11/4/2019 9:34:16 AM
If you read the Bible from cover to cover, you might notice that the Bible talks about inheritance a lot. In the Hebrew section, there are stories where inheritance is central to what God is doing in the world (see Numbers 36). Jesus in many of his parables dealt with the impact of inheritance (i.e. the Prodigal Son). And Paul's letters to the small Christian communities scattered around the Mediterranean Sea, used the language of inheritance all the time. We know that inheritance is a big deal. Those with assets that will exist after we die need to create wills and make plans for how those assets will be passed on. But whenever assets and money are involved, problems (especially in families) come. We might think that people in Paul's day expected to receive some kind of inheritance during their lifetime. But their reality was very different. Few people ever earned enough money or had enough stuff to pass on to others. Most people lived at the poverty line. Yet people knew what inheritance was all about. And in our letter today to the Ephesians, the author described the inheritance we've already been given.
When you're reading this passage (Ephesians 1:11-23), make sure to read it slowly. The sentences are long, complex, and full of punctuation marks. The author is crafting a picture and using relationships as its paint. In the ancient Near East, hierarchy was everything. The king or emperor stood at the top, the quintessential human being. Everyone's value was then defined by their relationship to him. The king had certain responsibilities - i.e. to administer justice, wage war, and keep the peace. Yet their authority was, in theory, complete. They were the ultimate human being and sometimes viewed as gods. Your value was determined by your connection to your king - and whether you, in the hierarchy, could make some decisions on your own.
The church, and those who follow Jesus, know that Jesus is their king. He is the ultimate authority, the quintessential human and divine being. Yet where normal kings wield their power to tell others what to do, Jesus is the king who was crucified. And that, at its core, is scandal of our faith. The one who had authority chose not to use it the way we expected him to. Instead, in humility, he showed us that there was no experience in our life that God would not go through with us. The inheritance we're given isn't tied into any material or financial assets. Rather, our inheritance is rooted in a relationship where mercy, love, and forgiveness rule. While we clamor to see what we get in our inheritance, Jesus is busy giving us his life so that we can see what God's love is all about. The hierarchy of Christianity will always subvert the idea of hierarchy as we understand it to be. Whenever we look up towards God, Jesus is too busy coming down to us; because we, through our baptism and our faith, are his pledge of love to the world. And we're called to live a life where our inheritance from God actually matters.