by Cullen Hornaday
Director of Spiritual Formation
Last January I received the word ‘inheritance’ as my star word for 2017. Having printed, laminated and cut out the star words for this congregation — wide offering I confess I had hoped for a different word. ‘Peace,’ ‘patience,’ ’kindness,’ ‘love,’ ‘joy,’ ‘encouragement’ would all have been nice. Or perhaps something more exciting like ‘adventure,’ ‘creativity,’ or ‘vision.’ Inheritance initially brought images of wills and tax lawyers to mind. Dull. But I knew a part of this practice was to accept the word I had received and trust that God had something to say to me through it. I put the the word in a prominent place, my bathroom mirror, and begged it to speak to me. I looked it up in the Bible and found Old Testament references to birthright, property, flocks and possessions.
Paul’s letters speak of a more mysterious and lasting “inheritance of the saints of light.” But what did that mean? I decided to stop wrestling with the meaning and see if anything emerged. It’s been a slow process, but transformation usually is. Gradually I began to think of inheritance not as something we passively receive, but rather a dynamic journey of faith. The Christian faith is a rich heritage that includes stories of God’s people from the Old and New Testaments that have inspired centuries of people to express their devotion in art, music, literature and acts of service and love.
My own faith journey began with my parents who raised me in the Episcopal church, my husband who introduced me to the Methodist church and many spiritual friends and guides who have helped me find my own unique path to life in Christ. My greatest inheritance has been and will continue to be this wondrous faith journey. As I write this reflection in the Advent season I realize that the year has come full circle through the liturgical seasons of Epiphany followed by Lent, Easter, Pentecost and lots of Ordinary Time interspersed. The liturgy of these seasons helps me participate in the life of Christ and, through grace, enter into it, making it my own story.
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. You hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly inheritance.” PSALM 16:5-6
Over the course of the year I have returned to ponder my star word many times. I have come to appreciate its power in my life as a practice of gratitude. I count my blessings and realize these are all my inheritance —my parents and husband who shared their faith, my journey to make this faith my own, my desire to share what I have received with others, these are all part of my inheritance. God has transformed the meaning of this star word from boring and opaque to sparkling with possibility and meaning. Through prayerful meditation on it I have received many blessings. I look forward to what this year’s star word will be and what God will reveal to me through it. And I pray that everyone at St Paul will also be blessed with a special word from God to guide you in the coming year.