streets. They believed in their collective purpose of bringing Christ’s light into the world one person at a time.

 

What Paul is speaking of is not a worldly inheritance, obviously. We tend to lean toward literal interpretations of every teaching, prophesy, and parable. Passages like this one remind the reader that God seldom works in the literal sense. We are to learn through the study of the words to get what is being said.

 

What Paul is telling those Christians is the same thing my grandmother taught me: you are to use the life you have been given to bring about goodness in the world. The vision of Christ is that we use who we are and what we are called to be to create a better world through acts of grace.

 

Often, I hear people tell me this talk is naïve and unrealistic. I would imagine so. It is unrealistic and naïve for God to believe in sinful creatures such as ourselves to do any good at all. It is unrealistic that God would become one of us and live among sinful creations and put himself in harm’s way, even facing death. It is unrealistic to think that changing the world comes through the body of Christ who, we know, is the church. The church is full of people with differing opinions who can barely pick a carpet color without fighting, much less bring about peace in the world.
And yet, that is the vision of Christ. We are to be the hands and feet. We were given life – eternal life – as an inheritance. We are anointed. Sure, we could take that and walk away and depend on grace to pay our tab in the end, but wouldn’t that be wasteful of our inheritance? Wouldn’t that be wasteful of all the saints who have gone before us, teaching us how to live more fully, to simply live then die without making the world a better and more Christlike place for others to live?

 

I believe we are called to something greater than what we would hope for ourselves. Paul speaking to the Ephesians knew they were only a small group. What could a small group do? Well, when they believed in themselves, they helped spread the church to thousands upon thousands. We are suspicious of thinking we can reach tens. The church in Ephesus was where healing and community was built through membership of the church. We can barely get past hanging out with our closest friends.

 

I have seen what can happen when a church chooses to live into Christ’s vision. They become family by and through their vows to the church and each other. They build big buildings and food pantries and gymnasiums so they can teach more people, reach more people, and love more people.

 

During the Fresh Expressions campaign, we heard of churches with just as many members as we have doing food drives for hundreds and another building a bike shop for local kids. What will Charlotte-Fagan choose to be for our community? Our fundraisers are fun and our fellowship time is great, but how will we choose to reach the folks we don’t know who really need good news in their lives? How will we choose to grow because people see us as the church that really, really believes in what Jesus said?
Are you living into your inheritance from the saints who have gone before you? Are you living as if you believe in the inheritance Christ gives to you? Do you believe heaven is with you? I do. Now, what are we going to do about it?

 

Let us be a beacon of light powered by the saints who have gone before us. Amen.

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