A New Inheritance
Surely by will
God will blow clear the trumpets,
that all ears will hear
and helping angels sweep near
and the bright banners of our souls advance out of hate and ignorance into a new inheritance. John Mansfield.
“What is it? It’s heavy. Oh, they’re beautiful. Are they all brand new?”
“Keys? Brand new keys?”
“What do they open?”
“Everything. They open everything.”
“Every door? Every gate?”
“But there are so many?”
“A key for everyone.”
“Even the children, the babies?”
“Yes. and when they are old enough, you will teach them how to use them.”
“So, you are giving us the vineyard?”
“Not to own?”
“No. But to enjoy.”
“For how long? How long is the lease?”
“For as long as you like.”
“For as long as you love.”
“What? What was that you said?
(Quieter) “For as long as you love.”
Anyway, we’re free right?”
“No, you also belong to me.”
This our holy allegory: There was a landowner who did the hard, creational, foundational work. Cleared then tilled the fields, planted the vineyard…dug the wine press, built the watch towers, put in a security system, the whole works, then with all trust, all kindness, all generosity, placed it into the hands his people…. a little Eden carefully prepared, to be enjoyed, to gladden the heart, satisfy the soul, in the great Eden of the world.
Holy ground. A place to call home. The Holy One gave it to all of us. Gave it in trust. And each of us must decide whether to live –within the boundaries of the gift or outside it…to enjoy the gift, to share it, or to feast on the darkness sometimes called selfishness, sometimes hard heartedness, always fueled by ignorance, fear, lies, often unspeakably cruel—murderous with rage.
God offers Eden. Ours to enjoy or destroy. The hard truth, but also if heard rightly, a saving one? Simply said? I place before you, life and death. Choose life.
Remain within the hell of hate and ignorance or gratefully receive a new inheritance.
In W. H. Auden’s poem, “For the Time Being,”
Joseph, confronted with some unsettling news about his fiancé, cries out to God:
“All I ask is one important and elegant proof that your will is love.”
One important and elegant proof that your will is love.
And God answers by whispering a name, down through time and eternity.
A universe of a name, a name all people can trust, live within,
A green-pastures, still-waters name, a many prepared rooms name,
A name to bring us safely home. And you know that name.
To have this One live in your heart, to have this One come to mind is to receive in a new inheritance, and begin to try on the gospel clothing of a bright identity.
What is your identity?
Remember how Paul presented himself for so many lost years:
“….circumcised on the 8th day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Philippians 3: 4b-14.
Blue-blood, straight A’s, perfect resume, Sanhedrin CIA , pompous PhD… and not a clue, then, until finding Christ, of how to receive a new inheritance, how to live within the joy of Eden.
I place before you life and death….
I try to understand about how I am presented to the world now…how my culture reads the reality of my privileged presence: White…man…mercy god! Then to add insult to injury — Ordained, meaning somewhat educated in the most pretentious of all fields—theology… Maryland born and bred, Washington by calling, poet, storyteller, father, husband, grandfather, felon, mix of liberal, conservative and evangelical….and yet, none of this sticks on my best days….on my sanest days I cannot derive my identity from any of it.
Some ignorant people think that’s a fine place to hang their hat—especially the “White” part…
Want to ignore what Louis Leakey discovered about race: only 15,000 years old… very new, inconsequential thing, race.
Wonderful and wild Kurt Vonnegut suggested that there be a worldwide law—only 20 middle names everyone choose one of the 20 to remind us that, we are all so closely related.
Yet all these are adjectives only…partial and deceptive…. one of the most beautiful nouns is “humankind” and the finest pronoun is “us.”
THE NEW INHERITANCE: to know we are safe in God’s love and called to love one another—to be one.
God does not put people in hell. No. God does not condemn, punish or judge the way we think about these words. All the punishing, condemning and judging –we do. Punishing, condemning is our thing—not Gods. Do you know why this Landowner God sends first her servants back to the vineyard, and finally sends his heart of hearts, his own beloved?
God wants to see the pleasure of God’s children…God sends them to be God’s eyes and ears. In this allegory of the vineyard God wants to be assured of everyone’s happiness with the gift. God greatest pleasure ? — to see her children safe and happy.
Truth? When cut ourselves away from God, we suffer. When we forget & act contrary to the holy reality= that we are safe in God’s love and called to be in love with one another— we find hell’s many doorsteps.
You see we won’t ever be punished because of our sin, we get punished by our sin.
This world is rooted and grounded in love, said the 20th century prophetess Elisabeth O’Conner and when we go against this way of cherishing we suffer.
Of the countless ways we live outside Eden, hurt the Love that always over and around us lies…
I close with this scene on how sins punishes…
Alice and I visit a little Eden three afternoons week. We take the 10 minute drive from our home to Green Lake elementary school where our glorious twins, Violet and Josephine go…..1st graders…Green Lake Elementary…their first taste of expanded Eden outside our homes…people to teach them, comfort them, cherish them, 1st non-family members to do this…so powerful…so touching to see their excited soft pleasure when they catch sight of us waiting for them…just being on time teaching them that love can be trusted to show up love holds against anxiety and fear… Hear them calling out the windows of our truck to these first friends…see you tomorrow! See you!….
But before they are released back into our care…while we wait, I spend time in hell…8 foot chain link fence…a small lock on the entrance…but no barbed wire on top of it, and, you see as sign of the sin of our country punishing me, I fantasize about asking the PTA if I might pay to have it installed….and for that brief but eternal time of waiting for our Beloveds, my grandfather heart grows dark and sick , I go a little bit insane… I begin to look around for the young man that seems out of place..the young man who won’t meet our eyes.. who wears the long coat, the heavy back pack…you know what I’m talking about…I’m in hell, I’m heart broken, I’m literally crazy for a few moments…I’m being punished by our grave and grotesque sin of not being willing to do what is necessary to make this nightmare go away…this is the midnight of blasphemy ..the number one cause of death for children in our country…..
To be clear about the consequences? Well, it’s Matthew’s allegory we’ll let him say… Matthew, who never shies away from putting a very fine point on things speak a last time: Matthew 18:6
“If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
It is all millstones, baby.
The cherishing work of caring for children is not optional.
This to me is the worst…but, you see…so many ways to throw away our inheritance in swine country….while our God keeps saying through Jesus, “All I want is you home, and all that I have is yours.”
What are these beautiful keys for?
They open every door.
Joseph has the last word: “All I ask,” he says, “is one important and elegant proof that your will is love.”
And then the birth cry, and the crowning between Mary’s thighs…Joe, midwife, bends to this answered prayer, turns the delicate shoulders himself…catches God’s boy, his child and ours.
Looks up into that beautiful, fresh, important and elegant face…..and you know what I think he said right then? I think he said: “Good God.”
And you? You might say exactly the same thing too, and begin to live your life like it’s true.