Faithlife
Faithlife

Led by the Spirit to be Children of God

Notes & Transcripts

I speak to you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen.

We live in a land - and time - of great abundance

We Canadians are proud to look to the UN’s report on ‘the best countries in the world to live’ - and for many years Canada topped the charts – 8 years, I think?

Even now when we are not first – we are still among the highest - and one commentator recently explained that it was not that our standard of living was getting any worse but in fact that other countries had got better.

            So basically we got it pretty good

But one thing in life is certain about our human nature – is that we tend to take for granted the incredible blessings, when they are not in jeopardy

Let’s consider a couple things that we consider basic rights of a free society and, can and sometimes do, take for granted

We live in a democratic society, we has free elections – free from violence & intimidation

            And yet just over 50% of eligible voters - vote

Contrast that to many parts of the world - in which people literally die fighting for the right to vote

            One recent example of this is Zimbabwe

Where Morgan Tsvangirai (svan – gir – ri) the leader of the MDC party – which won more votes 48% verses President Mugabe’s 43% but not the crucial 50% needed

Pulled out of the run-off election citing various violent acts and concerns for his supporters: such as rape, torture, murder, arson and abduction

            (pause)

Consider our access to clean drinking water – where in Canada we have nearly half of the entire world’s surface fresh water

            Yet in many places of the world, there is simply no clean water available

Where people travel distances each day carrying jugs of water on their heads – water that isn’t generally that clean and is often the carrier of disease and brings about countless deaths each day

Imagine; if you will, if we were to magically take those people of their situation and take a small field trip from here to gather around any one of our 8 bathrooms in the parish hall – and wave our hands under the automatic taps – or show them our flush toilets

            Imagine for a moment their grasp of this abundance

            (pause)

Well, brothers and Sisters in Christ, we Christians are not all that different

Our human nature trait ‘to take things for granted’ can be apart of our failings too

We too, can often fall into the trap of forgetting the incredible blessings God gives us – freely

As Anglicans with vast amounts of our liturgy being scriptural based – especially our Eucharist service – we can easily hear with our ears even recite our parts by rote but can fail to hear with our hearts

And this is precisely where St. Paul meets us in our passage from Romans - chapter 8

            Some theologians claim this to be the high water mark of all of the New Testament

Paul writes in shockingly passionate words and illustrations to bring home to us the reader the incredible message of the Gospel – the Good news

One could suggest that the apostle Paul was trying to wake up the readers and hearers ‘from their complacency’ to appreciate the full scope of God’s incredible blessing for us

The First monumental claim is that - it is a matter of life and death

Paul writes “for if you live according to the flesh, you will die – but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”

            The Apostle Paul is talking both of life in our earthly realm and also eternal life

                        Paul is proclaiming salvation – salvation in a particular way – by the Holy Spirit

“Not a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear – but you have received a spirit of adoption”

And this is his second monumental point and maybe the main trust of all Paul’s writing and the high water mark

            We are adopted into God’s family – branches grafted onto the same tree

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”

A child of God – a common enough phrase for us ‘modern Christians’ – but consider that claim

We are not some creatures created by a God and left to our own devises – like some whined-up toy - but in fact the very children of God

            Members of God’s own family – direct members – each one of us

                        There are no grandchildren of God – only children of God

                                    There is an intimate connection – a personal connection

                                                To which we can cry out – Abba! – Father!

                                                            Which is like saying Daddy – it is that intimate

Now I know that many may not have had a ‘good earthly father-figure’

            And the language of father or daddy might be a painful illustration

There are undoubtedly some that have never known your biological father

            Or what you have known - you wish could have been different

                        Many might be scarred by familial references

For you I believe the promise of adoption as God’s children - is in fact even greater

            To those that have felt the pain – the joy can be even sweeter

Paul writes – “I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us”

                                    “by the Spirit of God you are a child of God”

                                                God chose us - each one of us - personally

The next incredible statement:

            “is that very Spirit bearing witness WITH our spirit”

                        We are not alone

                                    We who live by the Spirit – have the Spirit along for everything

                                                For the good times - and the bad

                                                            God is there with us

What comes to mind for me is a well known and popular Christian poem – and at this time it is worth repeating

Footprints in the Sand – by Mary Stevenson

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

St. Paul writes in verse 17

      “in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

                        We often hear calls for team ministry – well “led by the Spirit – with Him”                                                 is the greatest team member we could ever ask or imagine

And the final momentous point that I would like to highlight is as Paul writes

            “if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”

Can you imagine anything more incredible then to be an heir of God and in fact a co-heir or joint heir with Christ

            We share in everything and we receive everything

                        That is the plan of God

We who are led by the Spirit are children of God and share to inherit everything that Christ paid the price for

            Not secondary status

                        But full inheritance – joint heirs with Christ

                                    What an adoption – what a gift

Consider this illustration:

            If we light a sparkler and then tried to light a piece of glass with the sparkler, then a piece of metal, then a piece of wood, and nothing ignited. When we touched the lit sparkler to another sparkler, that was made out of the same stuff as the first sparkler, that second sparkler lit up and showered sparks. So it is with us. We are made out of the same stuff as God; we are spirit stuff; we human being are spiritual; there is a spiritual component in all human beings throughout the globe, and when Christ’s spirit touches our spirit, our spirit comes alive. The first thing that the Spirit of Christ does to us and in us is to ignite our spirits in us and make them alive.

So - what are we to do with this knowledge

How are we to live out our lives – as being led by the Spirit

            Are we to take it for granted, live to our own desires and devices

                        Do we bank on this promise

No – then we would not be truly open to the leading of the Spirit

The Spirit of God that leads us and calls us to be children of God wants us – all of us

As Jesus restates the Shema in Mark 12:29-31

“‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I would like to close with an excerpt from a letter that I received from one of my classmates that instead of going straight into parish ministry, went oversees to Africa for a three month missionary post in Tanzania – I believe this is one powerful example of being led by the Spirit

A large part of the pastoral ministry is funerals. Death is ever present here. After the

second funeral I attended, that of a young man who died of HIV/AIDS at which I

preached, I was told that I had just experienced the heart of  African pastoral ministry. Awakening to this reality, as well as to the desperate poverty of the vast majority of our parishioners, has been a very difficult adjustment for me. Three years of theological education (no, not even thirty-three years) could possibly have prepared me for this experience. I have a new found sense of what it means to rely entirely on the riches of

God's grace and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. In spite of their poverty, the people of here are extraordinarily generous, and frequently invite me into their homes for food and a cup of chai. They smile and greet me warmly. I am truly humbled to be serving here among these people, and to have the privilege of worshiping and getting to know them. I even baptized two infants this past Sunday, the first two baptisms I have ever performed. I feel unworthy to be serving here but when I pray I hear God saying, 'I know you're unworthy, but it's okay, go ahead and serve confidently anyway.

In my first week here I accompanied a young priest to bring communion to a house where two people were dying of AIDS…. I prayed with him in the small, stifling mud hut, and he stared up at me with vacant eyes from his narrow wooden bed. As I left the hut I saw some bare footprints in the red dust. I am fairly certain I saw the footprints of Christ leading away from the hut. I feel his presence everywhere here.

I will leave you with the assurance that the church is alive and well in Tanzania. The faith of the Christians here is palpable.

            (pause)

Now we are not all called to missionaries

            We are not all called to leadership roles in ministry

But by our baptism – we are children of God

and we all can be led by the Spirit – if we have ears to hear

As we dig deeper in God’s revelation to us - in the bible – we can begin to know the desires of God and we can experience ‘the relevance of God’ in our lives

            We will experience God when we listen to God’s revelation

                        We can all chose to follow the promptings of God

                                    To be led by the Spirit of God - to be his children

                                                And accept the full inheritance as joint heirs with Christ - Amen

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