Passages for Sept. 13 at First Mennonite Church
Psalm 116:1-9, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 8:12-17, Mark 8:34-38
You get a surprise call from a trusted relative, informing you that a large inheritance has been left in your name. The amount is staggering, you will be financially secure for life. All you have to do is go pick it up.
How do you react to the stunning news! Lottery winners, in the first flush of realization, often say they will quit their job, buy a fancy car, pay off the mortgage, travel the world. The first thoughts are, quite naturally, self serving. Human beings are "hard wired" toward self gratification, and when that is coupled with a consumer centered culture, the results are predictable.
I wonder, however, if after the initial reaction to the inheritance calms down, how would you think about the future? How will this idea of absolute security change the way you live? Will it change who you interact with? Where you live? Your involvements in church and community? What about decision making-do you bow to group discernment or make executive decisions because now you have power?
Would you ever consider not picking up the inheritance?
Romans 8:12-17 is a trusted source that informs the Christian community of an inheritance so large that those who pick it up will be secure for life. "you have received a spirit of adoption...we are children of God...heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ..." This inheritance, however, is different than the lottery. The security is one of spirit and eternal life, not money. The inheritance does not enable self-gratification, but enables self-giving. The adoptees are no longer "slaves" to the desires of human tendency to reward themselves, instead, their eyes are opened to the needs of others.
In studying this passage, I was greatly helped in my understanding by listening to a "Pulpit Fiction" podcast on the passage. The NRSV version of the Bible (my usual go-to) talks about being freed from the "sins of the flesh". That phrase tends to limit our thinking to physical desires, so we think of things like sexual sin, greediness, the misuse of alcohol, to name a few. The CEB (Common English Bible) translation is different, instead of "sins of the flesh", it says; "selfishness". That is a much more broad, and I think accurate, description of what Paul is getting at. (And fewer of us can claim innocence!)
If accepting this inheritance from God frees us from selfishness, it strongly affects how we handle ourselves into the future. We will use our gifts (all sorts of them) for the good of the community, we live as family with God as parent, we accept that we have not only picked up the rights of children, but have taken on responsibilities within the family.
Being adopted into God's family means spiritual security, knowing that whatever happens in life, our significant spiritual inheritance is secure. Being adopted means being freed from the "rat race" of selfishness that drives so much of humanity. Being adopted means being a part of a healthy family that (even though families have their issues...) is always trying to work at it's issues.
This Romans inheritance is different than the lottery. The promise is tremendous, but it comes with responsibilities and the willingness to work for God and others, instead of being guided by selfishness. I can see why many people would hesitate to pick up this inheritance-but if more people did pick it up...that's the kind of world I want to be part of!
So, will you or have you picked up the inheritance that changes who you interact with, how you live, where you live, your involvements, your focus in life? Do you accept God's offer to adopt you?