Life Notes—May 31, 2012
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” Romans 8:15-16
I did not grow up in the Methodist church, where baptism is performed on infants. Infant baptism symbolizes God’s claim on our lives; a gift we can never earn but is given freely to us. When a child reaches adolescence they are given the opportunity to respond to that claim during a Confirmation process, when they can join the church as a full member if they desire. The church I grew up in christened babies, but did not offer baptism until adolescence or older, when the recipient was old enough make their own decision to be baptized or not. Receiving the Spirit of God through baptism was a conscious choice in that tradition, made as one was beginning the transition from childhood to adulthood.
I found the Methodist tradition of baptizing infants curious, at least at first. But now I love the symbolism of God’s love being poured on us long before we can pretend to have done anything to earn it. For that unfathomable gift of love and grace is not contingent on what we do. The various choices we make reflect our response to God’s grace, but do not determine whether or not we receive it. As children enter the transition to adulthood in the Methodist tradition they make a conscious decision about their response to the gift of God, already given, including whether to join and support the church or not. But their choice is never whether to receive the gift, for God’s adoption of us is given regardless.
Just as the Spirit of God descended on Jesus at his baptism in theJordan River, so our baptism symbolizes the Spirit of God descending upon us. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans, we do not receive a spirit of slavery so as to remain the captive of our fears, but a spirit of adoption—adoption into the family of God that not only spans the space of this earth, but all time and eternity. That adoption makes us children of God and that is the gift, freely given, that we can neither earn nor fully understand. We are adopted because we are wanted—valued and loved and committed to. Neither a new-born baby nor a full-grown adult can earn that kind of love—all we can do is respond to it. When we respond in love to our fellow family-members, we live out and demonstrate our kinship with Christ and honor and acknowledge our adoption.
This Sunday Mitch will be preaching downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. His sermon title is “Night Vision,” based on John 3:1-17. Tom is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday. How have you responded to your adoption?
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator