Preached FCCW May20, 2018
There is a lot to like about the month of May.
The weather usually begins to take a decisive turn to the warmer.
The leaves start popping out on what had been bare tree branches and colorful flowers grace the eye with their beauty.
That is, unless you are prone to allergies.
In that case, May might grace the eyes with itching and watering, instead.
But there is still good news to be found in May, because it is also the month when Hollywood releases its Summer blockbusters.
So, if you have to stay inside you can make inside a movie theater and at least be entertained.
The big blockbuster this year, and of just about any year really, based on its unprecedented revenues, has been the newest Avengers movie.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, one thing that can be said about Super-hero movies like The Avengers is that they are hardly ever accused of dealing with politically sensitive subjects.
But, the original Avengers movie actually did stir up a minor controversy.
In that movie, Loki is the bad guy, but he is also the adopted brother of one of the good guys – one of the Avengers – Thor.
As the strategy for defeating Loki is being discussed among the Avengers, Thor speaks up and says, “Be careful how you talk about Loki. He is my brother.”
One of the other Avengers quickly reminds Thor about all the havoc and destruction his “brother” has created.
Thor quietly replies, “Well, he’s adopted.”
Some people protested that line’s insensitivity toward adopted children in general.
Although attitudes towards adoption have improved greatly in my lifetime, I can recall a time when there was a certain secrecy and stigma attached to it.
Yet, the Apostle Paul chose adoption as a positive metaphor to describe our relationship to God.
Roman customs of adoption in Paul’s time lacked the secrecy and stigma sometimes associated with the practice in more recent history.
Under Roman law, there were two ways of adopting.
You could adopt someone who was orphaned or abandoned.
You could also adopt someone who was a member of another family, and bring them into your household.
When you did, they legally became members of their new family, with all the rights and privileges of the biological children of the household.
If a child came from a plebian (or common) family and was adopted into a patrician (or ruling class) family, the status of patrician was automatically conferred upon them.
There were no legal distinctions between the adopted child and those children who were born into the family.
Paul uses those practices of adoption to help us appreciate how we are welcomed into God’s family.
Think of it this way.
Jesus is God’s only “begotten son.”
Which is like saying that Jesus is God’s biological son.
But through Jesus, we are God’s chosen children.
We are included in God’s family not by conception but by invitation.
Our relationship with God is not accidental, but a deliberate act of inclusion on God’s part.
We are now called by God’s name – forever identified as God’s sons and daughters, as Jesus’ sisters and brothers.
This is just another way of saying that our relationship to God is based purely on grace.
God chose us to be part of God’s family.
It’s not like the relationship of a parent to a biological child.
Once you have a son or daughter through procreation, there are moral and legal responsibilities that you have toward the welfare of that child.
But an adopted child is part of the family by choice.
In adoption a person chooses to take responsibility for the life of a child even before there is any moral or legal compulsion involved.
It is not a relationship that begins with an obligation, but one where obligation is willingly assumed.
Grace is God’s love given to us without our ever being automatically entitled to it in any way.
Sometimes, God adopts us when we feel alienated from God, like orphans adrift in the world.
Sometimes God adopts us when we are part of something that gives us a false sense of security and belonging apart from God.
In either case, Paul says that we were saved in hope.
One way of understanding that would be to say we were adopted into God’s family
not based on what we had proven ourselves to be,
but based on God’s vision of what we could become.
And our hope is in our growing into the person God sees in us.
Pentecost was the Church’s first big blockbuster.
The Super Hero of the day was the Holy Spirit.
The message that was released on that day was that all who called on the name of the Lord were part of the family of God, through Jesus.
No matter if you were Cappadocian or a Phyrgian
or anyone else in the basket of unpronounceables from this passage,
you heard the invitation in your own native language.
Personally addressed to you.
Mostly this blockbuster was met with rave reviews.
“Amazed and astonished” were the most frequent comments.
Although, some people did pan it, sneering and saying “they are drunk on new wine.”
But, that might have just been their way of saying that it sounded too good to be true.
Like most super hero movies, Pentecost has its sequels.
Whenever and wherever the Spirit moves people to profess their faith in God’s invitation to be adopted into a household of fellow believers a new chapter is added to the Church’s story with new characters.
Maybe it’s time to adopt a new term for children who are adopted.
Maybe instead of adopted we ought to call these children “chosen.”
Because they aren’t born into a family, they are chosen to be a part of it.
And when we welcome new members with these words from the UCC Book of Worship,
“We celebrate your presence in this household of faith,” what we are really saying is,
“Welcome to this family of Chosen Children.”
Copyright 2018 Raymond Medeiros