5-31-15 Adopted By the Spirit

It has been such a privilege to be part of the lives of Daniel and Cayla. On this milestone day, I would like to reflect a bit on what their adoption by the Spirit of God means for the rest of us adoptees. Paul says we all are adopted by the Spirit as we cry out “Abba.” You remember what Abba means – Daddy. You can also say “Ima” which means “Mommy.”  What a privilege to know God in this way! See if you notice the little surprise tucked in to the end of this passage.

 Romans 8:12-17 Therefore, we are under an obligation, my sisters and brothers—but not to live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you live by the Spirit, you will put to death the evil deeds of the body and you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. For the Spirit that God has given you does not enslave you and trap you in fear; instead, through the Spirit God has adopted you as children, and by that Spirit we cry out, “Abba!” God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to declare that we are God’s children. And if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing in Christ’s suffering and sharing in Christ’s glory.

May 31, 2015

Adopted by the Spirit 

We are all adopted by the Spirit, Paul tells the Christians in Rome. What could he possibly mean by that? We have all become children of the Living God. God adopts us all as beloved children. It’s a wonderful statement. If I told you are a child of God, would you assume that you have been adopted – maybe at your baptism – or would you think you have always been a child of God?

Always, right? We are all always children of God. When someone is anxious to baptize their child right after they’re born to make sure they are accepted by God in some way – whether to get to heaven or as God’s child or for whatever reason, I say there is no big rush. God loves your child as they are. God loves your child now. The ritual of baptism confirms something which is already true. It’s an outward symbol of an inward reality.

So why does Paul insist that we are adopted children of God? Today, we Christians tend to assume we are naturally children of God. We assume, maybe a bit arrogantly, that we are by birth God’s beloved children. We take it for granted. When Paul declares that we all have become children of God through baptism, he clearly expects people to hear it as an incredibly significant, life-changing thing. He emphasizes Jesus as Son or Child of God and then calls us children of God as well.

Maybe he is making a distinction between how we are children of God and how Jesus is a child of God. Maybe by saying that we are adopted children of God, he is making it clear that we are not divine like Jesus. We are adopted, human children of God – a little less than angels. Of course, he was also referring to Gentiles being adopted as God’s chosen children along with the chosen people of Israel. I kind of suspect he started to think of Jews as God’s adopted, chosen children of God too, don’t you?

When I saw that this scripture was the assigned scripture for today, I knew I would have to use it to celebrate the baptism of Daniel and Cayla because Cathy and David have always celebrated the adoption of their two beloved children with us. They have always celebrated their adoption days as well as their birthdays. They have always been thankful for Dan and Cayla’s birthparents as part of the celebration.

It’s likely then that Dan and Cayla, Dave & Cathy, Paul and Emilie and other adopted children and birth parents and adoptive parents might have something to teach us about being adopted children of God.

For instance, most every adoptive parent has to answer the question from their child at some time about why their birthparent let them go, gave them to someone else. Each birthparent has their own explanation and story to tell, but almost all of us at some point include in our explanation that our child is deeply wanted and treasured, that some children are accidents and some children are afterthoughts, but that our children were chosen, our adopted children were deeply wanted and picked out especially for us.

So if baptism is God’s way of adopting us, it is God’s way of choosing us, God’s way of claiming us as God’s beloved children. We are baptized not because we are great, not because of anything we have done, but because God chooses us. God chooses us to be a blessing. Baptism is no cause to be arrogant about our connection with the Spirit. We are chosen and baptized, Paul says, (and here’s the surprise tucked in at the end of the passage) to be there for others, indeed to suffer when necessary in the course of living out God’s love for all of God’s children. Suffering is part of the bargain. When we accept our adoption, our baptism, and agree to live into that love of the Living God, we agree to be who God calls us to be, no matter what it leads to.

That kind of talk may sound pretty crazy to most of the world, but we Christians hear this letter from Paul and we claim it. We are humbled by his claim that we are God’s adopted children, chosen, blessed, called to be a blessing, to live out God’s love even if it means suffering for others, living in the suffering of others. We hear and we know that God loves us not because of anything we have done or anything that we have believed. Paul invites us to simply accept the blessing, accept the calling, accept that we are accepted and wanted. The Spirit adopts us – as God’s own.

One last story I need to tell you about adoption. We were talking at the beginning of this short sermon about our tendency to assume we are God’s natural children from birth. It is kind of a easy assumption after all. It would be fine if we could accept it with full humility, but that is hard to do. But let me tell you a story about a judge who spoke the word of God to me during our adoption process.

As with any adoptive parents we have a bunch of stories about why Elijah was destined to be our child and I’d be glad to tell you all of them any time, but I don’t tell this one quite as often. About 3 or 4 months after we picked our son up from Pittsburgh, we finally got to appear before this judge to make the adoption official.

She asked us about our son and we told her all our stories and all our excitement. She had us sign some papers and she held our baby in her arms. And when she handed him back to us, she said something that I will never forget, words that were a gift meant for that day and for this day. She said, “David and Catherine, this adoption is now official. From this day forward, Elijah is your natural son.”

We were amazed at the gift we were given that day. The gift of our son and the gift of a theological statement of truth, that Elijah is our natural son.

That’s how it is for us through the Spirit’s adoption of each one of us. Cayla, you are the Spirit’s natural daughter. Dan, you are the Spirit’s natural son. This is the message of baptism for each one of us. God was there to hear our borning cry. The Spirit is there as we grow old. The Spirit rejoiced the day you were baptized to see your life unfold.

God is there when we suffer for any reason. In baptism we have become heirs with Christ of blessing. The Spirit is there to love us from the day of our birth to the day of our death and beyond.

This is God’s good news. Thanks be to God.

Hymn    No. 2051 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry