Inheritance That Lasts Forever

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November 3, 2019. On this All Saints’ Day, Pastor Stephanie’s message is about the gifts of inestimable value we have all inherited.


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Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The year was 1981. In September of that year, my maternal grandmother died peacefully at age 91. She had lived a very full life. I grew up not only near to my grandmother geographically, but also felt that we were of kindred spirit, so near and dear to me was she in so very many ways. As grandchildren do, I went off to another state to further my education, and later settled into a new home and life with my husband about four hours away from where Grandma lived. So, many visits with her from that point on were infrequent, though still very precious. Long before she made her end-of-life decisions, she became very definite about possessions of hers that she wanted me to have, as she said as a “remembrance of me.” I remember her saying that often, but I didn’t want to dwell on that theme with her. So I barely gave that part of our conversations much thought. Then the time came when we received the phone call that Grandma had gone to be with the Lord. (Such was the language that was used in my family, because saying that someone had died was just too hard, and inserting a statement of faith seemed the right thing to do. It was, after all, what we believed, so it’s right and proper to announce her passing in that way.)


The funeral was a beautiful testimony to her long life of trusting in God — as a young immigrant from the Netherlands, starting her married life in Iowa in a farming community, and raising five children through the Great Depression. Her courage and faith were put to the test even more during that time, when she lost her husband (my grandfather) when her youngest child (my mother) was only four years old. Through many adversities she held on and displayed deep gratitude to her God for helping her through. Actively involved in ladies service circles, she had made her imprint in her local church and community and would be missed, her pastor said. We gave God thanks for the fulfillment of her baptism and the hope of the resurrection that was hers.


During the luncheon that followed the funeral, I was busily introducing my husband to extended family members who had not yet met him, and talking with longtime family friends. At some point, Phil asked me where some of the family members had gone because they were obviously no longer present. We said goodbye to those still remaining, got into our car, and drove over to Grandma’s house. In my naiveté I expected to see people relaxing in the living room, continuing to reminisce about good times with Grandma. But through the large living room window, I could see from the street instead that there was some scurrying about going on as people were picking up objects they wanted to claim. I looked at Phil in dismay and said just keep on driving. So back to our home we went.


I never did get the rings or other personal effects Grandma said she wanted me to have. But while I was deeply disappointed in the behaviors of some of my relatives at the time, I have always remembered what my grandmother gave to me that was priceless. I may not have inherited jewelry or nice household items from her, but I inherited something far more valuable from her. Something no one could ever snatch away from me. I witnessed the depth and the steadiness of her trust in God, who she told me had provided for her, had comforted her, and had been her truest companion throughout her life. Her well-worn Bible from which she read to me, and the sincerity of her prayers as she prayed with and for me and for so many others, showed me a faith in Christ that was alive and dynamic — not merely a set of beliefs, but a living relationship. My inheritance from Grandmother was worth more than anything any amount of money at all could buy.


You have your own stories of people whose faith has nurtured and inspired yours. You can recall instances where you witnessed compassion and kindness and peace beyond human understanding on display, by people whose lives have impacted you. That was the light of Christ shining within them. Your lives and mine have been enriched by the saints whose lives we honor today. We have inherited gifts of inestimable value from them.


This past year we have mourned the loss of three dear members of Christ Lutheran Church: David Hopper, Ruth Lytle, and Larry Neeb. Each one of them has left a legacy of dependence on God, gratitude for God’s provision, and faith that was made deep and rich by the forgiveness and restoration received through the cross of Christ and the hope of resurrection that was theirs by the grace of God. We have inherited richly from the witness of their lives.


Yesterday, in informal conversations following the memorial service for Larry Neeb, I heard of even more acts of kindness and charitable donations that Larry enjoyed sharing widely, than I’d ever heard before. His passion for communicating the love of Christ broadly impacted people far and wide. I have to share a bit of the sermon given by Pastor Rick here. He was relating how Larry, Rick’s wife Kathleen, and Rick would be dining on board a cruise ship while vacationing together, and the steward would repeatedly say things like, “Of course, you deserve only the best.” And later the three of them would repeat that phrase and laugh because of the pretentiousness of it all. It’s a good thing that they had the perspective of realizing the folly of that statement. The trap in life is to think that money or possessions or the other things society considers of deep value, are the most important things to have and to pass on and to inherit. And we are further urged by some voices to believe that of course, we deserve only the best that life has to offer. And that we should seek after these best things with all of our might.


But people of faith, like Larry and all the saints, recognize that we don’t at all deserve only the best. We see what the best of life is, and it’s something far superior to receiving the finest of service at an elegant dinner on a cruise ship. The pinnacle of life is that we are called a child of God.


And we’ve done nothing to deserve that. We’ve done nothing to deserve any of the richness of grace that has been lavished on us by Christ. We could not even begin to do enough or be enough to deserve such a rich gift. And yet we have been given an inheritance. All of us, according to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians. He writes, “In Christ we have received an inheritance. We are the children of God who are heirs of a glorious inheritance, all because of Christ.” Paul goes on enthusiastically to pray that we would know what is the hope to which he has called you. What are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints?


So perhaps we should wonder whether we do know the value of these riches. Could any one of us put a price on what we have received from Christ? What is the value of forgiveness of our sin? How does one put a price on freedom from guilt? Who can adequately state the value of being a beloved child of God? What could be of more value than inheriting life everlasting?


Friends, we have a glorious inheritance. It’s been freely given. We’ve done nothing to earn it. We are rich, rich beyond measure. Our inheritance is one that lasts forever and ever and ever. It can never be taken from us because it has been sealed for us by the blood of Christ. Praise be to Christ, for all the gifts that he has given us and all of the saints.


Thanks be to God.


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2019, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Stephanie Doeschot, Dave Hopper, Daniel 7:1-3, Daniel 7:15-18, Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23,  Luke 6:20-31