Heirs of Love
July 06, 2010
O Lord, our sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Reading from Swedenborg
Unto thy seed will I give this land. (Genesis
15:18) That this signifies the consolation after these temptations
and horrors, in that they who are in charity and faith in Him should
become heirs, is evident from the signification of "seed," and from the
signification of the "land." By the "seed of Abram" are signified love
and the faith derived therefrom, consequently all those who are in
charity and in faith in the Lord. But by the land of Canaan is signified
the Lord's kingdom; therefore to "give the land unto thy seed"
signifies that the heavenly kingdom should be given as an inheritance to
those who from charity have faith in Him. That these things were a
consolation to the Lord after His temptations and horrors, may be seen
without explication. For after those hard and adverse eventualities
which the Lord had seen, that is to say, after he had put to flight
evils and falsities . . . the Lord could not but be in distress and
grief; and therefore consolation now follows; namely, that His seed
should inherit the land, that is, that they who are in charity and in
faith in Him should become heirs of His kingdom. To Him the salvation of
the human race was the only consolation, for He was in Divine and
celestial love, and became, even as to His Human essence, the Divine and
celestial Love itself, in which the love of all is alone regarded and
is at heart. That the Divine love is such may be seen from the love of
parents toward their children, which increases according to the degree
in which it descends, that is, it becomes greater toward the more remote
descendants than it is toward the immediate children. Nothing ever
exists without a cause and an origin, consequently neither does this
love in the human race that is characterized by a constant increase
toward the descendants in succession. The cause and origin of this
cannot but be from the Lord, from whom inflows all conjugial love, and
that of parents toward their children, and the source of which is that
His love for all is like that of a father for his children, who desires
to make all His heirs, and provides an inheritance for those who are to
be born, as He does for those already born. (Arcana Coelestia #1865)
Good morning, everyone! A comedian once
quipped, "A will is a dead give-away." If this is true, then it might
interest you to learn that the first "dead give-away" known to exist was
the will of a man named Nekure, which was carved on the wall of a Greek
tomb around the year 26 AD. Its opening words translate as: "While
standing on my own two feet and not ailing in any respect. . ." He went
on to dispose of fourteen towns and two estates that were to be divided
among his wife, three children, and his concubine. History does not
record how that last act of generosity was received by the family!
In today's world we know that wills will always be
with us. We accumulate more goods and wealth than we can possibly use up
before we die, so the disposition of property will always be
important. . . and fascinating. We long to have some control over whom
we benefit in our passing, and thus a will is our last personal
And oh, how we make use of this final opportunity! We
support causes that are important to us. We repay kindnesses that have
been shown to us throughout our lives. We take steps to ensure that
family heirlooms are passed down to those whom we want to receive them.
We offer tokens of love to our offspring.
But we make other statements in these documents. A
greedy relative might be given nothing. An unloving spouse might be left
destitute. An unsuspecting acquaintance might be granted a fortune.
Even my own father in his will wrote that his estate was to be divided
equally among us seven children, with one exception. My younger brother
was to be drug-free, and if he was not, then he was not to share in the
There is no telling what goes through a person's mind
when writing a last will and testament. The norm is to express love and
gratitude. But sometimes, due to senility, momentary anger,
vindictiveness, helplessness, or even a sense of humor, the bequests
take unforeseen and unlikely turns. Dogs and cats have been left entire
fortunes. Wesley College in Kentucky received from one female
benefactor, a product of the Victorian Age, two bequests: an indoor
swimming pool and a transport truck filled with cement. Under the terms
of her will, the cement is to be dumped into the pool should male and
female students ever use the pool at the same time.
Too often, hate dictates a will. A wealthy furrier
who died recently in New York had worded his will in such a way that it
could only make his children turn on each other which revealed that in a
real way, he hated them. Many wills are taken as an opportunity to
uncover dark secrets, that break the spirit of an unsuspecting spouse.
The harm is unnecessary and serves no good. Yes, too often wills are a
legacy that reveal one's hate and lack of compassion. In this regard,
they reveal a lot about the writer's character.
In Old Testament times the normal procedure for the
transfer of an estate was that the sons were the heirs to the parental
estate. The basic rule was that only sons were considered heirs; thus
daughters were excluded. Among the sons, the oldest, or first-born, had
the privileged position and received a "double portion." In Deuteronomy
21 we learn, "Suppose a man has two wives and they both bear him sons,
but the first son is not the child of his favorite wife. The man is not
to show partiality. He is to give a double share of his possessions to
his first son, even though he is not the son of his favorite wife."
In an odd way the very next passage offers a subtle
hint to resolving this dilemma. "But if the son is rebellious, he is to
be taken before the leaders of the town and the father can say to them,
'My son is rebellious.' And then the man can stone him to death in order
to get rid of the evil."
Things stood pretty much this way until the New
Testament times, for Jesus taught a different concept of what an heir
is. His teachings underscored the fact that all sons were to be treated
equally. Roman law even came to recognize the rights of daughters in an
inheritance. But in the early church, there was an even more radical
change. Paul noted, "To all those who are led by the spirit of God, and
who have thus received sonship, they shall become heirs of the kingdom.
If they are sons of God, they shall be heirs in God's eyes." And
becoming a child of God was a self-claimed right, a decision that one
made for oneself. Thus, an heir became identified with the inheritance
of eternal life. Worldly possessions were secondary to this.
It is this definition of what an heir is that is
underscored in our scripture for this morning. We were taught that our
Lord freely extends to us a specific legacy. For we are not heirs of
hatred, or judgment. Ours is instead a legacy of hope and understanding.
Our psalm speaks of two things. The first is the
greatness and majesty of God's creation--"the work of God's fingers."
But even more important is the legacy God has provided for each of us.
The universe is vast. The moon and stars are far away. Perhaps God is
even further removed from creation. Yet, God has shown concern and care
for all people and has affirmed our worth. "What is man that thou are
mindful of him?" In response, the psalmist was shown the world.
When we ask this question, we too are given a similar
response. This is the realization that we have been given the world and
everything in it. God trusts us so much, that its fate is in our hands.
Our legacy from God is one of complete and total trust. We are
entrusted to carry on the work of creation in caring for the world. It
is a legacy that gives the world hope.
In Romans 5 Paul attempts to expand on this legacy.
He writes, "This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his
love into our hearts by means of this spirit, who is God's gift to us."
Paul is underscoring that we may at first cling to hope as God's
ultimate gift, but if we do so, we are missing the real gift. For we are
not simply beneficiaries of hope; we are much more than that. God's
love has been poured into our hearts. What Paul says is that we are, in a
very real way, heirs of complete and unabating love. We are heirs of
Perhaps some of us here have at some time received a
legacy, or perchance we know someone who has. Might I ask you, did this
change you? Or did you observe changes in the other person? Did you or
the other person become more generous? Or was there a different impact? I
once knew a woman who received a large inheritance from her mother. It
seemed that overnight she became cold, uncaring, and concerned only with
monetary wealth. And if her mother had known the changes that the
daughter underwent, I am sure that she would not have been so generous
But now, let us think of this in another way. If we
are heirs of God's love, then how does this change our lives? This
realization presents us with the fact that we have many choices to make
in terms of how we will use our God-given inheritance. We can use God's
love within us to take on more responsibility and to become better
people, or we can become self-righteous and uncaring. We can take the
creation we have been given and abuse it, or tend to it as a precious
gift. We can relate to other people in ways that deepen our appreciation
for God's spirit within them, or we can let them go, claiming that we
don't need them any more.
The ultimate issue here is that the manner in which
we use our legacy from God dictates the extent to which we will receive
it. The gift we have received from God is the gift of spiritual life. We
do not receive this gift all at once it comes to us over the course of a
lifetime. In this lifetime, we can open ourselves to its continued
coming, or we can reject it. The choice is ours.
The choice our Lord would have us make is that we
take hold of this legacy willingly. In his book Sorting Things Out, George
Dole helps us understand the implications of this choice. He notes that
"God wants us to be at peace with ourselves and with each other. God
wants us to go to bed each night with a sense of contentment, and to
wake up each morning with anticipation. God wants us to appreciate and
enjoy and care for each other. He wants us to know the beauty of a task
well done, and a word well spoken. He wants us to see the beauty latent
in all his creatures and all of his creation." In short, God wants us to
discover his legacy that there is hope and joy to be lived each and
every moment of our lives.
Being heirs of love is not always easy in this world
in which we live. It may seem at times to be idle chatter when Paul
notes that our legacy of hope ad love, the gifts of the spirit, have
been poured into each of our beings. Yes, we know too well that Paul did
not face a world of malfunctioning computers, busy schedules, fighting
children; nor did he live in a city filled with countless construction
zones and detours. But he did live in a world with war and oppression,
slavery and greed. thus, it did have many of the same issues we face
today. In Paul's time, and even yet today, we are called to remember
that we are heirs of love.
An awareness of the fact that we are heirs of love is
essential to spiritual life. This awareness opens us to the
possibilities that God's gifts of hope and love offer to us. So let us
remember that we are heirs of love, and may this awareness make a
difference to us.
Rev. Ron Brugler