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April 26, 2009

Sinful Children of God

There is one thing that every person in this world has in common. There is one experience that we know for sure we have all had. Common to each one of us is the fact that we either are or have been a child. If we want to talk about what it is like to be a child, everyone has done it.

Now obviously, we have all had very different childhood experiences-
some grew up in cities and others on farms
some had two parents, some had one
some were adopted and some raised by relatives
So our family situations have all been very different, but we have been children.

We know that every child is basically helpless and must be taken care of. Children need somebody to take care of their basic needs for food, clothing, water and warmth. A child is vulnerable, helpless and dependent.

Common to every person in this room today is the experience of being a child. We know what that means. And it is with this image of childhood that we approach this mornings epistle reading.

In the epistle John writes, "See the great love the Father has given us, that he has called us God's little children." Eight times in this letter, John uses the phrase - "little children". "Little children do not sin." "Little children, your sins are forgiven." "Little children, it is the last hour." "Little children, let no one deceive you." "Little children, love with deeds and truth." "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Eight times the author addresses his reader with his pet phrase, "Little children. My little children."

We are Children of God, all part of same family. but not the same as the family we were born into. It is a new family relationship and a new way of connecting.

Last weekend I was in Findlay, Ohio to perform a wedding. The bride was my mother.
The groom was a wonderful man by the name of Norm Nicholson. Just before the ceremony I had the privilege of meeting Norm's four children and their spouses, the 17 grandchildren and some of the great-grandchildren. All of a sudden I have another 30 some family members I don't even know. It is a new family relationship created by nothing more than the fact that we are all children of Pat and Norm.

John says we are in a new family, simply because we are all children of God. He tells us this like it is wonderful news, and it is. But then he goes on to talk about sin. Sin.

Well, we all know that children misbehave sometimes. No children are perfect and neither are we. We do sin. When we say sin- what do you see?

• a stolen candy bar?
• an empty gin bottle on the table?
• rumpled sheets on the bed you shared with someone else's lover?
• a loved one reeling from the force of our harsh outburst
• the homeless man sitting on the steam grate?
• Bernie Madoff sitting in his comfortable New York penthouse?
• carbon emissions polluting our atmosphere

It will be different for all of us- but there is something is each of our lives that separates us from the life giving love of God. There is something that ruptures the relationship of love God wants to have with us or the relationship God wants us to have with our brothers and sisters.

Sin is not about breaking rules as it was in the OT- under Jewish law. It changed with Jesus. Sin is about breaking relationships. Sin is when we focus our lives on what we want, not what God wants. It is as if we are looking in a mirror, to see ourselves, our own needs and desires, and wants, as opposed to looking out of a window and seeing the world, with its needs, desires, wants.

People sin because they want something and fear that goodness will not get it for them.
Sounds like children, doesn't it?

God knows that we are little children. See the great love that the Father has for us by calling us his children. Every mother or father realizes what it means to love their little children. We have this deep abiding love for our children. Sometimes our love for them is just too overwhelming. We parents have deep feelings of joy and happiness and elation with them. When they hurt, we hurt. We have a great love them.

And such is God's love for us. We are God's children. Not just children, but God's children. When a child is your own, you love them so deeply. You seem to love them in spite of their faults, in spite of their irritations, in spite of their problems. You love them. Somebody else's children may drive you nuts, but their parents love them, because they are theirs.

And so it is with God our heavenly Father. We are God's children. We belong to God. And by calling us his children, this reveals the patient and intense love that God has for us, because God loves his children just like a parent.

We experience the grip of sin but God declares us holy. We experience impurity but God is making us pure. We experience brokenness but God declares us whole.

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. (vs 2)

We are God's children, NOW.

Thanks be to God. Amen.