What does it mean to belong to God’s family?

Joseph M. Constant
July 12, 2015
Pentecost 7, Proper 10, Year B
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beltsville

Elsie was born in a remote area in Haiti.  She was but 3 years old when she became an orphan.  She lost both her father and mother.  She was left to be cared for by distant relatives.  Given the poverty that she was born in, her future appeared uncertain.  As an orphan child born in poverty, the opportunity to be cared and loved for, as we would want our children to be, the chance for an education was not going to be there for Elsie.  But God knew Elsie even before she was born and God had a plan for her life.

My brother and his wife had been thinking about adopting a child from Haiti for some time.  They have a biological daughter of their own, but it was always their intention to adopt a child from Haiti.  Five years ago, an extended family member brought Elsie to my hometown hoping to find someone to take care of Elsie.  For so many families in Haiti, feeding another child just is not feasible.   There is no extra at the table.  So Elsie ended up at my mother’s who has a tendency to take care of children in need.

My brother who rarely traveled to Haiti decided to take a trip to Haiti.   The mysteries of God in our life, right?  He met Elsie and knew right then and there that Elsie was the daughter God wanted him to adopt.  They went through the adoption process and although it was a lengthy and at times frustrating process, they finally were able to adopt Elsie.  Last year, Elsie traveled to Florida to be with her new family.

In today’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that God destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be God’s adopted children?  What does it mean to belong to God’s family?  What is our responsibility to God and our neighbor?  Over the next seven weeks, our New Testament lesson will come from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians.  Here, we have a unique opportunity to reflect on our status as adopted children of God; to reflect on our walk with God as we travel on this faith journey.

The Ephesians reading this morning is very poetic.  Maybe it is just returning from the beach for a week, but in many ways the reading hit me like a giant wave — It is important to break down the lesson and understand what Paul is telling us.  In Ephesians chapter 1, beginning with verse 3, Paul tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Paul reminds us that God chose you and me even before the foundation of the world.  Why did God choose us?  God took the initiative to create you and me.  In Genesis, when God created us, man and woman, God said it was good.

But later in Genesis, we see how Adam and Eve became separated and estranged from God.  Then, through Jesus Christ, God opened the doors of heaven to all of God’s children.  For those of us who were considered Gentiles or outsiders, Jesus made it possible for us to enter into God’s family.  In baptism, we begin a process of growing into our new identity as adopted children of God; as members of God’s family; as members of God’s Kingdom.

In Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven.  Jesus pays the price for our redemption when he willingly died on the cross for you and for me.  God’s will for our lives is a mystery.  We rely on the Spirit of God residing in our hearts to help us understand God’s purpose for our lives; to lead us and guide us on how to use the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.

Through our trust in Jesus Christ, we are God’s holy Temple in the world.  We rely on God through whom we receive redemption, forgiveness and wisdom.  We rely on the Word of God and the sacraments for nourishment.

My brother, his wife and their biological daughter welcomed Elsie with open arms and unconditional love as any parent would.  But they have to make space for Elsie to become the person God intends her to be.  They will need to be patient with her.  They will need to provide for her every need.  They will need to care for her and nurture her.  They will need to shower her with grace and love.

Elsie’s life will manifest the grace and the love that she is receiving from her new parents and her new family.  My brothers and sisters, we are God’s adopted children.

In Jesus Christ, God seeks to remove any semblance of favoritism among God’s children.  God sent Jesus Christ into the world to unite us once and for all as God’s children.  Jesus commissions the disciples to go to all the nations and baptize them and bring them into the family of God.

In baptism, God washed away our sins and made us holy.  In baptism, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked, as Christ’s own forever.  To be sealed by the Spirit of God is to be confirmed as beloved children of God.  In Jesus Christ, we receive the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption.    This pledge is part of our faith journey.

On this faith journey, we serve a God who has put His claim on each and every one of us.  We are no longer outsiders looking in.  We are no longer Jews or Gentiles, insiders or outsiders, slaves or free; we are members of God’s beloved community.  We stand to inherit the Kingdom of God.

In today’s Old Testament lesson, as the ark of the Lord came into the city, David responded by joyfully giving praise to God.  He showed so much joy that his own wife showed anger towards him.

My brothers and sisters, we are called to embody God’s presence at all times and in all places.  In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul writes, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you.”  We are called to be an instrument of joy to those we meet along the way.

As God’s adopted children, we are growing into full membership into the Body of Christ.  Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, know that God loves you.  God cares for you.  We serve a God for forgives us.  We serve a God who is kind and patient with us.  We serve a God who nurtures our soul.

As instruments of God, we are called to manifest God’s grace.  We respond to God’s grace by showing love, compassion and kindness to those that God has placed on our path.  We respond to God’s grace by putting ourselves on the path of those who are in need, the poor, the oppressed and the afflicted.

This morning, we find renewed purpose in God’s grace and God’s love.  We take comfort in the God who reminds us always not to fear.  “Fear not for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name and you are mine.” We are all united in Christ as one family.

My brothers and sisters, through Jesus Christ, we are God’s beloved children now and ever.  Through Jesus Christ, God will take care of us as we continue on our journey with God.    And so, go forth into the world, loving your brothers and sisters as Christ has loved us.   Hear God’s call, know you are a child of God and carry forth the love of Christ in all that you do.   Amen.

Photo: STOCKBYTE/THINKSTOCK

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