One of the surprising things about coming to London has been the price of Real Estate as my Canadian uncle would put it. We own a caravan and on the basis of its square footage, if we were to park it in central London and Mayfair moreover our caravan's 140 square foot at Mayfair's £5000 a square foot would be worth £700,000, not bad for two wheels and mock pine panelling.
I look at my caravan in a whole new light these days. Which is probably a good thing because I am about to spend two weeks in it at New Wine.
Why am I telling you this? – because Paul is telling us about the Real Estate: the inheritance that we have in Christ in his letter to Ephesus this morning. St Paul delivers it with all the speed of an Estate Agent. He is so passionate about this vision of the inheritance that we have in God that he expresses it all in one long sentence, the longest sentence of the Bible, comprising 202 words. Have you ever been on the receiving end of a sales pitch?
Now my children know there won't be a particularly good inheritance from their mum and dad, although they too are beginning to grasp the value of the only thing we have to give them: the caravan – they will have to find a way of parking it in the right place, though, to release its value.
And this is the point that I hope you will grasp today. God has this inheritance available for you – but you have to park it in the right place. You've got to get it off the drive and into first gear and ensure you have some fuel for the engine that's going to pull it and I put it to you that God has provided the fuel too – the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that you can understand how rich an inheritance you have been given.
If I want you to grasp this, St Paul really wants you to grasp this - delivering his pitch in one long and passionate sentence. Have you ever had a PPI phonecall – hearing that there is this financial situation about which you might be unaware? You have this financial past that could now make you richer than you realised you ever were. Now unfortunately PPI fails to deliver, there never was any pot of money at the end of the rainbow which somehow you have failed to be owed.
St Paul on the other hand wants you to know that one of the key riches you have in Christ is that he has bought you back, paid your debts and secured your place in God. We have redemption through his blood. And this is just one of the spiritual riches we can know in God – this perfect freedom from those things to which we are otherwise made captive, otherwise indebted.
Paul's explanation of our riches in God is beautiful, it is trinitarian in shape. He tells us about God who is the source of everything, Jesus who is the agent and the Holy Spirit who is the seal.
Jesus is our Estate Agent, if you like, and by that I am not being flippant – I am trying to convey the fact that it is through Jesus and by his work that we can receive our inheritance, enter the dwelling place that God secures for us and we have this made real for us by the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit seals this, marks us out as belonging to God just as your signature on the mortgage or the title deeds, or on the cheque marking your transfer of financial funds seals your exchange on a house and makes a new home yours. Your inheritance comes to you because Christ is both the broker and the agent, he has purchased your inheritance for you; makes possible for you those blessings from God. In Christ in the heavenly places we are richer than we understand ourselves to be. In fact, we aren't able to realise the riches God has lavished on us unless the Spirit makes this real for us.
It could very well be that we see caravans parked on front drives when really they are parked in Mayfair. We have to understand that the Spirit has made real for us our new location as a people in Christ.
This was real for Paul – his earthly location as he writes this letter is a Roman jail, his spiritual location is as a person in Christ, hence he is able to write one of the most beautiful sentences describing God's love for us from a prison cell.
His earthly location is prison and that might sometimes feel so for us, imprisoned by circumstances, attitudes, debts real and imagined, ones we could pay off if we adjusted our lives or could just put down - understanding ourselves to be forgiven so that we might forgive.
We can all experience prisons of our own making and Jesus speaks to remind us today of our real identity not as a people indebted but as a people set free, as chosen, redeemed, adopted, holy and blameless in his sight not because of anything we have or have not done but because of what God did for us before the foundation of the world and moreover through the death and resurrection of his Son. He took you, a bit second-hand and maybe weary, like my caravan and transformed you into Mayfair Real Estate – you don't look much different on the outside, you are still the same square footage but your value to God is infinite and the riches you have in him eternal.
Let's begin then to look at one another as those who are in Christ: chosen before the foundation of the world, beautiful to behold, being made holy and blameless.
Let's begin to value our worth and the worth of one another, to behave like the adopted children of God that we are, co-operating with God to get the van off the drive, put it into first gear, be fuelled by the Spirit so that we might start moving forward, perhaps very carefully – no caravans in the fast lane, and with a good set of mirrors to watch out for aggressive traffic all around us but into a place where the ground is good and solid and the awning at the front of the van has enough room for everyone.
Let's get on the road and begin to motor and trust that with God the fuel doesn't run down and the value only increases. Amen.