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Love is Life

Sermons

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!

(Psalm 8)

Reading from Swedenborg

Our Inheritance

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)

Sermon

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 statement.

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 estate.

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 love.

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 to her.

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