March 19, 2012 @ 9:13 am

Lent 4

My parents were born on the East Coast. When I was a child my family used to load up in the family car and take trips out to Long Island New York to visit with my mother's family and especially her father who lived alone as a widower. It turned out that my grandfather had a friend who would serve as a care taker for a well-to-do family; they lived out on the less populated side of the island in a town called Oyster Bay. We would go out to visit from time to time and would, as my mother used to say, "see how the other half lived". The house was amazing, big and spacious. The view was spectacular. The furniture in the home was lavish. There was one room in particular where we were not allowed to play. There was a painting that hung on the wall. I was not much of an art connoisseur as a grade schooler so I do not know the name of the artist, but I know that this one painting was valued about the same as our house. To say the least, this family was well off. While you and I have been blessed with more than we need simply to live, there are those who have even greater wealth and material blessings - there are those who have enough extra lying around for things like property and homes and cars and expensive works of art. While you and I might dream about such wealth, there is One who has even greater wealth, even greater riches, even greater affluence. There is one who puts the Forbes list of the world's richest people to shame. And while material things and possessions are certainly at his disposal, the greatest treasures he has to offer are things that cannot be counted or measured. They wouldn't appear on a balance sheet or list of assets. Yet the greatest treasure and the greatest hope is that God gives this away for free. Of course we are talking about God. God is the creator and giver of all good things, wealth and material things included. But God's greatest and richest gifts are the gifts of his mercy and grace and forgiveness. And this gift is the greatest and best gift of all. This gift is given freely and generously and richly without measure. Meager Hope From time to time we like to think of how our lives would change if we all of a sudden were rich, if we won some prize or received some gift that would net us a million or two or three. We would like to think that it would change our lives and make our problems go away. It wouldn't. Rich people have problems too. It doesn't matter your social class or financial standing. There are problems that money just can't fix. Rich people get sick. Rich people experience broken and strained relationships. These are real problems. These are problems that are life altering and often for the worse. Every person experiences these sorts of problems. We pray about these problems. Lord, solve this one thing. If only there were a solution. These are real problems. God knows we have them. He does not overlook them. But He also doesn't overestimate their value, at least not the way that we do. Of all the problems that we could have, of all the issues that could crop up in a person's life, of all the things that stress us out and cause us to worry and fret and fear and stress, God sees and knows and understands those problems even better than we do. And so God has solved them. He has solved them according to the riches of his grace. Greatest Hope But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, God is rich. Of all the things that people want and think they need, of all the things that people spend their lives chasing after hoping to own and trying to achieve, God has them to spare. God gives them, God makes them, God creates them, God hands them out like trifles. Lavish homes, opulent life styles, all the good things this world has to offer that money can buy - God has it to spare. He can create it out of nothing and give it in an instant. It takes us a lifetime to collect. It can take only a moment to lose. God knows it really isn't all that valuable. God has real wealth. God has real riches. Riches of grace and mercy and forgiveness. God has riches that can't be taken away. Riches that can't be lost or ruined or burned or broken or taken away. And God gives these riches in overflowing abundance. Again to our text - God even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, We can all appreciate the rags to riches stories that are told from time to time. Someone who is born in poverty, but through hard work or some unexpected turn of events suddenly became successful and wealthy. As great as those stories are, God has outdone them all. We were not just poor, not just bedraggled. We were dead! A lifeless corpse! Dead in trespasses and sins. And that's not just a metaphor. We were actually and truly and really dead. In the way that deadness counts. Spiritually Dead. When you are spiritually dead your spirit is dead. You are dead to God. You are dead in the way that death really counts. Your bag of bones can be upright with blinking eyes and beating heart, but sin makes you a slave to Satan and condemned by God. There is no hope. There is no revival. There is no chance. You need a miracle. So God gives a miracle better than any that money could buy. God gives Jesus. And Jesus pays for your life by suffering your death. He suffered your death on the cross to buy your life back. And "not with gold or silver as we say in the creed, but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death... That you may be his own and that you may live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness innocence and blessedness." That;s what our text says, isn't it? "He raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." You have a seat at heaven't table. Is there any better table where we could sit? Sometimes there are contests that offer as their prize the chance to sit down to dinner with some sports figure or celebrity. People want that prize. They will pay big money for that prize. To sit at the table with a movie star, or better yet, one who has worn he Scarlet and Gray. Friends, God gives you a seat at his table. You haven't earned it. YOu couldn't pay for it. You don't even have anything to give that would put you in the running to receive it. But God gives it. God gives it for free. God takes away your death and gives you life. God takes away your poverty and gives you wealth. God takes away your trespasses and sin and He gives you righteousness. You are turned in to his display, his center piece, the evidence of his good work. He is proud to show you off to his saints and angels in heaven. Look at my child. Look at what I have done. See how I have turned this one from death to life, from lost to found, from shame to glory and honor. This world has its share of problems. There are problems and then there are problems. There are issues and then there are issues. They all seem big at the time, but while we each deal with our own, we wouldn't every want to trade. Well, there are also solutions and then there are solutions. There are blessings and then there are blessings. There is wealth and then there is wealth. God has given it on the good. On the better. On the rich. And on the overflowing. And that is his promise to you. He will not take it away. He will not let it fall. You have been raise up. You are seated with Christ at Heaven's table.

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