Reading: Romans 8:15-18
They introduced themselves. They both wereÂ tense, their hearts pounding. But they had prepared themselves emotionally forÂ this meeting. They were going to be mature and adult about this. No publicÂ displays of emotion at the airport. No dramatics. No tears pleaseâ€¦
And this plan to keep everything cool andÂ sensible and free of emotion worked; until this she looked him in the eye and spokeÂ the one word she had never and could never have spoken to any other man:Â Fatherâ€¦
How deep is that bond: parent to child. Though separated by time and thousands of miles, andÂ in that case, by having never even known one another, there is deep attachment.
Many people, who have been adopted and raised byÂ parents other than their biological ones find that, at some point in theirÂ lives, they feel the need to find their biological parents. Although they haveÂ never met them, they nevertheless deeply connected to them and this is deeplyÂ felt. It is part of their journey to find out who they are, what their originsÂ are, where their looks and abilities and nature comes from, in whose footstepsÂ they are following, where they belong in the world. And so people begin toÂ search.
And as is so often the case, what happens hereÂ on the human level, with children and parents, happens also at the even deeper spiritualÂ level of our lives. Part of being human, created by the eternal Father, is that,Â whether people realise it or not, they are in many ways constantly searchingÂ for home, constantly looking for the one who has Fathered them. People are trying to connect with their origin and theirÂ identity. Searchingâ€¦
The famous Christian Theologian and Bishop ofÂ the Early Church,Â St Augustine,Â lived most of his life deeply feeling this. He felt something fundamentalÂ missing in his life and went searching. He tried everything to satisfy thatÂ search â€“ booze, sexual promiscuity, academic fame and fortune, until finallyÂ one day he sat down under a tree exhausted and empty and cried out to God. HeÂ later wrote one of the oldest and best known prayers of the Christian Church: Lord, you have made us for yourself and weÂ are restless until we rest in thee.
To rest in him is to find peace in being belovedÂ children of our heavenly Father. He is our Dad. He has Fathered us, in baptismÂ â€“ brought us to birth as new people, holy people, through the work of the HolyÂ Spirit. His bond with us reaches right to our core, our spirit. As Paul saysÂ here in verse 15, when we call out to God: â€œAbba â€“ Fatherâ€ (as he wants us to),Â his Spirit bears witness with, locks together with and embraces our spirit â€“ andÂ that bond between our spirit and Godâ€™s Holy Spirit is made stronger.
God wants us to know him and love him and relateÂ to him as our loving Father, because he has made us his own children throughÂ his own son, Jesus, by the power of the Spirit. He wants us to live in thatÂ deep loving bond of his Spirit to ours.
And Paul wants to tell us some important thingsÂ about this bond and what it means for our lives, to encourage us and uplift us.
We can cry out to God: Abba,Â Father
â€œDaddy!â€ One thing I know I share with every other Dad in this church today isÂ what happens to your heart when your child calls out for you in distress,Â â€œDaddy!â€ In that cry is that beautiful, deep and unashamed trust of a child forÂ its father. They cry out without thinking â€“ they flee to the safest place theyÂ know â€“ Dadâ€™s arms. They know you will not turn them away.
And that is what our Father invites us to do â€“Â cry out to him in our pain, or when we are afraid. Ask him for what we need,Â speak to him with complete confidence and trust, because we live in that bondÂ with him.
If we are children of the Father, then we are also heirs, and â€“ justÂ think of this if you can â€“ joint heirs with Christ.
God has lifted us up to be Jesusâ€™ brothers andÂ sisters. That deep bond we share with God the Father, as his Spirit draws us,Â is the same bond that Jesus Christ shares with him. Paul is using as hisÂ analogy here the practice of adoption in the Roman world â€“ it was common forÂ Romans to adopt children and the rules for adoption were that you had to treatÂ your adopted children just as if they were your natural children â€“ they had toÂ take your name, and they had to inherit an equal share of the parentâ€™s estate.Â They had to truly become your child.
Paul is saying that we have been adopted in theÂ same way â€“ the Father treats us exactly as he treats Christ. We are made partÂ of the intimate family circle, drawn into the very heart of God, loved not just like sons and daughters, but as sons and daughters.
And so, along with Jesus, we are heirs to Godâ€™sÂ riches, and his kingdom. As Godâ€™s inheritors, we get the great treasures GodÂ has prepared for his children: forgiveness of our sins, a new and eternal life,Â and we get to share in Godâ€™s glory. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams.
We share Jesusâ€™ suffering and his glory.
Part of the life we now live as God the Fatherâ€™sÂ children, is sharing his sonâ€™s cross. There is no crown without the cross. TheÂ English translation at this point almost makes it sound like suffering withÂ Jesus is a condition of our sharing in His glory â€“ you will inherit Christâ€™sÂ glory if you suffer too. The sense ofÂ Paulâ€™s words in the original text here is rather that since we share inÂ Christâ€™s suffering, we also will share in his glory.
Suffering in this life is a fact. We have toÂ live with the reality of the old broken world we still live in: brokenÂ relationships, sickness, pain, trouble and conflict. As Paul says, we groanÂ along with all creation under the weight of this.
This suffering can seem to us (when itâ€™s usÂ right in the thick of it) like it is completely filling up our whole world. WeÂ can feel that itâ€™s all-encompassing, blotting out everything else. But, PaulÂ says, itâ€™s not. The cross leads to Easter morning. This suffering we areÂ putting up with is leading to a new day â€“ to Godâ€™s kingdom being fully realisedÂ and revealed in its glory. And so Paul goes on to say: â€œI consider that ourÂ present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealedÂ in us.â€ That glory will be revealed in you too.
I often wonder what would happen in the churchÂ if we really understood who we were â€“ if we could fully grasp the wonderfulÂ things we have been given and the amazing grace of God poured out into and ontoÂ us each day. To God, you are the child for whom he has searched and the one forÂ whom he gave Christâ€™s life. You are bonded to him by love so deep that no wordsÂ can express it. And so in joy and hope we cry: Abba Father!
This is the word of the Lord.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â