April 18, 2021 / Easter Sunday/ Richard Holmer
First Reading Acts 3:12-19 / Second Reading 1 John 3:1-7 / Gospel Luke 24:36b-48
Children of God
What is the best and truest thing about you? What gives your life meaning and a feeling of worth? What would you like people to remember about you?
Many factors contribute to our sense of identity.
Family and friendships, that living network of human relationships over time, are a major influence.
We have personality. The Myers/Briggs typology describes 16 different personality types, distinguished by qualities of introversion and extroversion, thinking versus feeling, and so on.
We all have a history that forms us: education, both formal and informal – experiences both good and bad.
We often identify ourselves by what we do, by job and career. I’ve been a pastor for over 40 years. It’s a large part of how others see me and how I see myself.
Today, however, we are reminded that the most vital and enduring feature of our identity is not something unique to us – but rather something we have in common: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1)
You and I are children of God – each and every one of us. This is not something that we might be, that we are supposed to be, that we could choose to be, that we hope to be. Children of God is who and what we are, by the grace of God.
This message is repeated in scripture so that we don’t somehow overlook or forget it.
· In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, which presents a stirring summary of God’s plan for our salvation, we read this: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become CHILDREN OF GOD, who were born, not of blood or the will of flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13) We are children of God not by adoption, but by our rebirth through water and the spirit in Holy Baptism.
John adds this in his first letter: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God.” (1 John 5:1)
St. Paul chimes in with this: “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’, it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God – and if children then heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-17)
These are the words that were spoken at your baptism as a cross was traced on your forehead: “You are a child of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
Consider the richness of this blessing. You are a child of the most high God, creator of all that is – now and always. Nothing can ever change this. Whatever else might be said about any of us, nothing can surpass the goodness of being claimed by God as beloved daughters and sons. Franciscan priest, Brennan Manning, describes how our identity is shaped not by our accomplishments, but by God’s love for us: “While the imposter draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences, but in our simple presence in life. Our identity rests in Gods relentless tenderness for us, revealed in Jesus Christ.”
This truth changes our self-understanding and our life’s purpose. Building an impressive resume, climbing the social ladder, accumulating accolades and rewards are not the goal. Instead our aim is to live our lives in the fullness of this loving relationship with God – to go about our days as who we are: children of God.
How do we learn to live as children of God? By focusing on the Son of God – by looking always to Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. It’s been said that people become what they look at. Consider the implications. How much time is spent looking at our phones, watching mindless TV shows, staring at computer screens, watching thousands of commercials, gazing at things we’d like to possess – cars, houses, boat, clothes. Where is our focus? How can we grow as children of God if our attention is centered on worldly things?
It is the love of God that claims us as cherished daughters and sons. In Jesus we can see what love is, what love does in this world:
- How love serves
- How it forgives
- How it encourages
- How it nurtures
- How it welcomes and includes
- How love seeks to understand
- How it overcomes fear
- How it inspires
- How it is courageous
- How it never gives up
It’s all about finding ways to love in our working, our parenting, our learning, our making a life.
Being a child of God is not about being perfect or free of mistakes. Instead, it is about allowing the love of God to be the motivating factor in all we do. We know that when we stop loving, we are no longer following and imitating Jesus. John reminds us that we are able to love because God first loved us. It is by staying in touch with the steadfast love of God for us that you and I are empowered to be instruments of God’s love in everyday life. Be confident in the love that God has for you! We are not called to be heroic; we are called to be faithful, to be loving and gracious to one another as we navigate the ups and downs of everyday life. To be a child of God is utterly and completely a gift – so our lives are shaped by gratitude for what we have received, not by pride in anything we have earned or chosen.
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Inevitably, times will come in our lives when we are discouraged and downhearted. We are weighed down by our shortcomings and our failings. Behind the calm face we present in public there are doubts about our worth, about the meaning and value of our lives. Persons of great stature and accomplishment are not immune to such discouragement and doubt. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran scholar and theologian, author of several significant books. During World War II his opposition to Hitler moved Bonhoeffer to become part of a group plotting to assassinate Hitler. When the plot failed, Bonhoeffer was arrested, imprisoned – and then executed on April 9, 1945, shortly before the war ended. In a letter written shortly before his death, Bonhoeffer included a poem that expresses his struggles and his doubts about his true identity, his ultimate worth. He titled the poem, Who Am I?
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!
Friends, see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that truly is who we are.
Thanks be to God!