Sunday, June 28, 2015
My grandpa Andrew came to this country from Sweden in 1903. There were thirteen children in that family and there was no more room in the house, so he left to make space for the younger ones. He was the third son which meant that he would never inherit the farm in Sweden, so he came here. He worked as a cabinet maker in the furniture factories in Grand Rapids at the turn of the century, and in fact he worked well beyond his seventy-fifth birthday. He and my Grandma Emma were hard workers, frugal with their money and generous with the church. They didn’t have a car, and they didn’t have a TV or a stereo or anything to play music on, and their chief pleasure was their family. And when my grandpa Andy died, his three children divided his life savings among them – which amounted to $166 a piece. That was his inheritance to his heirs.
My own memory of my grandpa is that every Christmas Eve we would gather at his home and he would call each of his grandchildren in turn, solemnly, by our full name, in order of our birth, and hand us a five dollar bill.
That was Grandpa’s gift to us.
And I remember the stories he told us, again and again, about how he had come to Escanaba, Michigan on the train in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter, in the middle of a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Some of you have heard that story!
But what I remember most was my grandpa Andy’s faith. He and my grandmother were early, faithful members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids and very active there. Most Saturdays my mother and my two brothers and I would go visit our grandparents in their home on Brown Street. My brothers and I would wedge ourselves in behind their little kitchen table and sit across from Grandpa. We had milk and cookies. He had coffee which was mostly milk and lots of sugar – always in a big white mug. He would peer over his glasses at each one of us in turn, and he would say to us, every Saturday morning, without fail, in his heavy Swedish accent, “God have been good to me.” That was my inheritance from my Grandpa Andy.
For most things, Grandpa got along well enough in the English language, though with a heavy Swedish accent. But he always prayed in Swedish. I never understood a word of his prayers, but what I heard was a man pouring out his heart to God in a language they both knew, and it sounded like sacred singing to me. That was my real inheritance from him.
So I have been thinking this week about what it means to be an heir of God which is what our passage from Romans calls us. We are children of God and therefore we are heirs of God.
Which means - that everything that is God’s is ours. That all that belongs to God belongs to us also, through Jesus.
So the next time you look up at the sky at night, think to yourself – those are mine. All those stars up there in that dark sky. Those stars are mine. They are God’s and they belong to me. Or when you read about the planets, or watch a special on TV about the planets, think to yourself – those are mine. All those planets hanging out there in space in their orbits – in some way that I, at least, do not understand – think to yourself - they belong to God and they belong to me. And the universes beyond the universes that we cannot see or imagine – they belong to us because they belong to God. Or the next time you’re out in the woods with a little stream that sparkles in the sunlight, or at the lake with the waves pounding in on the shoreline in their precise rhythm – think to yourself, this is God’s and all that’s God’s is mine. Or in your own back yard, when you’re surrounded by flowers that appear by magic from seeds or little flats at the flower store, and hummingbirds at the bird feeders. Remind yourself that they are God’s gift to you. Your inheritance as God’s precious son or daughter.
Today we look around us in this church, and we see the others here – long-time friends who have probably been with you through a hard time or two in your lives. And we say to ourselves – all these belong to me. All these are God’s sons and daughters and they are my sisters and brothers as well. All these people are God’s very gracious gifts to me. Even if I am just beginning to know some of them.
And when we hear of trouble, again, always, in Charleston, or Syria or Boston or wherever else in the world there is trouble, and we see the pictures on TV of those who are suffering there, or immigrants trying to reach a safer place, and we say to ourselves, they belong to me. They are God’s precious children and they are mine also. They are my responsibility. They belong to me.
And congregation of Jesus Christ in at North Kent: don’t forget those promises. Remember those promises that God made to the people in the Old Testament – to Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Jacob and the others. God said, I will be your God. I will love you lavishly and I will care for you tenderly. Those promises are ours as well.
And if we are God’s children we walk around every day in a bubble of blessing – the gracious gift of God to us. And when we are lonely or discouraged or worried, God’s Spirit is as close to us as our breathing in and out. Or when we are knocked down by one bout of bad health after another, or we see the stock market dipping and there goes our retirement income, or when we have a decision to make. Or as church, when it’s not clear at all what the future will be. There is God, beside us, whether we realize it or not, holding us and loving us. Because we are the children of God. Because that’s what perfect parents do for their children. We are held, every second of every day of our lives in the big warm, loving hands of God. And nothing is strong enough to yank us out of those hands. So no matter what may happen to us in our lives - and there will be things that will happen to us - nothing can really harm us as we live our lives in God’s hands.
In case you wonder if all this blessedness can really be true – in case you can’t quite believe it all - then look at this communion table. It’s the proof, in front of our very eyes, of God’s amazing love for us through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, all of God’s love comes pouring down on us until we are standing knee deep in God’s love. As the sons and daughters of God. The heirs of God. All of God’s love, and all of God’s power, and all of God’s majesty and goodness and forgiveness come deluging down on us. All because we belong to God. And in that confidence we live each day and move into the future.