Dear beloved of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ, Amen.

My maternal grandfather was a serial dog adopter. Now before you get this image of a kind-hearted man who rescued animals who no one else wanted, let me add a little color to this story. Grandpa worked as a traveling salesman for a while, selling seed. So he would make his way around to farms and agriculture expos throughout much of central Wisconsin. There he would encounter farm dogs — collies and labs and mutts of all stripes that inevitably seemed to be having a litter of puppies just as Poppy was showing up to call on the farmers to try and sell some of his seed.

Grandpa loved dogs, so he’d fall in love with these puppies and inevitably he’d bring one of them home for my mom and my uncle and my aunt. The first couple of days home were great. Then Poppy would leave for another trip, and it was up to my grandma to take care of the dogs. In fact, it was almost always up to Grandma to take care of the dogs.

My grandma didn’t particularly like dogs. She grew up on a farm and believed they belonged outside in the barn. She thought they were dirty and smelly and messed the house. See Poppy loved dogs, he just wasn’t very good and training dogs. So I grew up knowing about these dogs not by their names, but by how they misbehaved. There was the one that used to try and bite my mom’s toes. There was the one who always ran away.

Then there was one that the neighbors thought had the strangest name, because they would only ever hear my grandma yell from the back door, come here you **** dog. (My grandma would never forgive me if I revealed in church that she had sworn now and again. Let’s just say, the neighbors thought this particular animal was named after the structure that manages water flow in a river.)

Needless to say, most of the dogs didn’t last too long as members of the family. Pretty quickly they found a new home down on the farm where my grandma grew up.

Today we read the opening chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. It begins with beautiful and soaring imagery. It makes the bold claim that before the foundation of the world, God chose you in Jesus Christ.

It says that you were destined for adoption. That you have received Jesus’ own inheritance from God.

Marinate in that for a second.

Since before the earth was formed God’s been after you.

Personally, I don’t really know what to do with that. I find that it’s a lot to take in. It messes with my notions of time and space and it’s really hard to believe. It’s like, all of this was for me? And time and again God says, yes. It’s for you.

God’s love for you, God’s commitment to you, isn’t whimsical. It isn’t fleeting. God’s been playing the long game for you. You are the object of God’s desire. This whole Jesus move, the God becoming flesh thing, was and continues to be for you.

You, you have a name and it’s beloved.

You are not an accident or a matter of convenience. God didn’t stumble upon you in a box marked “free to a good home.”

No, you cost God something. God went to great lengths for you. God became one of us. God lived with us, God experienced the fullness of what it means to be human. God experienced our profound joys and our deepest sorrows. God lived and God died. For you. God loved you so much, so thoroughly and completely, that God gave God’s own life, for you.

Jesus is God’s living testament to just how far God will go for you. Why did God do it this way? Why die? To show that not even death can separate you from God’s love. All of it is now a part of God’s life. All of you.

And a love like that knows no limits. It is not a limited supply. It doesn’t run out. It is completely and totally for you. But it is also, in no smaller measure, completely and totally for your neighbor.

We are living at a time when the fear of not having enough or not being enough is feeding our worst impulses. Through our complacency, our inaction and our silence, we consent to divisions among us. We contribute to and participate in systems that perpetuate inequality and injustice. We seek to claim the fullness of God’s inheritance and love for ourselves.

But God isn’t having it. God’s love is fierce and persistent and unwavering.

With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s good pleasure that was set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in God’s own self, things in heaven and things on earth. 

God’s plans for the renewing of this world, God’s burning love for all of God’s children, God’s commitment to sharing life with everyone doesn’t cheapen or diminish or limit God’s love for you.

You are forever and always in on God’s plan. Jesus is the gift that God will never take back. Jesus’ death is God’s promise that nothing and no one in this life are outside of God of the realm of God’s care.