From Adoption to Inheritance
Topic: Biblical Verse: Ephesians 1:3–1:14
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Life Together: From Adoption to Inheritance”
If you’ve ever purchased something from Amazon.com, please raise your hand. As we’re halfway through the second decade of the 21st century, it’s a little bit stunning to see how well online superstores like Amazon have been adopted into everyday life. Even twenty years ago, you’d have to put time and effort into finding an item that local shops didn’t stock. If, for example, you wanted to purchase a bamboo shoehorn for your good friend, you’d need to sift through the pages of a catalog of some company or department store to track it down. You’d place an order (over the phone), pay for the shipping, and then wait the days or weeks it’d take for the package to arrive. Today, you can pull out your smartphone and do a search for “bamboo shoehorn” in the Amazon app, tap a few buttons, and it’ll be on your doorstep in two days, gift-wrapped and with a personalized card. It’s like Amazon can provide almost everything you could want – and they’d like you to think that whenever you go shopping.
If you ever take a closer look at Amazon’s logo on their boxes or their website, you’ll see an upward curve right underneath the company’s name. It’s got a little arrow on the right side, giving the logo a smile which they hope will reflect your Amazon experience. But the position of that smile in the logo is important, too. It starts with the opening “A” in their name and stretches to the “Z.” When you shop at Amazon, it implies, you can find everything you need, “from A to Z.”
Once you’ve completed your transaction with Amazon, you can expect them to deliver what’s been promised. You’ll get an e-mail confirming your purchase, and, once your order has shipped, you’ll get a tracking number that shows you where it’s at as it makes its way to your doorstep. You can have confidence that you’re not going to be left empty-handed, waiting around for something that’s never going to arrive. With such an impressive operation in place, Amazon’s customers can feel confident that they’ll get what’s coming to them.
Today as we start our way through the book of Ephesians, how do you know that you’ll get what’s coming to you?
If you’re confident that you’ve got a good relationship with God, that things are all OK between you and your Creator, on what exactly are you basing your confidence? Think about your life together with God. What does it look like? You might spend one hour in a service at church each week. You may make time for prayer each day. Possibly you consider yourself a “lifelong Lutheran.” You could know a lot of what’s in the Bible – maybe you’re even a church worker or teacher or pastor or professor. So if you’ve got that going for you, why wouldn’t you have complete confidence in your standing before God? Like the early Christians in Ephesus, you and I can be blinded by pride. In our pride, we think that what we have done makes us right with God; or at the very least, that stuff works in our favor. But the hard truth is that it doesn’t. None of it can be a foundation for our confidence of a right relationship with God.
Pride might not be the problem, though. What if you don’t have confidence in your standing before God? You ask yourself time and time again if you’re good enough, doubting yourself and your worthiness. You know that you don’t know enough. You’re painfully aware that you’re not as good and moral and loving as you should be. You see how imperfect your relationships have been and remember the mistakes you’ve made. With all that red in your ledger, how could you hope to have a right relationship with God? Like those early Christians in Ephesus, too, we can fall into worry. Wrapped up in our worry, we wonder if God could love us in our brokenness. We doubt that God is able to do anything with us and, if He is, why He hasn’t already made everything all right? How do you know that you’ll get what you need?
As the apostle Paul wrote to remind the Ephesians, you’ve got it in Christ. Your relationship with God isn’t founded on what you’ve done for Him; it’s based on what He has done – and continues to do – for you. Human pride tries to keep us from seeing the beauty of God’s amazing grace. In the same way, our worry just looks to distract us from the Lord’s assurance that He has called us by the Gospel to be His children. You imperfection is not greater than God’s perfect love for you.
As human beings, our relationship with God is entirely His gift. He founded it, He fulfills it. God provides it all: from A to Z, from adoption to inheritance.
God has adopted us as His children. He has made us a family in Christ. He takes souls that are lost and alone, spiritually dead, and gives them life together with Him. He welcomes them, even though they have no claim to His name or anything to bring to the table. Now, we are connected together through Jesus’ cross and empty tomb, regardless of our age or cultural background or financial standing. As our heavenly Father’s adopted children through Jesus, you and I have been given a new identity that is based in hope rather than fear. Some of the families in our congregation know that blessing of adoption and have experienced what it means to welcome someone into their family as a son or daughter, brother or sister. Adopted by God, you are not alone, no matter what happens in this life. God will never give you up.
As His children, God has also given you an inheritance. In the world around us, an inheritance comes following someone’s death. It’s a gift that person has left behind to benefit their family and friends. In the same way, you and I are beneficiaries of Christ’s new testament: from his death, we inherit the right relationship with God that we never could have bought on our own. You get to have life that can’t be broken, even by death. But unlike an earthly inheritance, we get to enjoy it with the one who gave it. Jesus, our risen and living Lord, is himself the sign that we’ll get what what’s coming to us – and that we’ve already started to have it!
As Paul wrote, you can have confidence in God’s promise that He has made you right with Him through Jesus. Your inheritance in Jesus isn’t just something that you have to wait to heaven to experience. Yes, there’s more to come, because Jesus’ return will bring the full life with God which He has promised us. But your inheritance is real right now. Your pride and your worry are forgiven, along with all your sin, washed away in Christ’s redeeming blood. You’re worth that much to God. He values you so much that He has planned for you – yes, you! – to be a part of His family, even before He created the earth on which we live. How can Paul say this? It’s the mystery of God’s grace which has been made known in Jesus. It’s the Good News which motivates us to go out and show and tell that God provides everything needed to have a right relationship with Him from A to Z, from adoption to inheritance.
This summer, we’ll be walking through each week’s appointed reading from St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. It’s a letter of encouragement for Christians – not just for those in ancient Ephesus, but for us, too, in every time and place. Through Paul, God shows that we are a made to be a united people, brought together across nations and generations and cultures in Jesus the Savior. Under the theme “Life Together,” which includes a special cross-generational “Learning Together” study before Sunday services, we’ll see just what our life in Christ can look like as God’s people.
Today, you have heard that God has adopted us as His sons and daughters, and that He has given each of us an inheritance of a right relationship and life with Him, a relationship which is greater than our pride and mightier than our worry. But come tomorrow, next week, or next year, you may need a reminder. So think back to Amazon and its logo. Whenever you see it – on their website, on a box, wherever – remember the “A to Z” promise that God has made you in Christ: He provides it all, from adoption to inheritance.