A Sermon for Lay Proclaimers from Bishop Bill Rindy
Synod Assembly Sunday, April 22, 2012
Suggested Hymn of the Day: “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry”
- Download: 2012 Homily: Children of God
“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.” (1 John 3:1-3 NRSV)
Do you remember being young? (Some of you still are.) Do you remember wanting to be “big?” …wanting to be old enough to go to school? Or were you one of those who couldn?t wait to be 18? To be 21? Or to be 25, so your car insurance would finally be cheap?
Not too many children want to be children, until it is too late… when the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood are thrust upon them. “Youth is wasted on the young,” as George Bernard Shaw so keenly observed.
Perhaps you were one of those who grew up in a small town… the kind of place where everyone seemed to know that you were “so & so?s child.” There was no escaping your identity until perhaps you could get out of the house… out into the big, wide world… to “wander off to find where demons dwell,” as the verse from the hymn Borning Cry so aptly describes the journey of many.
Perhaps you were blessed with a loving home, caring parents, a good name (even one you did not earn). Your reputation preceded you, not because it was your reputation, but because was handed on down to you, as to your parents before you. Because you belonged to a certain family, certain things were expected of you, precisely because you are “so & so’s” child.
The gift of youth is not something to be despised, but rather something to be celebrated, navigated, perhaps even survived. The Apostle Paul wrote to his young apprentice, Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you areyoung, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV-84
Young people have much to offer. Late this March, a group of young people from Concordia College in Moorhead decided to do something for the people of Minot. They wanted to work in helping them put their lives back together, as well as put on a benefit concert. So the orchestra, other students, President Craft, and other key leaders made the journey. They did the work and performed the concert. They worshipped with the flood-ravaged congregations. But as always, it was so much more than that. Over $30,000 was raised, including $5,000 from the congregations of our synod through the disaster response appeal. Those who came trying to be a blessing were deeply blessed. Bishop Mark Narum of the Western North Dakota Synod asked to address the orchestra at the beginning of the concert. He spoke of how hard the last year has been on the people of Minot, how they were in danger of losing their “song.” He thanked the orchestra, the students, and leaders, because their acts of kindness are helping to restore the people of Minot’s “song.” What you do, how you live, how you love makes a difference.
Jesus himself had a special place in his heart for children, after all, he came as one, lived through the indignity of diapers, the pain of teething, and the awkwardness of puberty. He often used children as an example of the way in which the kingdom of God is supposed to work, “Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom of God belongs to people like these.” Mark 10:14, ISV-2008 and again “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3, NRSV The kingdom of God requires childlike faith, which is not to be confused with child-ish faith.
This past fall, pastors from all over our synod were encouraged, challenged, and equipped with M&M?s in plastic tubes to have children of all ages (there?s 100,000 of us in our synod) from each congregation to do something with the M&M’s, then fill the tube with $14 in quarters to raise money for our companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). So far, over $52,000 has been raised to support our mission work with and among our companions. Story after story has been told of the excitement of young people putting in their last quarters, or the congregational treasurer finding a check or $100 bill tucked in with the quarters. Children of God want to make a difference!
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. “ 1 Corinthians 13:11, NRSV
So while child-ISH behavior is not our goal, child like faith is something to which we ought to cling with all our heart. Jesus can work with such faith.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, in writing the Large Catechism, concludes the section on the Lord?s Supper with these words, regarding children participating in the Lord?s Supper, “For since they are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us; for they must all indeed help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.” Imagine that, children helping us to believe, to love, to pray.
As the years roll along, family identity sticks with you. The name you were given is yours to steward. You can increase its value and worth or you can degrade it by your actions. The way in which you live matters not only to you, but to your community and most importantly, to our God.
Do you remember the first verse? “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” 1 John 3:1 NRSV This is why it is a tradition in the Church to use your Christian name when you are baptized, your first and middle names. Your sir name, your family name comes as gift in Baptism, which is realized in its fullness through faith, is that of Christian… belonging to Christ.
This is all pure gift, when we see what love the Father has for each one of us, that we should be adopted as beloved daughters and sons; full heirs of the kingdom. This is amazing Grace in action; God doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
As you can see, your family identity sticks with you. Your name in Christ was given to you to steward. You can increase its value and worth or you can degrade it by your actions. The way in which you live matters not only to you, but to your community, and most importantly, to our God.
The whole of our lives are lived out, not to earn God?s favor, but because we are God?s favored. It has been well said that everything we are is God?s gift to us; what we do with our lives is our response to this gracious gift.
For those of you children who are still growing (which in reality, is all of us!), God has a deep desire… perhaps it looks something like this: Have you ever noticed that people who knew your parents might comment that you look a lot like your them?
A young pastor once heard an old, southern black lady say to a young boy in the congregation, “You’re the spitt’n image of your daddy.” Having heard this expression before and wanting to know what was meant by “spitt’n,” the pastor asked the question. Her surprised reply came back, “I didn?t say spitt’n image as in spitting; I said Spirit ‘n Image.” The right-hearing of the expression made all of the difference. The boy had the spirit of and bore the image of his daddy.
That is God’s desire for each one of us. As beings created in God’s image way back in Genesis, filled with God’s Spirit in Holy Baptism, it makes our heavenly Father proud when someone remarks, “You are the Spirit ‘n Image of your Father.”
I’m not quite there yet. Neither are you. But there is hope for us all, for the second verse reminds us, “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.” 1 John 3:2 NRSV
The Apostle Paul reminds us once again, as part of God’s so-loved world, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Phillipians 1:6, The Message
Hear the good, I mean great news once again, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
Amen? … Amen!