Sunday, April 19, 2015

We Are God's Children Now: a sermon

Year B Easter 3
St. Thomas’ Richmond
“We Are God's Children Now”

There are so many different ways to say hello around the world.  

We have our firm handshake, looking someone in the eye here in the States.

In so many places, you shake hands or touch arms as you kiss each other on both cheeks as both a hello and a goodbye.

Hawaii has its Aloha.

Inuit and some in the Near East rub noses.

India and other southeast Asian countries place palms together and present a Namaste, “The spirit or God-ness in me recognizes the spirit within you.”  A beautiful greeting ritual.

Today in our readings, John greets his intended audience with a beautiful greeting, one I wish we did more in the Church and in our society.  “Beloved, we are God’s Children now.”

Beloved.  Beloved.  The Beloved of the Lord.

We can do anything because of who we are.  Now before you get worried over this statement, stay with me while I expand this metaphor.

Picture a Prince, strolling through his Father’s Kingdom.  Who will say no to the young man?  Who will stop him from doing whatever he wants?  No one will lay a palm on him.  No one will prevent his whims from coming to fruition.  The only one who can or would stop the young Prince is the King, his Father, or the Prince himself exercising self-control.  

As we play out this metaphor, we begin to see where John is going in his epistle.  Does the Prince do whatever he wants?  Does he run amuck?  His handlers may give him a questioning look, but he can do whatever he wants.  And in his immaturity he just may.  But as he grows and matures, he learns that his Freedom comes from his Father’s authority.  And as so many know, in fact it is inscribed on the Korean War Memorial, FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.

One of the great things about growing up, is that Freedom, what we strive for so much in our younger years, is not the ability to do whatever we want.  This is a lesson learned by college freshman skipping classes, or anyone venturing out on their own for the first time.  Our young Prince may learn that lesson the hard way.  No matter what he does, good or bad, he is still the Prince.  He may be free to do whatever he wants, but his reputation and his Father’s will pay the price if it is not what he ought to do.

Maturity teaches us an important and sometimes costly lesson.  In our Freedom, we are FREE not to do what we want, but we are FREE to do that which we ought.  We are given the Freedom to choose to do what we will choose to do, and the one who gave us our Freedom did so that we might choose the right.

I John 3:1-7
1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

2 Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Now it may seem gauche to bring up sin, yet it comes up in response to the Resurrection in our readings today.

Acts 3
“19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out,” preached Peter.

Luke 24:45-48
45 Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the scriptures,  46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.”

Our “missing the mark,” which is what sin is, over and over again is not something we need to repeat.  But we need to break the cycle that has gotten us nowhere.  We often avoid thinking on our sins, but think on the Prince, as he makes his way through the Kingdom.  As he goes through the market from stall to stall, or down the lanes, or across the fields, the choices our young Prince makes show how seriously he takes, how preciously he understands, and even how much he loves being the Child of the King.

Are we any different?  As we take on the name of Christ, that is what Christian means, “little Christs,” we reflect how seriously we take, how preciously we understand, and how much we love Christ who enabled it and God who bestowed us the love to be called Children of God.  We treasure it so much we baptize our children with this name, marking them as Christ’s own forever.  We may wear a cross, or have a Jesus fish on our car.  All fine and good.  But we all know that the proof is in the pudding.  As John states a few verses later in verse 18: “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

It has been expressed so many ways.  “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.”  Or the perhaps apocryphal quote that has made its rounds on the internet from Gandhi: “I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  This is the exact opposite of what John wrote in his letter.

Thursday night the Diocese held its first listening session on Reconciliation at our sister church Epiphany, over in Lakeside.  We were all asked a few questions and asked to respond.  The last one was something close to this:  “What is one thing you can do or the Diocese can do to move towards a ministry of reconciliation?”

It was moving hearing people name the one thing that they can and will do to be more loving across racial, social and class lines.  Today I want to do the same thing.

It is all well and good that we are the Children of God.  There is no more precious or wonderful gift than that.  But are we like kids on Christmas morning who unwrap the treasure and play with the box?  Isn’t that the joy of all gift-givers everywhere?

This morning, beloved Children of God, I would ask two favors.  As you go about the next week, with the people you meet, be they friend or foe, smelly or meek, bothersome or wonderful, as you greet them, think of them as the Beloved of God.  Especially those you hate or that drive you crazy.  See what difference it makes.  One, your response to them won’t be based on your fickle feelings, but try to see them the way God does.  Maybe even try to see them the way God sees you.  (Remember that most hazardous of prayers, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”)

The second thing that I would ask of you, think on ONE THING that you can do each day to share the Love of God.  Just one thing.  What will it be?  Commit to it, and do it.  I cannot wait to hear where this goes.  Just like our young Prince went bounding around his Father’s Kingdom, hopefully he paused and thought what good could he do as he meandered his way through his inheritance.  May we do the same.

Greetings, beloved our our Father, be blessed this week, and be loving, just as he is loving.  Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi! Thanks for wanting to comment. Please add it here, and after a moderator reviews it, it will be posted if appropriate. Look forward to hearing your opinion.
Blessings, Rock