Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
In this paragraph Paul answers the question: “When were you saved?” two very different ways: At the foundations of the world (see v. 3); and when one hears and believes.
The date one finally hears God’s word of grace in a way relevant to the struggle of life is much more obvious that a spiritual inheritance. Yet the spiritual inheritance is even more significant; think of all of the people who preserved God’s word, carefully translated it, taught it through countless generations, … so that it would arrive in your ear on the precise day you needed to hear it.
This week I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Optimally the roasted bird will be fully cooked shortly after my brother arrives. But hours earlier, with some assistance, I will rinse the bird, seasoned, and stuffed and placed in a slow oven. A day earlier I will immerse it in a carefully prepared brine. Days before that, I transferred to the refrigerator to thaw. For months before that farmers have fed that bird and kept it healthy. Years before that the farm would be prepared to raise turkeys. All so a family can sit down together and give thanks for God seeing us through another year.
Thus give thanks for all the people who toiled long before you chose that slice of turkey and give thanks for all the people who toiled long before the word of grace reached your ear.
Luke 17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
I have discovered that I enjoy foreign languages. Not that I can speak more than a phrase or two in any but English. But the phrase that I first seek to learn when I meet someone from another country is “Thank you.”
Thank you is the heart of worship. Thanking another person is to recognize God’s presence in that person. I hope that by thanking someone in their native tongue, I might connect with them and they might see God through me.
Luke 15:2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Can you imagine what it would take to openly eat with a different cultural group? Have you ever gone to a local tavern and attempted to connect with people from a different social or economic background?
Jesus grew up on the religious side of town. His mother offered the right sacrifice after he was born. They traveled regularly as a family to the temple. He began his ministry by reading the scroll of Isaiah. His neighbors probably thought of him as the local boy who did well. So it was no surprise that the Pharisees noticed that he was eating with the local riffraff. But what would those irreligious people think when Jesus started showing up and welcoming them to eat with him?
Recently my wife and I went to a restaurant and were seated at a table for four, leaving two empty seats. Across the aisle was another couple, complete strangers from a different social background, also dining at a table for four with two empty chairs. They had their reasons for dining out and we had ours. I supposed they deserved a quiet dinner as much as we did. But, as we left I wondered if we and they might have enjoyed dinner all the more if one of the four of us had reached across the aisle and welcomed the other couple to dine at one table.
Zephaniah 2:1 Gather together, gather, O shameless nation, 2 before you are driven away like the drifting chaff, …
Prophetic words for the day after a contentious election. “Gather together … before you are driven away like the drifting chaff.”
No matter which candidates you championed last week or voted for yesterday, no matter which candidates you vilified on Monday, today we must become one nation. Today we must act with grace and accept leadership from those who answered God’s call through the voice of the people.
As an officer of the United States Navy, I learned to look past personalities I may have disagreed with to the citizens behind them, and trust that God spoke through the slender majority who elected those leaders. Today I encourage each citizen to serve our neighbors by communicating opinions and learnings with our leaders, praying they will attend to God’s voice.
As the citizens of the United States of America become ever more diverse, we increasingly risk loosening the mutual affection that binds us together. As people of God, the Spirit calls us to be a light to the nation, demonstrating mutual affection that spans race and creed, seeing in one another gifts for that will benefit our union. The prophet warns us that if we fail to gather together we will be driven away like chaff upon the wind.
[For what its worth, this entry was composed October 25th, 2010, but could apply for the election 202 years ago or in 2012.]