Sunday, July 15, 2012

Adopted - like a locket returned...

Susan Gamble was shopping at an Internet auction when she saw a U.S. Army Air Corps locket. Since her boyfriend collected World War I memorabilia, the locket caught her attention. The locket was from the WWII period, but it was gold and the bid was only three dollars, so she took a chance. She won.

A couple of weeks later, the locket arrived at Susan's Pennsylvania home. When she examined the locket she found an added bonus that wasn't mentioned in the Internet auction. The sixty-year-old locket contained two photographs: one of an attractive young woman and the other of a man in uniform. The photos appeared to be original to the locket.

Excited over her purchase, she showed it to her father who immediately asked her, "When did Grandma give you this?"  She answered, "Grandma didn't give it to me. I bought it off the Internet from an estate sale in Georgia."  As he pointed to the photographs, her father said, "Well, that is your grandmother, but that's not your grandfather!"

Susan's grandmother Elaine lived in Oklahoma. Susan and her father already had a trip planned to visit, so they took the locket with them. Elaine Gamble was shocked to see it. It was hers.

Elaine was nineteen in 1942 when she gave the locket to her fiance, Charles. His parents flew in from Colorado for the Saturday wedding. But Charles didn't attend. He left Elaine standing alone at the altar. A few days later he called. He was obviously drunk and then a woman came on the line to tell Elaine that she had stolen Charles. Elaine said, "I told her she could have him." It was her last contact with him until the arrival of the locket.

Susan graciously returned the locket to her grandmother. She has no idea who the seller was, but she described the whole ordeal by saying, "It's just beyond belief."

According to tradition, the letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul, who was imprisoned in Rome, about 62AD. Paul addresses hostility, division, and self-interest more than any other topic in the letter, so perhaps his primary concern was not about what to believe as a Christian, but but how to live as one.

In the section we hear today, Paul goes back to basics. He reminds the Ephesian Christians and us that God, in and through Jesus Christ: has chosen us to be His people, we are adopted, we are redeemed, our sins are forgiven, He makes known His plans for us and all creation, He offers us His inheritance and marks us as holy by the presence of His very self in the Holy Spirit. This all encompassing passage should leave us in no doubt that becoming a Christian is not about assenting to the virgin birth or Christ’s resurrection like it was some sort of political slogan. Becoming a Christian is about acknowledging the lengths that God goes to be in relationship with us are enormous. There were no lengths, no costs that God would not bear, no amount of time used that God would not go to to express His love for us and for us to love Him too.  Being Christian is living and loving in the light of these actions of a loving God.

Paul writes to the Ephesians that we are "destined for adoption." He uses that phrase quite deliberately because it describes the intimate love of God the Father, who aches with love.  He recognizes that His family is not complete.  He already has children but there are others still missing out from experiencing the love and care not just of any family but His family. Adoption is about bringing together a disperate family of ages, genders, races and sexes, all bound together, all encompassed by His love. Story: Martina and Richard...

Adoption here is a belief that we are supposed to belong to God and God will reclaim us. Just as the locket made its way back to the rightful owner through a series of unbelievable events, we discover our destiny as we make our way back to God through Jesus Christ in the unusual way of his death and resurrection. It sounds beyond belief, but it is really grace -- we are forgiven and brought back to God and this is what Paul means as he writes to the Ephesians and us using this phrase ‘in Christ.’

As adopted children ‘in Christ’, every experience is reframed, from our most bracing joys and cherished achievements to our besetting temptations, our most anguished regrets, and our most wounding losses. "In Christ" we are joined to the power and presence of God Himself and no longer have to make our way in the world alone without hope or meaning. "In Christ" we are knit to others who will cry over our dead with us even as they help us sing hymns of resurrection. At the same time, being "in Christ" is no sentimental togetherness. You’ve heard the expression ‘blood is thicker than water’ to describe family ties - Christ’s blood shed on the cross is eternally thicker, for through it, we are bound together with each other and with Him.  But like all family relationships this means sticking with each other, supporting one another in love through the good and not so good alike.

Do you know where your life is going?  Where you are headed? Do you know where you come from? Where you roots lie?  Friends we live in an age where many of us can’t easily answer those questions because of uncertainty at work, because our relationships are stretched, because we live in what many call a mobile population, because we may not know even the next generation up in our own families.  Many of us are looking to connect ourselves to the past - look at the rise in interest in genealogy - where do I come from? Even our family histories become something to study - what did you do during the war Grandad, it’s for my history homework...

Many of us are are looking to connect ourselves to the future - look at the rise in self help books and life and career coaching where is my life going? But at the moment it might be more pressing and fundamental than that.

Paul remind the Ephesians and us this morning that our lives past, present and future fluctuate and change but they only begin to truly make sense when see life not as about assenting to particular political slogans, or about decisions that may or may not affect our present, or even something we do alone, but life is something to be lived and loved because of a God who loves us no matter what, searches us out no matter where we’ve been or where we are and brings us back home.

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