- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
- Psalm 24 (VU p.751)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 1:3-14
- From the Gospel: Mark 6:14-29
The Hymns this week are:
- 245 Praise the Lord With the Sound of Trumpet
- 352 I Danced in the Morning
- 326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- 424 May the God of Hope Go with Us
The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled Adoption and Inheritance: What Family?
Early Thoughts: This week we move into Paul's letter to the Ephesians. The Epistle readings from now until the end of August will be from this letter. This letter may in fact not have been addressed solely to the people in Ephesus. Scholars believe it may actually have been a document meant to circulate around a group of churches for their education and encouragement. It is also thought that Paul himself did not write this document. Rather one of Paul's disciples may have compiled some of Paul's thoughts and sayings into what we now call Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
In my early reading of the passage the word adoption leaps out. Adoption is how the writer describes our relationship to God. Adoption is a special way of entering a family. It has overtones of being chosen. It also has a finality that some things don't. An adopted child is ours in a way that a foster-child is not -- a foster child is a ward of the state (granted that many foster parents bond just as strongly with the foster-child as to their own). A step-child is yours not ours (again remembering that many step-parents don't, in practice, see such a difference). Adoption brings belonging. Adoption means that we are truly part of the family. Adoption means that we are free to share in all that the family has, we become inheritors.
And so as I read these words I hear echoes of the Prodigal Son returning. I hear echoes of the Baptism service where we say that in Baptism we are "named as God's children, claimed by Christ, and united with the whole Christian community". The writer reminds us that God welcomes us as full members of God's family -- not under temporary care, not as part of a package but full members of the family. We BELONG. We are free to share in the inheritance of abundant and everlasting life because we belong.
We are all God's children. How does that change how we live? How does that change how we treat each other? In the ancient world adoption was an important thing, being linked as it was to inheritance. Today we often don't talk a lot about adoption, there is a hint of a stigma about being adopted. But adoption means that we belong. Adoption is a gift. By virtue of being "destined [us] for adoption as his children" God has opened to us the promise of inheritance. What will we do with this gift?