Tag Archives: family

Adoption for all!


trinity-sunday-clipart-1This is my sermon for Trinity Sunday2018.

Today marks the beginning of the second half of the Christian year when the focus changes over from Christ’s Career to our response to it. It is one of those Sundays which is more difficult for ministers if they use it as the one opportunity in the year to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Since the doctrine took the early church a mere 400 years to settle on a doctrine which they could agree, I have decided to avoid trying to explain it in twenty minutes. As the year turns over to a focus on our response to Christ’s career, that will be our lens.

Romans 8: 12-17 is actually one of the main passages that was used in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. While our Isaiah passage today spoke of the transformation of Isaiah from an observer to a prophet who, after he was cleansed of his sin, responded by voluntarily beginning an often dangerous life as God’s prophet; and the story of Nicodemus night-time visit to Christ was used by John to make clear the separation between flesh and spirit; Romans focuses on our transformations through the Spirit to members of God’s family, and from slave to child.(Achtemeier) So let’s begin looking at the transformation available to us. In Romans the writer talks about us being adopted as God’s children, and thus as brothers and sisters of Christ.

Family is the first and most central relationship of our lives. We start with the family into which we are born or adopted and then raised. As children in the family we begin as completely dependent on our parents for everything and move gradually to become independent. This gradual change in the balance of power is a constant push and pull between parents and children. For most of us, we then move out on our own and then create a new family with our own spouses and children.

When we try to explain our closest relationships with friends we often refer to them as being, “as close as family,” or “just like brothers or sisters,” or “our other parents.” That is not what is being spoken about in Romans. We read there that after our transformation from being led by the flesh to being led by the Spirit, we “are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

How do we respond to that adoption? Take a look back at Psalm 29 to see how God is described.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion[b] like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

That definitely describes someone to whom we will run, maybe climb into his lap, and say, “Daddy, daddy!” Well maybe not. Do you remember the first time a former teacher asked you to call them by their first name? It feels so strange to go from saying Mrs. Scott, or Professor Mark, to Cathy and Jamie. If that is difficult to call regular humans by a more familiar name, how much more difficult is it to imagine that it is ok to call God “father”, “dad.” But it is that very privilege which we gain through the Spirit. We aren’t “as close to God as family.” We, “are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”

Along with the privileges of family come responsibilities. We make commitments to our families, we make sacrifices for our families, we share our resources with our families. As members of God’s family we also have commitments to make and meet. This is our response, the topic of the rest of the Christian year. The rest of verse 17 says, “if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Like Isaiah, in saying, “‘Here am I; send me!’” would live a life of being both honoured by the people, and running for his life and hiding in a cave to avoid the soldiers of the King; we have to accept the risks associated with being God’s family members.

Paul Achtemeier said, “The transformation wrought by God’s Spirit is such that one becomes a foreigner to the culture to which one once belonged.” This is a tough thing to see for many of us as we were raised in a time when Western society seemed to assume that people were Christian. To be a Christian at this time was to be on the inside, on the side of power. It seems like that was not actually the role intended for Christian life. With the secularization of Western societies, it is much easier to see the risk of being part of this family.

In his notes on Romans 8, Scott Hoezee writes about a story he read in a book by Richard Lischer called The End of Words. which illustrates why it is one of those stories we can never hear too often. It isn’t annoying like The Song That Never Ends.

“When the adopted child repeatedly asks her parents to recount the events surrounding her adoption, the story must remain the same.  And woe to the one who introduces omissions or changes in the sacred formula.  “And then out of all the babies in the orphanage you chose me, right?”  Could parents ever tire of telling that story?  Would they ever dare substitute another for it?  If telling God’s story strikes us as repetitious, that is because it is.  It is repetitious the way the Eucharist is repetitious, the way a favorite melody or gestures of love are repetitious, the way the mercies of God that come unbidden every day are repetitious . . . Such stories do not entertain, they do something far better.  They sustain.  They do not inform, they form those who share and hear them for a life of faithfulness.”

You know the song They’ll Know We Are Christians? According to this people would know that we are Christians by our love. I do not disagree with this, but as I hear over and over again from atheists and secularists, any good person can show love. So how do we show the difference? We are the ones who call God “Father.”

For some people the word “father” brings on unpleasant memories and connotations. We can choose any form to use. We can call God “Mother,” “Father,” or, as the man in the novel The Shack we can say, “Papa.” The point is that we accept that adoption and live our transformed lives as children of God.

 


Deck the halls with boughs of holly!
Fa la la la la, la la la la

At school today the kids in one class got talking about Christmas decorations around their homes.  Some said that their parents, mostly mothers, put their decorations up in November, while others said trees go up on the 23rd of December  and come down on the 25.  The thing that remains the same is that for people who celebrate Christmas, either for secular or religious reasons, do some kind of decorating.

One person said her mother was into snowmen and their whole house is filled with snowman decorations.   My mother-in-law had a collection of hundreds of angels.   When I first moved out on my own I focused on Santa.  Every year I got a new Santa for the tree and I did several cross-stitches of  Father Christmas.  Later on, getting disgusted with the commercialism of the season, I changed my focus to nativities.  It probably sounds a little strange to collect nativities, but there it is…

We aren’t done decking our halls at home yet.  I have many of my nativities, some snowmen, some Santa figures.  Some of the things used to belong to my grandparents, some to my husband’s family, and the nativity above represents months of work and enjoyment painting at a local Clay Cafe.  Almost all the decorations have some deeper meaning or pleasant family related memories that go with them.  

Regardless of what form your “boughs” take, I hope that as you deck your halls it is with a sense both of family history and hope for the coming kingdom!

Second Only To God: Family Comes First


Today’s topic came naturally out of my morning quandary about what to wear.  As I stood looking at my closet I had in mind that I was dressing not just for church, but for a lunch-time family gathering with almost all of my family of orientation followed by supper with my family of procreation and my father-in-law.  A full day of activity and social contact, this would normally be just my kind of day, but if it weren’t church and family I would be begging off and spending the day resting up for the coming work week.

If you have been with me from the beginning, you may remember my post about priorities titled What Would You Have Left if You Lost Everything? https://curlingupwithgod.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=660&action=edit  In that post I talked about an exercise I do with my classes in which they write down the six things that are most important in their lives, and then one-by-one they have to choose which of them to lose.  It can be pretty difficult when you get down, for instance, to the choice of God, your spouse, or your children.  It also shows just how unimportant things like our cars and our homes are for most people.

Back to today.  The only time I skip church is if I’m away or if I can barely stand due to illness, and there is certainly no way that I am going to miss a chance to visit with my brother and sister-in-law who only get to town once-a-year.  That takes us up to supper time (the evening meal).  We make a point of going to see, and eat with, my father-in-law on Sunday evenings.  It is vital to us that our kids have a close relationship with their grandparents.  They see my parents regularly at church, but their paternal grandfather goes to a different church and so we have, since they were little, gone for weekly visits.

Continuing to prepare for the day, I was putting on my rings.  First I put on my wedding band and engagement ring, an obvious priority in my life.  After that I had choices and I got thinking about the fact that almost everyone would put a ring they bought for themselves in a different category than one that had belonged to a now-deceased family member.  There is more meaning to my grandmother’s wedding ring than the cute ring I got when I finished my lay ministry course. 

In the Bible we see that God created people as man and woman.  He saw the need for us to have helpmates or partners.  When human children are born they are uniquely dependant.  Unlike all other species, humans are not able to fend for themselves until far beyond a year.  This fact made families of whatever configuration necessary for their survival,  and continues to do so.  The cycle continues when we leave our parents and “cleave to” our own life partners.

It Is The Family That Never Ends: Our Forever Family


Like the designs of many civilizations, the knotwork of the Celts are noted for their intricate designs created from an unbroken line.

One of these designs, which is well-known, includes three loops and is known as the triquetera or trinity knot. There is one loop each for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, while in truth there is only one continuous line.  To me it ties in with the well-known quote from Revelations, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.”   At the same time the continuity reflects ahead to eternity and eternal life.  


When we think about life we normally see it with a distinct beginning and ending.  ‘We are born, but to die,’ that sort of thing.  In my classes I teach about the Family Life Cycle.  When you map out a family’s cycle you see that “ideal families” go through a pattern of connected loops growing out of each other.  Each individual has an end at death but when the cycle works the family does not end.

God is beyond even that, though.  From the very beginning (the Alpha) God, Jesus and the Spirit were all present and will remain so forever.  What better family to be a part of than God’s family?  Unbeknownst to us, we were a part of God’s family from before we were conceived.  Like teens, most of us stray away from the family at some point, but through accepting the grace of God in the sacrifice of Jesus we are welcomed back home for good!

 

 

Out of the Loop


I have discovered something about myself in the past two days, well I actually knew before but it was reinforced.  I do not function well when I don’t know what is going on.  This has, over the years, been a cause of stress when organizations or activities are first getting started, during that bedlam period before people settle into their roles.  It is even more of an issue when, as in the current situation, there is a health issue with family members who are a long way away and I am not there with them.  It isn’t as if my presence on the scene would be of any help to anyone else other than moral support, but I would still rather be there.  I know that things are being well looked after, and if there is anything important happening the news will get to me quickly.

 

From this remote location (remote from the situation, not from civilization) all I can really do is pray that God will be there for all of my family members, for the health care workers, etc.  Why is it, that when God is such a great power and comfort, that it feels like nothing to pray?  I wrote it at the beginning of this paragraph, and you hear people say it all the time, “Well, all we can do is pray!”  It is almost as if we are saying that all the actually useful things have been done already and as some kind of futile last resort we might try prayer.

 

Social media has been much maligned for taking people away from real contact with people.  I would like to add another perspective.  Prayer is far more powerful than most of us, even those who pray regularly, realize.  For years my grandmother used to have a prayer list delivered to her by her church, long after she was able to get out to services.  Every day she would sit down and purposefully spend some time in prayer for the people on the list, whether she knew them or not.  Face Book has in some ways become a global prayer list.  Depending on one’s privacy settings, if you post that a loved one is ill all of your friends will know about it, many of them will add your relative to their prayer lists, and their friends may do so as well.

 

However you come upon the information that someone is in trouble; in person, through word of mouth, or through social media, take a quiet moment and send a prayer or just positive thoughts to God on behalf of that person, it isn’t “just a prayer,” it is powerful because it is love!

Dating Violence, Childbirth and Cowboy Day


What do dating violence, childbirth and cowboy day have in common?  These represent my work day today.

March break is next week and that makes this winter carnival week at my high school.  A regular part of this week every year is that we have theme days.  Today is cowboy day and many of the teachers and students are sporting plaid shirts, jeans, cowboy boots etc.  As a result of this I am sitting here during my break in my jeans, plaid shirt, cowboy boots and spurs writing my blog.

 

As for dating violence and childbirth, these are today’s topics in my two classes.  There was a time when these were topics you didn’t hear about, or which your parents were supposed to cover.  How did this sort of thing end up being on the school’s plate?

 

Dating violence is one of the adolescent issues we cover which include eating disorders, STIs, birth control, stress, depression etc.  Our ideas of what is acceptable behaviour in a relationship have changed a great deal over the past 50 years and I firmly believe that it is important to teach our kids how to be safe in their relationships.  As a former victim of emotional abuse in my past marriage I wish someone had taken the time to teach me the warning signs, because they were all there. The value of the units does not explain how they came to be part of the curriculum though.

 

Childbirth is the next stage in the child’s development after prenatal, so it is time to cover that.  The folks from the VON program Healthy Baby and Me come in to do  one class on childbirth and a second class on breastfeeding.  While we do have a couple of students who are pregnant, this is not just for them.  The sooner you know the process and stages of labor and delivery, the better prepared you will be and most students will some day become parents.  Again a good reason but not really an explanation.

 

I guess that question comes down to, “who used to be responsible for these things?”  Most of these issues would have been handled in one way or another by our families.  With many generations of families all living in close proximity you may not have been warned about dating violence but you had a whole network of people in the community watching out for you.  Girls were warned to stay away from the “wild” boys, those with temper problems etc and in smaller communities it would be rare to be dating someone about whom nothing was known.  This doesn’t mean that there were fewer relationship problems, but parents were more aware of where their kids were, whom they were with, and what they were doing.  Social expectation for dating were very different at the time as well.  Of course some people had sex when in high school, but with poor birth control methods it was much more risky than it is now.

 

Similarly, when you had your children you used to have your mother, aunts, grandmother to help you out and offer advice.  Families are so geographically dispersed now that this is not viable.  What we see on TV shows about childbirth tend to focus on the problems that may happen and are unlikely to make people feel confident in their body’s ability to give birth which we do get from the fact that our female relations survived.  Similarly, it is pretty hard for a grandmother to help sooth your baby through a Skype connection.  For basic information exchange the world has become much smaller through technology, but this is not a benefit for real human relationships and the comfort of touch.

And so we come to my work-day today where I dressed differently, talked about avoiding abuse, and delivering babies!