October 31, 2008 Leave a comment
All Saints Sunday Yr A, 2/11/2008
I Jn 3:1-3
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Children of God”
The internet is a fascinating place to hang out. Over the years there has been a wonderful accumulation of insightful material. For example, someone posted some interesting answers to science test questions as rendered by fifth and sixth graders. One youngster described the law of gravity as saying, “No fair jumping up without coming back down.” Pretty good. Another said, “You can listen to thunder and tell how close you come to getting hit. If you don’t hear it, you got hit, so never mind.”
A couple of them responded to questions about clouds. One said, “I’m not sure how clouds are formed, but clouds know how to do it, and that’s the important thing.” Okay. Another said, “Water vapour gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to be called a drop, it does.” One defined a monsoon as a French gentleman.
A couple more. One youngster said, “When planets run around and around in circles, we say they are orbiting. When people do it, we say they are crazy.” True. One defined the spinal column as “a long bunch of bones. The head sits on the top, and you sit on the bottom.” Okay.
None of those have anything to do with the text, but this one jumped out at me because it surely does. One youngster wrote, “Genetics explains why you look like your father, and if you don’t, why you should.” In that context, this one really hits home: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are.” Is there any family resemblance? There should be.
John Chrysostom, the great preacher of the middle ages, in his sermon on how to bring up children, advises parents to give their youngster some great scriptural name, to teach over and over the story of the original bearer of the name, and thus to give a standard to live up to, and an inspiration for living, when reaching adulthood. The epistle writer says we are in the family of God so we have the responsibility of doing the family proud and not besmirching the family name.1
We are the children of God. That’s our true identity through our baptism into Christ. As the children of God we are loved beyond all telling. Like Michelangelo who would take a large chunk of marble and create a thing of lasting beauty, God puts us into his hands so that he can make something of eternal worth out of us. Each one of us is made a child 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 picture John gives us here is that of God our heavenly Father adopting us as his children out of his unconditional, unlimited love. When a child is adopted they become, in every way, a member of their adopted family—especially so if the parents and other family members are loving people.
I know that was the case with a cousin of mine. He was adopted by my aunt and uncle and they truly have loved him as their very own child. He became a member of their family. I can remember too that on one occasion someone, not realising that Russell was adopted, made the comment that he looked so much like his adopted parents. I know that my cousin felt much loved by my uncle and aunt. Why do I know that? Because when the time came for him to get married, him and his wife Maureen could not have their own children. So what did they do? You guessed it; they adopted a child, a little girl from China. Moreover, they also are presently waiting to hear from the authorities in China again, because they want to adopt a second child. Obviously Russell was loved by his mom and dad. If he was not, I don’t think he would have even considered adopting children.
We too, says John, can be confident that God our heavenly Father loves us because he adopted us as his children. Along with that act of being adopted by our heavenly Father comes our true identity, children of God, which gives us so many wonderful benefits—including the enjoyment and love of one another as God’s family members of sinner-saints.
On this All Saints Sunday, what a wonderful and appropriate text we have here—our identity as children of God also reminds us, I believe, of that wonderful phrase in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “the communion of saints.” Essentially children of God and communion of saints are one and the same. Both refer to something very large and awesome—namely, that we are a communion, a community of God’s family that transcends time and space, race, class, gender, age, and every other difference. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
So look at your neighbour sitting beside you, in front or behind you. Do your see a family resemblance? You should! He or she is your brother or sister—a child of God, a sinner-saint, just like you. See what love the Father has given us! Yes, thank you Jesus! Amen.
1 David E. Leininger, Lectionary Tales For The Pulpit: Series VI Cycle A (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 2007), pp. 172-173.