Belonging

Posted on

Ben Splichal Larson, in his song Made, sings these words: 

“My Maker’s arms are wide enough for you.  She breathed you too, she breathed you too.”

Holy Trinity Sunday; Year B

Isaiah 6.1-8; Romans 8.12-17; John 3.1-17

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace to you and peace from the One who calls us sisters and brothers, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ben Splichal Larson, in his song Made, sings these words: 

“My Maker’s arms are wide enough for you.  She breathed you too, she breathed you too.”

Belonging.  Human beings are created in such a way in which belonging to something or someone is a necessity.  I’m going to bring you back briefly to perhaps a traumatic time in your life…the junior high school lunch room.  I remember having a bit of anxiety in the morning classroom hours as to who I was going to sit by at lunch.  I’d go through the lunch line and grab my tray and nervously carry it, praying not to drop anything (especially in front of a boy I might have had a crush on), desperately scanning the lunch room for someone I thought of as a friend to sit by.  It was not really the “cool” thing to sit alone in the cafeteria. 

I am also reminded of the scene in Forest Gump when as a boy he got on the bus for his first bus ride to school.  As he walked through the bus isle, kids would try and take up the seat, or say, “Can’t sit here.”  When you think there is no one who is going to let him sit with them, one girl named Jenny, moves over and says, “You can sit here if you want to.”  I breathe a sigh of relief at this scene and smile at her kindness as Forest sits down.

Clayton Schmit says: “All people have the same basic need for belonging: people to call friends and family, relationships that are safe and rewarding, places that feel like home (Feasting on the Word, Clayton Schmit, p.41).”  There have been studies that have shown that sometimes orphan babies die from lack of human contact.  “Even when given excellent food and care, they suffer for want of the most elemental needs: to belong to a family, to have someone hold them, to know the presence of a loving parent (p. 41).”  

Everyone needs companionship and people who open wide their arms to invite them into their lives.  Wide enough arms, wide enough walls, wide enough hearts to come in and belong.

The reading in Romans this morning speaks of belonging.  It is not just any sense of belonging, like at a lunch table or on a bus, but the kind of belonging that happens when we are in relationship with God and with a church community.  To describe this way of belonging, Paul uses the word, adoption.

Listen again to Romans 8.15-16:  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,” writes Paul, “but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!"  16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”

Can someone please recite for us the 2 first words of the Lord’s prayer?  Yes!  “Our Father…”  In this prayer we say every Sunday we get to call God, father.  This is really quite amazing if you think about it.  If we address God as father, we are embracing and claiming the identity as one of God’s children.  It is affirming in what God has already done and continues to do in inviting you and me into the family of God. 

It is a family in which you and I belong, no matter what we have done or not done in our lives.  It is not because of how great we are; it is because of the character of God.  God is faithful.  God is trustworthy.  God is loving. 

I am filled with wonder when we are invited to call God, “Abba, Father,” in this text in Romans.  Jesus calls God, “Abba,” when he is on his knees in the garden praying on the eve of his arrest before his death (Mark 14.36). 

Abba is not just any word.  It is not a nickname or even another name for God.  Abba is about a loving relationship.  It is a word that expresses trust and affection.  What the word really means is, Daddy.  Jesus, in his deep need, calls God, Daddy.  We too, in our deep need, can call God, Daddy. 

God is not a father who is not going to show up.  God is not a father who will let you down in the end.  God is not a father who will abandon you.  God is a trustworthy parent who longs to give you what you need.  Remember…what we want is not always what we need.  God wants us to know that we belong to God and in the family of God.

So if we have a Spirit of adoption in which God claims us as children, that means something for us in relationship to one another.  If a parent who already has a child adopts another child, what kind of relationship do the children have?  Siblings, yes.  Brothers or sisters. 

I don’t know what kind of relationship you have had with your biological, by marriage, or adopted brothers and/or sisters growing up, but I fought fiercely with my younger brother.  We definitely had a love hate relationship.  I have yelled, “I hate you!” to him.  I have embraced him and said, “I love you my brother.” 

My relationship with my younger sister was much different.  We fought too, but not as much and all of my life I have felt a responsibility of care and protection towards her like no one else in my life. 

No matter what has happened between my brother and sister and I, I have a love for them that is hard to put into words.  When I think of them, I have a well of love and commitment that raises up somewhere from deep inside my gut.  One thing I know, there is nothing they could ever do to make me stop loving them.

It is my love for my biological brother and sister that informs my reading of Scripture, where Jesus, and especially Paul (who has written much of the New Testament) call the ones they are addressing, brothers and sisters…calling you and me brothers and sisters.  This means that they recognize others as part of the family of God.

So we have already established that you are a child of God.  This is not rocket science here, but if you are a son or a daughter, a child of God, then what does that make you in relationship to those sitting in the pews around you?  It makes you a brother or a sister to the people in this chapel.

Now don’t be weirded out here, because it has great meaning and promise for our lives.  Shera and Tim could you stand up please?  Shera and Tim are husband and wife, right.  And they have a daughter named Hannah.  Tim’s primary relationship to Shera is not that he is her husband; it is that he is her brother in Christ.  Same with Shera.  Shera’s primary relationship to Tim is not that she is his wife; she is first his sister in Christ.  Now let’s think about Hannah.  Hannah is not just Shera and Tim’s daughter; she is their sister in Christ too.

I know this can be confusing and even strange if you have never thought of such a concept, but our relationships as primarily brothers and sisters in Christ hold great promise and life for us.  In our reading from Romans (8.16-17), Paul says, “…we are children of God,  17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with [Jesus] Christ…”  Jesus is God’s Son, and he calls you and me, brothers and sisters.  What this text is saying is that we will receive from God what Jesus received. 

Now to know what God promises us, we need to back up to verse 11, which we haven’t read yet today, which says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” 

Through the Spirit of God, we too will be raised from the dead as Jesus was raised after he died.  Not even death can stop God’s love and commitment to us.  Our resurrection, our life without suffering after death, is our inheritance and promise as children of God.  I loved your comment in Bible study this past week, Loretta, when you said, “I think we have a lot more going for us than we really think.” 

Child of God is an identity you all can claim for yourselves, and yet, it also comes with a responsibility to the people sitting to the left and right of you, in front and behind.  We are to love one another with a love that is to be as strong as the love I have tried to describe for my brother, Eric, and my sister, Jessie.

This is not a love in which we put our arms around each other and sing kum by ya.  This is not push-over love.  I’m talking about love that when someone is harming themselves, you step in and say, “My brother, your life means something and I need you.” 

Love that says, “My sister, I am so over-joyed that you received this scholarship for college.” 

I am talking about love that keeps you up at night because you’re worried about someone.  

Love that helps you realize that you would not be the same if you were not in relationship with the people sitting here around you today.

What is so powerful and moving to me is when I am in conversation with some of your before you leave and you ask if you can come back to Heart River.  This tells me that you have felt like you belong here in worship, in this chapel, among these people and this is a very good thing.  But that sense of belonging doesn’t need to end here when you leave.  There are brothers and sisters in Christ all over the place outside these chapel walls ready to open wide their arms and to tell you that you belong.

The last line of Ben’s song Made is this:

My Maker’s arms are wide enough for you.  She breathed you too…so that we might not be alone.