Adopted by a loving Father


Paul, writing to the Romans says that we are children of God, just as Jesus is the son of God so that we are jointly heirs to the Kingdom of God just as Jesus is the heir to the Kingdom of God.  So, we have the same rights in the Kingdom as Jesus, the Son of God.


And just as Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, so we too have that same Spirit in us; God’s Holy Spirit; and it is this Spirit within us that cries out to God, ‘Abba! Father!’  And Paul describes this Spirit which we have received is a Spirit of adoption.  This is really fascinating.  Paul says, we have been welcomed by God as a father welcomes his adopted children.


Do these images of God as father help us to love God more?  Do they help us to be more sure of his love for us?


One of my childhood memories comes from when I was 4-5 years old.  It was an autumn evening.  A boy who was the same age as me, had come round to play.  His father had come to fetch him.  We had had our tea.  Somehow a final game of football started.  We played with a tennis ball on the bit of asphalt round the side of our house in front of the garage.  It was me and my Dad against the other boy and his Dad.  We were only going to play for five minutes but in the end we played for ages until it was past my bedtime, until we could barely see the ball.  It was wonderful.  What made it so wonderful was the feeling I had that my Dad, and indeed the other Dad as well, were having as much fun as me and the other lad.  He delighted in me as much as I delighted in him.  This simple memory has stayed with me for ever.


I wonder of this memory can help me understand how God wants my relationship with him to feel like.


Over the years my relationship with my father has had its ups and downs, like most parent child relationships have.  And when I had a son, I learned that my relationship with my son would also have its ups and downs.  We are all only human after all.  But I have learned to treasure memories like the one of the football game we played together that autumn evening.  These are the memories that we treasure.  These are the memories we can build our lives on.  


I wonder whether you have any memories like that; memories of moments with a parent or a child which you particularly treasure; memories that you can go back to; memories that sustain you; memories that you build your life around?  Let’s take a few seconds to recall them.  What do they tell us about the way things need to be between us and God?


I know that not everybody has these memories.  I have recently started reading a book by the poet and author Lemn Sissay.  Lemn Sissay was adopted as a baby by a church going family.  When he was 12, this family gave him back to social services in a particularly cruel way.  He was plunged without warning back into the care system, having lost the only family he had ever really known.  His relationship with his adopted father didn’t so much have ups and downs; rather it plunged into a bottomless pit.  His biography is a book to that is looking for answers.  Its title is ‘My Name is Why?’  


I mention his story because I want to recognise that some people will not immediately think of blissful moments like my story about the game of football.  And yet, reading his book, I am struck by the fact that as a boy and now as a man, Lemn Sissay has a very clear idea of how his relationship with his father should have been.  The idea of a relationship with a loving parent who delights in us and in whom we can delight has a firm place in his heart and in all our hearts.


So I think Paul is on solid ground when he describes our relationship with God as a loving father.  This new relationship we have with God, our adopted father in Jesus Christ.  This is what it means when the Spirit within cries, ‘Abba! Father!’  This is the relationship we pray for when we ask God to pour into our hearts such love for him that loving him in all things and above all things we may enjoy everything that we desire.


I described my relationship with my father has having had its ups and downs and, in the same way, Jesus told a story about a field where good seed was sown but when the seeds germinated and began to grow, weeds appeared as well as wheat.  And the people asked the master whether they should pull out the weeds, but the master said no, we should let the weeds and the wheat grow together in case any of the wheat was pulled out by the roots when the weeds were pulled out. 


We all have good memories and bad memories.  We all have good and bad within us.  It will all be sorted out at harvest time like the wheat and the weeds in the story Jesus told.  In the meantime, we hold onto those good memories.  When we are on the right path, it is these good memories that define who we are.  These are the experiences that are holy because in these experiences we see glimpses of our relationship with God.  These are memories that we build our lives around.


But we do not deny that we have bad memories.  Like the weeds in the field they stay with us.  We cannot ignore them.  And they are painful to us.


And we know we are not alone in our painful memories.  Everybody we know has them.  And then there is the pain of people we do not know.  We know that millions are starving in the Yemen and millions more are homeless and hopeless in the refugee camps of the Rohingya people and they are all bracing for the impact of Covid 19.  We recently marked the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica.  Thousands of memories of childhood games of football all snuffed out by hatred.  And before that the 15th anniversary of the London Tube bombings.  Which means the 15th anniversary of the death of Charles de Menezes will soon be upon us.  Such senseless suffering; so much hate swirling around us, so many weeds growing in the wheat field, the whole of creation is groaning in its agony.


And yet the wheat is growing also.  And the whole of creation waits with eager longing for the coming harvest when the children of God will be known and welcomed by their loving Father, the Father they had always wanted and believed in.  


We are like children living in a children’s home.  We have seen glimpses of God in our relationships with each other and in other moments when we have experienced love that we have been able to trust.  We cling stubbornly to an ideal of living always in the love of a devoted parent.


Living a life of faith and hope is to know in your heart that this ideal is true; that we have already been adopted by a parent whose love for us is perfect in every way.  


Living a life of faith and hope is to live with a vision of harvest when the weeds have been pulled out and set aside and don’t matter anymore because the harvest is all that matters and the wheat has been preserved and the harvest is in and it is good.


May we live this life of faith always and encourage each other in it.  Amen.

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Page last updated: 21st July 2020 11:48 AM