“By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…” (I Peter 1:3-4)
In our reading from 1st Peter, we think about this gift God has given us as an inheritance. The gift of a new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection of Christ is our inheritance – it is what we get after Jesus died, even though he rose again, we still get our gift.
And as we think about inheritances, most people have a story to tell, or at least somebody else’s story to tell, about inheriting something – or nothing.
They can be funny or sad, or just so convoluted that we don’t know what to make of them. Just yesterday, I was scrolling through the news and saw a lengthy article about the estate of Prince. It is a year later, and they are starting to get organized.
For quite a few, there are stories of sibling disputes. For some it makes something possible that would have never been available to them before – with families taking vacations, paying off loans, and starting businesses. And for others there is nothing physical, but there are lots of memories and family standing alongside. And then there is the group of people who only wish they were left with nothing, as they inherit problems and debts, and another level of chaos comes to their lives.
And so this idea of inheritance is quite visceral to us. We know the effects of what the people who go before us leave behind – and usually the most important of those inheritances aren’t the physical kind. They are usually the ways we have impacted people as we went along our way, and the beauty we have brought or taken from our world.
Here’s a story about one person’s inheritance redeemed.
A friend of mine is in her early 60’s – and a few weeks ago, she met one of her cousins for the first time. This was her father’s brother’s daughter – and after a rough divorce, her cousin’s mom took her across the country where she didn’t have any contact with the rest of the family.
And from the stories that were whispered at the family gatherings, it was probably the best thing to do. But, even though everybody knew this other cousin existed, nobody had ever found her, despite facebook and everything else.
But as it turns out, she had moved back closer to her mother’s family once people had stopped looking, which meant that for decades, she had been living on the other side of town.
Then, one day at a funeral, a woman was standing in line with one of my friend’s siblings, and struck up a conversation as people do. Then this other woman paused and said, “It has been fifty years, but you have met me before. I’m your cousin, and I would like to get to know you better.”
And after the moment of silence that a person takes to process a statement like that, a whole new world opened itself to their family. Her father’s brother had long since passed away, and the inheritance he had left was a string of broken relationships and a hole where their other cousin should be.
But, this woman, with all the courage it took to reconnect after five decades, completely changed that uncle’s inheritance to the family. Now she is part of the family, attending grade-school for her great nieces and nephews, bringing food to the Sunday afternoon potlucks, and joining in the stories.
It has changed their view of their uncle, and it has changed their family in some amazing ways.
God does indeed work all things for the good.
And if a simple, human inheritance can change so drastically with just one conversation, then we can have some of the same profound – perhaps visceral – sense of what it means that Jesus gives us a new birth – and that this new birth is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is an inheritance which redeems all the inheritances we have in our lives – both the ones we know so well and the ones which have been passed down to us since Adam and Eve.
And Christ changes those inheritances, those legacies we live under, to be a legacy of forgiveness, resurrection, and the nearness of the kingdom of God. This inheritance that comes from resurrection leads to resurrection for us. Because if God defeated death that first Easter, then God will surely defeat those things which deal us death between us and among us, even now.
We celebrate this new inheritance every Sunday as we gather at the communion table, in grace filled conversation, in joining voices in song – and are sent out again to proclaim this love to the world. But we especially celebrate this inheritance during this Easter season, where we celebrate all the many ways Jesus makes the resurrection real in our lives even as we await the final day when we know the fullness of being in the presence of God.
What are we doing with this new inheritance?
How has it changed all the things and situations you have inherited throughout your life? And, how can the fact that you have been given this new inheritance allow you to be the hope for somebody else who needs to hear that their inheritance can be redeemed, whether it is the one they are leaving or the one they have received – because the legacies we leave are fickle, but the inheritance of Christ is not , and the inheritance of new life which He gives is most certainly imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
May the inheritance of a new birth through Christ’s resurrection lead you in ways of hope and courage this week, daring to stand in grace, to walk in peace, and to strive for the sake of the other. Amen.
*Thanks to my friend Deb at Dancing in the Word for a longer version of the above story!
*This sermon was first preached on April 23, 2017. Please excuse the grammar “errors,” as it was originally composed for the spoken word! My sermons are always better from the pulpit – you should come listen next Sunday… 🙂