Saturday, July 11, 2009

B, Pentecost 6 Proper 10 - Ephesians 1:4-8, 13-14 "God's Glorious Grace"

God's glorious grace is gold. It's a gift that's received at no cost! But at great cost it was given!

At great cost Jesus saved and redeemed you, when you were lost and condemned. He has freed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. As we grow in him we're led into a deeper understanding just what a wonderful gift this is! Jesus gives this gift, not with earthly silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. This is God's grace! This is God's gospel love! This is God's generosity! This is the true gold of grace! And it's given to you! A free gift!
Have you ever given a gift, after struggling to decide what to get, or after toiling at great lengths to find the perfect present, to see the receiver treat it as nothing? It makes you feel sad, or perhaps even a little disgusted that they've treated the perfect present as paltry. It makes you feel as if you've had the core of your being ripped out – completely gutted!
Now you know how God feels when you treat his gift of grace as a second-rate gift of garbage! And we've all done that. Every time we elevate something or someone as more worthy than Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave!
Then there's the child that on opening the gift is genuinely in raptures over the present. Yes! The child's probably not putting God first as the eyes glisten over just the thing they've always wanted. But this is how God glorious grace should glisten in the eyes of his children.
Have you ever wondered why atheists are often angry with God and the church? They act like kids who get the wrong gift! But a true atheist shouldn't expect to get a gift, because an atheist supposedly believes there's no one there to give the gift anyway! Are they mad because there's no one to give them something, or are they beside themselves because there is someone there trying to give them the glorious gift of grace?
Surely atheists shouldn't be angry since they believe there is nothing to be angry at! But perhaps they're angry because there is! Perhaps they're angry because God pursues them with grace. Having been included in Christ when they heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. And having received the mark of the promised Holy Spirit which Paul speaks of to the Ephesians in chapter one verse thirteen onwards! Maybe they're angry because they want to be god's of their own domain, but in their hearts can't escape the truth of an almighty God who loves them.
You know God is real. You know about his gift. Hopefully like an atheist you don't deny its reality! That your familiarity does not breed contempt like that of the atheist!
More likely though, your struggle and my struggle is apathy. With so many other things to occupy our interests today, we loose sight of the hidden glow of the One gift that should outshine all other gifts – God's glorious grace.
Does God's personal gift grace to you seem tarnished because of ignorance and lack of understanding? Maybe it's time to return to the place where in baptism we're told by Christ to be taught in his Word and to uphold why it is we need this gift of grace so much!
Does God's personal gift of grace to you seem cheap or nothing? Then now is the time to see how cheap your reality is. Will the stuff you value be enough to pay the price for your sin? This sin is the stuff God detests and won't allow in his holy presence! You know in your heart a cheap human reality just won't cut it!
Does your entry into church stir you conscience? Make you feel a little uneasy? Then perhaps there's something hidden in this building that seems as hot as hell in summer and as cold as ice in winter! That something golden and glorious dwells amongst these people whom so often seem to radiate these same temperatures as the church building!
It's right to think before God, we're not worth much. Because left to ourselves, our own will, our own understanding, our own efforts, and our own feelings, we are dust and to dust we shall return. Why? Because like the atheist we are sinful! Even before we did our first act of disobedience we were doomed to destruction and death.
It's not what we do as sinners. The fact of the matter is that we are sinners! Our being is sinful, and so we're bound to do sinful things sooner or later. If you think you haven't yet really sinned, good luck to you, mate, you will! In fact thinking this way is a sin, if we took the time to examine the reality of why we would think we haven't sinned!
One might think it's not all that good to come to church to hear this doom and gloom, since we live with so much of it in our day to day reality. But unless we see the reality of all the rubbish we gather around us that hinder and hides God's glorious gift of grace. We will never allow God to toss it out so we can experience the brilliance of his glorious gift of grace.
It's not so much about forgetting about our sinful nature and the sin that evolves from it. Nor is it about pushing sin aside as if it doesn't really matter. And it's definitely not about justifying sin copping out that God is a God of love, he won't hurt me. To a certain degree you're right. God won't hurt you! But what it's about is all of us need our sin dealt with!
However, if you forget, push aside, or justify your sinful nature, you will hurt yourself. Like the angry atheist who wishes for nothing, God's glorious grace will be gone, there will be nothing for you in death. You will suffer in yourself in the wrathful vacuum of hell. This is the realm where those exist tormented in eternity because God and his grace will be eternally absent forever.
So in knowing we are nothing, dust we are to dust we shall return, we are also called to know this: We are recipients of faith when we hear the truth – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been predestined, chosen before the creation of the world according to God's pleasure and will, despite our not being worthy or worth anything in ourselves.
It's at about this time the gift of God's glorious grace begins to show off its hidden lustre. When you begin to realise how low you should be in God's sight but instead are seen as the most prized of God's possessions that God's glorious grace stands out a pack ahead of the rest ­— without a doubt it's the gift that's second to none!
Wow! You and I are the angry child. So often unappreciative of this wonderful gift! Ready to be rejected because of your attitude! Yet God picks you up as his child and forgives you, because he loves you, as if you were his one and only child. He holds you; you are his gift, because of God's glorious grace, having sacrificed Christ on the cross, his one and only Son, for you!
You and I are the baptismal praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. This One he loves is God the Son, Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the grave in all power over sin and death. This is God's glorious grace, this is gold!
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:4-8)
These riches lavished on you are gold. These riches are God's glorious grace! Remain in them, return to revere his redemption; flourish in his forgiveness! Because…
You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
You are God's golden possession, through the gift of God's glorious grace, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.