Sunday, 18 November 2018

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Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

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Life In The Family of God

May 27, 2018

LIFE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD

May 27, 2018 (Trinity Sunday)

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

 

Romans 8:12-17

 

12 So then, brothers and sisters,* we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!* Father!’ 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness* with our spirit that we are children of God,17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Holy God,
the earth is full of the glory of your love.
May we your children, born of the Spirit,
so bear witness to your Son Jesus Christ, crucified and risen,
that all the world may believe and have eternal life
through the One who saves,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen.

 

As I pondered this passage from Romans 8 last week I remembered the unforgettable dance tune We Are Family by the popular music group called Sister Sledge.  From the time it hit the charts in the United States on January 22, 1979 (April 30, 1979 in the United Kingdom) during the disco era of 20th Century popular music, We Are Family became an anthem of sorts for relationships. 

 

I think St. Paul was trying to convey the idea of family in this passage.  Paul used the metaphor of family to describe relationships that are as mysterious as they are real.  We read about the relationship shared by God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Comforter.   That relationship is foundational, for Paul stated that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  

 

Paul said we are God’s children, not by birth but by adoption.   And because we are God’s children we are God’s heirs.  That makes us “joint heirs” with Jesus.  We are brothers and sisters to Jesus!  The Holy Spirit functions to confirm our sense of familial connection to God, Jesus, the Spirit, one another, and the rest of creation.  

 

We are family!  

 

The metaphor of family is important for us to keep in mind as we ponder our relationship in and with God, our relationship to one another, and our relationship to God’s creation because there is so much evidence of brokenness around us.  It seems that the world is constantly reeling and lurching because of constantly being assaulted, wounded, tormented, and terrorized.  Hostile people engage in hostile conduct that inflicts hurtful results to people and the creation.  Greed, hate, fear, violence, deceit, and despair have caused many people to think of themselves as alone and alienated from God and from the rest of the world.   That sense of alienation – of not being in relationship with God and others – causes us to hurt one another, distrust one another, fear one another, hate one another, and oppress one another.  That sense of alienation – of not being in relationship with God and others – causes people to view life in the world as war against others rather than relationship to and community with others.  

 

The alternative to being family in and with God and others is to be view God and others as real or potential threats to be avoided or conquered, not loved.  In The Message paraphrase to the Bible, Eugene Peterson offers the following treatment on Romans 8:12-17.

 

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent.  There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all.  The best thing to do is to give it a decent burial and get one with your new life.  God’s Spirit beckons.  There are things to do and places to go!  

 

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are:  Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us – and unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!  

 

Yes, the Trinity is a mystery.  But the same is true about family; family is a mystery.  Family is the mystery we experience in which persons are individually distinct from others while being so simultaneously and inextricably bound together that they are one unit while retaining their distinctive individuality.  It is a mystery one understands best – if not only – from being in it, part of it, and living it.  The Trinity, like the mystery of our kinship to God and our kinship to one another within our biological families, is a mystery one may be able to glimpse from a distance, but is best experienced and understood from the inside.

 

The meaning of that mystery is that we are not alone!  We are part of something that is awesome.  We are part of an awesomely powerful kinship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  We are part of an awesomely complicated history involving our Creator and ourselves and the rest of humanity.  We are part of an awesome – and awful – tragedy in which humanity somehow got the impression that it is independent from God, or worse, that we are gods unto ourselves.  We are part of an awesome drama involving God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit working together to reclaim us, restore us to kinship with the Trinity, and restore us to kinship ourselves, the rest of humanity, and the rest of creation.  And if what scientists theorize is true that our solar system is not alone, but one among others, this mystery means that we are kin to everything in the multi-verse (rather than universe).

 

Now that’s a big mystery to live into.  I said “live into,” because “God and us” is a mystery to be lived, not merely talked about.  It is the mystery about love, kinship, heartbreak, finding a way to restoration, and doing the serious work with God of reconciliation.  This is the constant mystery of love in action.  

 

You see, we are not kin to God biologically.  As Paul stated it, we are adopted.  We are God’s children by divine choice, not by divine intercourse.  We are God’s children because God chose, in some distant time in the past, to be God with us, rather than without us!  God chose to be God with us, then.  Since then, God has refused to be God without us!  

 

This is, in a nutshell, the reason for the whole ministry of Jesus.  Jesus is the culmination of all God desires to do and has done to show us who God is and that God desires to be God with us.  Jesus is God’s proof – and our proof - that we are family with God!  

 

And the Holy Spirit confirms our divine identity as children of God.  We are divine children.  We are children with divine parentage, divine kinship, and divine heritage in God with Jesus!    The Spirit inspires us to know that we share the inheritance Jesus shares.  The Spirit inspires us to know that we share the love from God that Jesus shares.  And the Spirit leads us to grow in the passion of God for all that God loves.  

 

Which means the Holy Spirit inspires us to grow in the grace that leads us to join Jesus in the awesome struggle to demonstrate God’s love.  The Spirit inspires us to grow in the grace and work needed to demonstrate God’s love to a world where people believe that they can function without God, or that they are gods unto themselves.  

 

That’s holy work.  That’s holy living.  That’s God’s business.  And that’s what the Holy Spirit inspires and empowers us to join Jesus in doing as fellow children of God.

 

Why?  Because of what Sister Sledge sang about in 1979.  We are family with God.  Hallelujah!

 

Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2018