Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
You have been chosen.
Do you remember the movie, “Toy Story?” There is a scene where Sheriff Andy and Buzz Lightyear are in one of those machines that you put money in and use the handles to operate a big claw. You only have a certain amount of time to pick up a toy with the claw.
In this movie, the toys can talk when people aren’t looking. A little boy manages to snag one of the other little toys and drop it in the chute. As the little toy is being lifted up by the claw, it says, “I have been chosen! I go to a better place!”
You have been chosen. In the introduction before today’s second reading, Paul says, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world…”
God has chosen us.
Paul goes on to say that God has adopted us. We frequently tell adopted children that they were chosen. God has personally picked us out to be the chosen ones. We are God’s chosen. We are God’s saints.
When we were baptized, we were adopted by God with water and the Word. We received our new name, the name Christian. We were claimed as God’s own children. We became saints that day.
Most likely our parents brought us to that adoption day. They didn’t bring us to abandon us or relinquish parental rights. It was a gift they wanted to share with us. They wanted us to be part of the whole extended Christian family.
They knew they didn’t own us. They came to state publicly that we all really belong to God. They came to share the promises with us. They brought us to the font out of their deep love for God and for us.
Maybe you came to baptism later in life. Your spouse or your friends encouraged you by sharing their faith with you. Perhaps it was such an emotional experience that you felt like you were being picked up by a claw and dropped down a chute.
No matter how it happened – you have been chosen. You are an adopted child of God, one of the saints.
Paul tells us that chosen ones, the adopted children, receive an inheritance. When we are baptized we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. That seal is the pledge of our inheritance. We are permanently, indelibly marked. The inheritance is guaranteed by God at that moment.
The inheritance is not money. It is not gold or silver or jewels. It is not property or heirlooms. This inheritance is more precious than money or property or anything else in this life.
This inheritance is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. It is the gift of the hope of salvation. It is the gift of the gracious love of God. It is the most valuable gift we can ever receive.
I say “we can receive” because it is a shared inheritance. We are baptized into a community of faith. Jesus isn’t looking for a lot of individual relationships. God meant for us to live in community. Baptism is membership in the church, the body of Christ.
This inheritance we share as the church, isn’t like a shared inheritance in a big family, where you fight over it, and no one gets very much.
Sharing the inheritance doesn’t mean everyone gets less. It doesn’t mean we have to guard the inheritance so that there will be enough to go around.
Exactly the opposite is true. In God’s economy, sharing makes things grow. Look the flames on these candles. We shared the light of the Paschal Candle, the Christ Candle, with all of these little ones. The light grew as we shared it. It was not diminished. Our inheritance grows as we share it.
The Paschal Candle is lit for Easter and for the beginnings and endings, the Alphas and Omegas, in our life together. So it is lit at baptisms and funerals. We light it today because we remember the saints who have gone before us and claimed the inheritance that was promised at their baptism.
There’s another thing that is certainly true about any inheritance. Somebody has to die. Today, we remember six of our friends who have died in the past year. We lit their candles and we rang the bell and we said their names. We are saddened by their passing.
They have left us an inheritance, too. Eugene Wekander started this congregation. We are grateful for his faithful ministry to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We sit in this place today because of his service to the church.
Agnes and Denny and Elda and Don and Jane all left us an inheritance, too. They gave of their time and talents and treasures to continue God’s mission in this place. They gave us love and joy and laughter and wonderful memories.
They have not just left an inheritance, though. They have claimed their inheritance, the one promised and sealed by the Holy Spirit at their baptism. Their lives here are over and their work is done. They are among the saints who rest with God.
Remember what I said is always true about an inheritance? Somebody has to die.
You have been chosen.
That’s right, you have been chosen. The good news is that the only death you have to fear, is already behind you.
In your baptism, you were joined with Christ into his death. Baptism is very powerful. “God put this power to work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but in the age to come.”
You have already died the only death that you have to fear. When God calls you home, as God surely will, you have nothing to fear. You will be with saints who have gone before you, for they are with Christ
Your inheritance began the day of your baptism. You were given the gift of faith and hope and love. You have the joy of praising God forever. Just like that little toy: You have been chosen. You go to a better place.