Ephesians 1:3-14 / Christmas 2 A
Epiphany, Castle Rock, January 4-5, 2014
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ!
Years ago, years before you were born, your dad, gave your mom an engagement ring. That ring was Dad’s promise, his pledge to build a life together with your mom. It was a visible reminder of your dad’s promise to be there when the kids are born, his promise to be there to set up a home together, to be there no matter where life took the newly married couple, until ‘death do they part’. For her part, your mom wore your dad’s ring—if she’s alive, she probably has it on today—as a visible, public symbol that she belongs to this man and wants to live life with him and believes all the promises he made on their wedding day—promises for their today and for their tomorrow together!
In Ephesians chapter 5, that great chapter on Christian marriage, the Holy Spirit tells us that Christian marriage is a symbol, an example of the mystery that is Christ’s union with His bride the church. So it is not surprising that God says to His Bride the Church—God says to you and to every baptized believer here this morning: “In [Christ] you also, . . . were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of [y]our inheritance until [you] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (vs. 13-14).
Like an engagement ring, God gives you His pledge, His promise to love, cherish and be with His beloved; but rather than a ring, God seals His pledge by pouring out His Holy Spirit on you in Baptism, the guarantee of your present and future life together with God, forever. And there’s one more difference besides just the ring.
While most people can easily understand why a man will freely give his pledge to a beautiful young woman, God made His pledge to adopt you, before you ever smiled, before you ever drew a breath, before you did any of those cute things that so fascinate parents and grandparents as they stare in wonder at their little babies. “[God] chose us in [Christ]” we read in verse 4, “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. “In love [God our Father in heaven] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (vs. 4-5).
Just let that soak in for a moment. Before He drew up the plans for the Rocky Mountains, before He sent the planets spinning around the sun, before He spoke a single moment of time into existence, GOD CHOSE YOU to be His very own!
Three times in our short Epistle lesson, the Holy Spirit repeatedly emphasizes that for all of your charm, for all of your good looks and above average intelligence, for all of the Good works of you do in the church of God; God nevertheless chose you—not because of who you are or because of what you have done—but solely because of Who God is and His great love!
God chose you, “according to the purpose of His will” verse 5 tells us. He chose you from all eternity “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (vs. 5-6). God chose you, verses 7 & 9 continue, “according to the riches of His Grace, which He has lavished upon us … according to His good pleasure” (vs. 7, 9).
Revelation 21 tells us that God has chosen the Church of all believers in Jesus Christ to be His bride (cf. Rev 21.2, 9). At the same time, today’s Epistle reminds us that God has chosen each individual Christian—God has chosen you—to be His own beloved child, adopted in Christ: “[you] were chosen,” the Holy Spirit testifies in verse 11, “having been predestined according to the plan of God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (v. 11).
That’s the good news. But as any of you who have ever tried it know, adoption is difficult in the best of circumstances and it is always, expensive.
Diana’s sister and her husband adopted 3 children from China. It costs a lot! They had to travel overseas and live for a month or more in country in order to adopt each child. In addition to the incredible expense of travel, time off work and money spent to live in a foreign city, the actual paper work, attorney’s fees and court filings for adoption will bankrupt all but the most dedicated and selfless family!
A lot farther than the trip from Castle Rock to China, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to make the trip all the way from heaven to earth! Jesus came to live on this foreign planet so that God could adopt you !!! During the few short years He was here, Jesus spent every cent He had, He literally gave the ‘shirt off His back’ so that His holy, innocent and righteous blood could be poured out from the cross to pay the price for your adoption by our Father who is in heaven.
On the Friday night evening news, ABC ran the story of a eight young orphans in South Sudan who were not allowed to leave the country with the Americans who want to adopt them. These children had the very bad luck to have had their natural parents either arrested or killed during the mob violence in that country. As the bombs, bullets and knives make their way through the civilian population in which the orphans live, they remain stranded and helpless as the violence rages about them. The news team was sure to photograph the crying children, but they were able to do nothing to help them!
These poor orphans are not alone. You, me and all people were born orphaned just like them: “alienated,” the Scriptures tell us, “having no hope and without God in the world’ (cf. 2.12). As the bombs of evil, the knives of sin and the bullets of cruelty rain down all around us, you and I are born helpless orphans, unable to escape from hell.
“[But] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!” (v. 3).
That’s right, today, even as the violence of sin and death continues to erupt and explode all around us, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has already blessed YOU and me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! Even when our planet earth is seemingly going to hell, God has nevertheless already given to us an inheritance of eternal life and joys with Him in heaven!
That life begins now!
But in the fog of war, in the din of satan’s battle against the saints of God, with the burning stench of sin in our nostrils and the disorienting echo of the enemies explosions all around us, it can be hard to remember that all the blessings of heaven already belong to us in Jesus Christ.
And that’s what brings us here today. God doesn’t want us to forget. God the Father, who adopts us from the hell of our own sin, doesn’t ever want us to forget the glorious inheritance that is already ours, both now in this life and even more clear, joyous and real in the life to come! We gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments here in this place each week to remember, to witness once more the seal of God’s promise, the blessed pledge of God’s own Holy Spirit, as daily we return to live in our Baptism “which is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory!” (v. 14).
God’s pledge is ours because He chose us! God’s redemption, blessing and inheritance are all ours only in Jesus Christ, there is no blessing, no inheritance, no good thing in all the universe apart from Christ. And all this becomes yours and mine through hearing the Gospel.
This very Gospel was poured out upon each of you. “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,” we read in Titus 3, “God save[s] us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he pour[s] out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (Titus 3.4-6).
It is through this Gospel made visible in the water of Holy Baptism that you, me, and all believers are all sealed with God’s own Holy Spirit of promise (v. 13)!
But the Gospel doesn’t end with verse 13!
In the very next verse, God tells us that we are His purchased possession, given the sure and certain inheritance of eternal life with Him—for a purpose. That purpose, the Holy Spirit reveals in verse 14, is for the praise of God’s glory. In other words, You and I have been given all the treasures of heaven and an eternity so that our lives may be spent to the glory of God!
You and I together with all believers in the risen Christ bring God glory when we praise Him in worship, when we gather to hear His Word, when we proclaim the death of His Son for the sins of the world by our participation in the Lord’s Supper.
You, me and all believers glorify God best when we tell others of His wonderful love that chose us, saved us and eternally blesses us through death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
You and I tell others the Good News of this Gospel so they too may believe! So they too may receive God’s eternal blessing and add their voices to ours, spending their lives to the praise and glory of God who is your Father and theirs, forever and ever. AMEN.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! AMEN.