An Inheritance: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
may 16, 2021
Have you ever inherited anything? Well, last week, and let’s hope, I signed the final legal document connected to the inheritance of my mother’s estate. Even though my parents left things pretty neat and tidy, still, according to Nebraska law, a part of the estate had to go through what’s called “probate.” I was not familiar with the process of probate. I am now. Let’s just say, it takes some time. First, on two occasions, a public notice of the estate was required to be printed in the local newspaper. Apparently, anyone wanting to file a claim, and object to my mother’s will, had, by law, so many days to do so. Bottom line, someone could have objected to my inheritance. That’s the possibility of probate. And, by law, it had to happen. Interestingly, the image of inheritance weaves its way through much of scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. In Genesis 15, God makes a promise to Abram (later Abraham). God takes a childless Abram outside and points him to the night sky. “Look up,” says God, “and try to count the stars. Your descendants will be more numerous than the stars. I will be their God, too.” Abram believed the promise. Doing so put Abram in “right relationship” with God. Begin this Bible Study by reading Genesis 15.1-6. God promises Abram more heirs than stars in the night sky. In believing the promise, Abram was set right with God. What is the connection between believing and being “right” with God?
Fast forward a couple thousand years or so. Paul is writing a letter to the Galatians, a group of Gentiles, generally not seen as “heirs” to the promise God makes to Abram in Genesis 15. Paul’s letter comes some 45 years following the Christ event. He’s writing to tell the Galatians that because of their faith in Jesus, because they believe in the promises of God made in and through Jesus, these Gentile Galatians are also in “right” relationship with God, heirs to the promise first made by God to Abram in Genesis 15. In Galatians, Paul says, just like in Genesis 15, right relationship comes from believing. Well, as you might guess, not everyone sees it that way. There are some who object to the Galatians' inheritance of the promise, demanding full inheritance requires a more-strict adherence to the law. It’s as though the Galatians would-be inheritance has landed in probate. An outside group is trying to deny the rights of inheritance. And, Paul is furious. Now, take a moment and read some of Galatians, in particular Galatians 2.15-21 and Galatians 3.6-9. If I wanted someone to represent me in the “faith probate court,” it would be Paul. What do you think?
The Letter to the Galatians is a picture of the Early Church in probate. The Galatians' inheritance of the promises of faith offered in Jesus is being challenged. Now, fast forward another 2,000 years or so. As I near my retirement, when it comes to the inheritance of God’s promises, it’s a little painful to realize that we are still in probate. Some in our United Methodist tradition want to deny others in our tradition their full inheritance. “You have to become this,” they say, “in order to become that.” Surrounding their protest is what they cite to be biblical law. It is here, I return to Paul who says, “Live by the Spirit.” Let the Spirit lead you to your full inheritance of the promise. Bear the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Make your inheritance known in such ways! The Law of Christ gets summed up in Galatians 5.13-15. You might want to read it, too. How are you at believing this?
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, May 16 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.
May I bear the fruit of my inheritance this week, O God.