Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Choosing Where to Go”
Ephesians 1: 1-14, January 3rd, 2016
We have a choice to make: accept the fact that it is January 3rd 2016, or make believe a New Year has not begun. Ridiculous right? Of course, we are now in the year 2016! Of course we must accept this fact! So now what? Where do we go from here? First, we can acknowledge that the year 2015 was a year to remember. Sure, it had its ups and downs, but, by in large, it was a year within which a number of things were accomplished. It was also a year that brought about more than its share of heartache and pain. We all know this to be true. Yet, we need to move forward, the calendar has and so must we. The mistakes we made stand on their own merit and disappointment, hopefully however, we have learned something from them and can do better next time. The successes need to be celebrated and if worthy carry them into this New Year. Where we go from here is up to each one us personally.
Let us turn our attention now to the ancient writings of the Apostle Paul, perhaps he can give us some insights into how to proceed. Our lesson speaks of how Paul spoke to the church through his letter to the church in Ephesus. From this lesson we are reminded, informed actually that through adoption God has chosen us and in so doing we shall inherit a place in heaven. In response we are free to choose how we react, how we are to live our lives. So this leaves us some important things to consider this morning! If we respond with willingness and gratitude, as we consider the choices we have, it shall be a great year!
Have you ever thought about all the choices we get? You and I, we get to make a great many choices, at least we think we do! We get to make the choices that directly affect our lives. Choices like choosing what we have for breakfast: bacon or sausage with a couple eggs sunny side up, or do we prefer them pouched? Myself, I love a fluffy scrambled egg, two of them, with well-done bacon and a slice of rye toast; and oh, can’t forget that cup of coffee with a small orange juice on the side! You and I we can pick which local diner we wish to eat at as well, and there are a lot of them to select from. And at lunch and or dinner the choosing again is up to us whether we have Mexican or we can go get a pizza, or a dozen other possible places. Most of us can also make the choice to wear what we chose: Ladies, is it that black pair of slacks instead of the brown ones; or is it that red blouse that you prefer – instead of that aqua green one! Guys, you get to choose to wear a tie or not to wear one – and if you do – it can be any color you want, well within reason; hopefully, it will be one that matches the rest of your outfit! Thankfully, my wife helps me with all of that!
I like having choices; I like having freedom to make my own decisions. I like the idea that somebody out there allows me to do this, whether it was my parents as a child, or a teacher at school. Now as an adult it is usually, my wife and I, who negotiate choices together! Here at church, I get to choose the scripture each Sunday and how I might help you to grasp its intended meaning. Together, we get to choose when to put up Christmas decorations and when to take them down; after worship today perhaps, we hope. At home, we took ours down this past Tuesday. A month is more than enough time to celebrate with such decorations.
We could go on and on about choices. But I think you are getting the idea.
Now adoption is another matter entirely! According to the dictionary: “Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person’s biological or legal parent or parents, and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, from the biological parent or parents.” There are many ways to approach this concept. If we are doing the adopting, it can be out of deep love and or a desire to be a parent. There are many situations where one might find the call or the urge or the desire to adopt with the willingness and means to do so. Some adoptions involve babies and infants, while others involve adolescence or teenagers. In the vast majority of these cases, the child being adopted has little or no say in the decision process. The choices are left up to the legal system and the parents, or the family doing the adopting.
There are some of you, sitting here today, that know a lot more about adoption than I do; and I do apologize if it feels like I don’t fully understand the process, which is absolutely true. However, with that said, we have a scripture passage here today, telling us that God “destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.” Yes, God had intended all along for us to be adopted by Jesus as children of God! Clearly, based on this writing this is the Apostle Paul’s understanding at the time this letter was written. Clearly, Paul means this as a good thing, because right away he starts talking about our inheritance! That’s right, through Jesus we are all adopted and we get an inheritance, now that is worthy of discussion! This adoption gives us all the same rights as any child who is adopted.
The scriptures tell us that, through Christ, we are saved and thus adopted into the kingdom of God. Now, how we choose to live, where we choose to go, and when we choose to act is up to each one of us, as individuals, and to us as a community of faith. I will make an assumption here and say that most parents love their adopted children very much just as God loves us, and it stays that way, just as it does for any parent. That of course ‘does not mean’ that there are never times of trial in the relationship, strain even. These moments are contrasted of course, with times of great joy and jubilation! Just like all the highs and lows of life, we spend some time there but of course, most times are the in-between times. Yet, the choice is about love and life and we ought not to shy away from these opportunities when they present themselves.
Now I do know that when we chose something and we believe it is good, this does not mean that someone else will believe or express that they agree with our choice. This can be true of adoption as well. What we the parents think is good for our adopted child is one thing, what they feel or express may be quite different; especially if they are going through a difficult time in their adolescence, which most do experience at some point.
I know that when I was in the sixth grade, at the new school where my parents had moved us to, we had a baseball game during recess. The team captains took turns picking players. As a penalty the last choice, being me, was assigned to the captain that was last to choose! I didn’t want to be on his team and he didn’t want me! He was forced to ‘adopt’ me! So the concept of adoption is not always mutual.
In our scripture, we could interpret the text by simply talking about how God chose Paul and how God chose us through Christ. Clearly, Paul accepted God’s choice, but do all of us ‘accept’ being adopted by Christ. I think it is fair to say, not everyone wants to be chosen. If we did, everyone would be a Christian, and we know that is not true. This is what is so powerful about this lesson: God chose, God chooses us! Through the blessings of the whole Christmas message, which we have just finished celebrating, those being peace, love, joy and hope, God has clarified what kind of parenting is in store for us! That’s right, choosing to accept the gift of Christmas, plays into this scripture from Paul’s letter to a small struggling church in Ephesus, way back in the First Century! God, through Jesus, the Christ Child, came to be with us and through the life and ministry of the man Jesus we have been brought into a new family! We have been adopted; we have been chosen to be counted as children of God and thereby blessed with every spiritual blessing that God has to offer! What a fabulous inheritance!
We need to dramatize this point because it is a big deal! Adopting a child is a big deal! Being adopted is a big deal! Having God, the captain of the team, chose us, is a big deal! Because of this our debts are all paid!
Some of us are not infants or even teen agers, but God still wants us on the team. Many of us have large debts but that is ok. The promise is here for us as well! We have been picked and we are now part of the team; part of the church, counted as one of the family. All that’s left to do is to except the love of God, the parenting God. Our God, the team captain, promises us that we can celebrate in the victory; we can share in the inheritance.
“Let us now open our ears, as-well-as our hearts, as we listen now to these words from the New Testament letter to the Ephesians, chapter: 1, verses: 1-14”
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
“Allow God to touch our hearts and minds, as we seek out and look for a deeper and more meaningful understanding of these ancient writings.”