When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
The sermon today is about the lavish, outrageous, abundant, overflowing love God has for us. It is a sermon about what it means to be a child of God, and why that matters. It is a sermon to remind us of our divine family resemblance, and the duty that puts upon us, and joy that this bring us when we act as heirs of God’s kingdom.
I come to this sermon through the inspiration of a conversation I had the other day with a friend. He asked what I thought about the Percy Jackson novels that are so popular right now. I know about them because Kristin and I have been reading them with our 9 year old son, Desmond. The basic premise is that Percy is the son of a mortal woman who was impregnated by Poseidon, the God of the seas. Percy is a half blood, half mortal and half divine. He has a bunch of adventures that meld the ancient pantheon of Greek gods with modern day life.
My friends question was this: “How do I explain the gods of mythology in relationship to the one true God I‘ve been talking to my children about?” C.S. Lewis has helped my thinking on this question. As many of you know he was an expert on Norse mythology. His insight was that we, as humanity, need the simpler ideas, like mythology, to help us mature into the larger concepts, like theology. It is like needing to know addition before being able to do algebra.
Lewis understood the mythological gods as a necessity, planted in the imagination of humanity, to allow us to begin to think about our world as having come from an intentional, personal, power. So when our ancient forefathers & foremothers wondered why thunder claps, or trees grow, or the sun shines; when they wondered why wars were so inevitable and charity so spontaneous… The answers that sprung to mind were they happen by the hands of personal gods; and furthermore these gods resemble us.
And so the groundwork was lay by mythology to prepare the human imagination to grasp and process the power of the incarnation, and more than that to grow comfortable with the idea that we were made to resemble God, not unlike Percy; part mortal and part divine.
So we cut our teeth on a pantheon of mythological gods as a way of maturing into the idea of a personal God that we look something like, that we resemble in some manner.
Now I know how family resemblance works. I just returned from my summer vacation in Montana. We go there every year. It is where the extended family gathers. There were piles of people there this year, which meant there were a lot of people there a lot like me, which meant it was an extrovert’s paradise (or an introvert’s nightmare). After all it is my family and they are like me and I am like them. That is the nature of families; there is a resemblance. True with our family of origin, whether these traits are passed biologically or environmentally; true too with the family of God.
Now I’m not just talking about the family of God to mean our church family, although our church family fits under this rubric. I’m talking about all of humanity as the children of God. I’m talking about the fact that we were all born in the imagination of God, each one of us, before the creation of all things. We were born in the imagination of God with purpose, each of us uniquely and perfectly formed for some particular task in God’s divine economy. And God wants each one of us to blossom into this purpose and in this way become heirs to God’s fortune.
That is why we were made; that is one of our primary purposes for being, to inherit the kingdom of God. That is a big idea. So let me say it again…One of the primary purposes for being is to own our place in God’s family and act as heirs, and inherit the kingdom of God.
But participation in this family is a choice. It is a choice because we are free, as per our design. God made us free to choose, because God loves us. And as we know, even in the smallness of our knowing, there is no love if there is no choice.
Now there may or may not be love in your biological and/or sociological family. There may be things in your family of origin that are divine, that you want to move closer and closer to. And there may be things in your family of origin that are a horror, that you want to move further and further away from. But make no mistake about it… either way, whether it is from bad to good or good to great, we were made to move, by choice, from a predetermined family to the divine family, from the lesser to the greater.
I’m not suggesting we reject our family of origin, what I am laying claim to is that the more we act like children of God, the better it is for all our relationships.
The question is: “Why in the world would God want us as children? “Why in the world would God need us to be part of God’s family?” Isn’t God perfectly self-contained as is?God already has a family after all. We call it the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a family eternally bonded, ever-giving, ever-receiving, perpetually blessing one another, unbreakable by choice. So uniformly committed that the three are one and the one is three. And what they share is a singular enterprise of loving each other. Which is where the problem comes in… or shall I say, where we come in.
The Trinity’s family enterprise generates love with such abundance and overwhelmingly successful that it flows beyond itself. And in that way God’s divine economy is formed.
Let me explain. There are three principle of the divine economy.
First, that the love generated by the Trinity is the currency in God’s economy. Love is the money, the currency that trades and flows and generates wealth. The problem here was that this currency was just piling up all over the place, with no markets in which to spend it, and no outlets in which to invest it.
Which leads to the second thing about God’s divine economy…God has a spending problem. God spends what God makes, everything that is produced gets used.Does that sound familiar? Sounds a bit like me… spending to the end of my income. Maybe you know what I mean. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, given that we are made in the image and likeness of God.
Which bring us to the third point I’ll make about God’s divine economy. We were created to be the heirs of God fortune. We were made to be the market in which God invested the currency of love.
In God’s divine economy there are three abiding principles:
1) God spends everything God makes;
2) What God makes in the family enterprise of the Trinity is love, and love is the currency of the kingdom of God.
3) And we were created to be the recipients, to be the heirs, of this overflowing, abundant love.
Which bring us to Paul and todays reading from his letter to the Galatians: “then, as children of God, everything God has belongs to us.” (Gal 4:7b NLT) Again Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians: “I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance God has given to God’s children.” (Eph 1:28b) And again scripture teaches us from Peter’s First Letter: “God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept for you pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of decay.” (1 Pet 1:4 para).
And so what we know is that we most resemble our creator when we do what we were made to do, that is spend, lavishly and extravagantly, the abundant inheritance God makes for us. That is our purpose. God wants God’s children to spend what God has made. It brings God joy and it brings us joy as well.
In the economy of the kingdom of God, the currency is love. It comes abundantly from the wild success of the family enterprise of the Trinity. And we were made to spend it… as much of it as we want. And when we do we move from the lesser to the greater; from immaturity to maturity; from poverty to abundance; from mortality to eternity.
We grow up and as we do we resemble more and more the divine beings God made us to be. That is our purpose and our point for being. That is what Jesus came to teach us, how to spend lavishly the love of God. And what it can buy with this currency is: grace, hope, humility, forgiveness, endurance, forbearance, strength, laughter, enlightenment, insight, kindness, patience, glory, wisdom, power, mercy, justice, joy, and peace.
Jesus came in a manner that we recognize, born to a women, into a family, that was like him. Mary, was his mother, and we celebrate her today. And yet while Jesus was probably a lot like Mary, what he shows us is how real family resemblance is seen most fully through a relationship with God. It is a resemblance magnified when we lavishly and even irresponsibility spend the inheritance God has given us… that is the inheritance of love.