GOSPEL LESSON Luke 24:36-48 p. 1644
EPISTLE LESSON I John 3:1-10 p. 1900
SERMON: “The World’s Largest Adoptive Family”
The founder of the company that manufactures GORE-TEX had a hunch that the optimum number of employees in a given factory was 150. Then research by Oxford University professor Robin Dunbar seems to confirm his hunch. Further, Dunbar extrapolated from the data that we cannot have more than 150 meaningful friends. How many friends, how many personal relationships do you have? If you’re on Facebook, does your ‘friends’ list exceed 150? 200 – 300? More?
There Facebook friends obsession of amassing ‘friends’ gives the impression that some people are much more popular or sociable than others. Facebook limits the number of ‘friends’ to 5,000, but scientific studies have shown that the human brain is capable of managing a maximum of 150 friendships. 150 is now known as “Dunbar’s Number” based on studies conducted by Oxford University professor Robin Dunbar that show that the size of the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language, the neocortex, limits us to managing 150 friends, no matter how sociable we are.
Fortunately Dunbar’s number is not God’s number. This is the good news: There is no limit to God’s love. John writes. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Every one of us is a child of God
I found adopting and raising two children a sufficient challenge. Some time ago I learned that adopted children make up about 1% of the U.S. population. So I have found it quite interesting that here at North Kent we have at least three families (including mine) each with 2 adopted children, and at least one adult member who is an adoptee. Perhaps there are others among you that I don’t know about. I suppose that says something about the caliber, character and the ability to love of the people who worship here.
The Discovery Channel Home and Health program aired a series that followed David and Diane Griffith, who through birth, adoption and fostering have managed to increase their original brood of two to an amazing family of 15! The Griffiths used to live a normal life with normal jobs, but their tranquility was shattered when they decided to adopt a family of six brothers and sisters who were about to be split up. Then came another five children, plus the long-term fostering of another two. Today they are the Biggest Adopted Family in Britain, living in a sprawling old farm house in the English countryside. Nine of the children still live at home, and the others, now adults, come and go.
That family was beaten out by the American Walgamott family, who with four youngsters of their own have adopted 12 children. The Walgamotts go through 17 loaves of bread, 10 dozen eggs and 15 liters of soup each week.
As loving and generous as these families are – God’s family of adopted children will never be outdone. Those of you who have your own biological children, or who have not raised children, please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying adoption is better. It just is what it is. Still, I remember, especially when we adopted our first – Paul – over the years a few people asked me, “Don’t you miss having your own child?” My answer is that he is my own child, not by virtue of giving birth, but because I love him; I fed him, clothed him and changed his diapers. He is my child because I held his hand as I walked him to his first day at school, signed his report cards, served as his Cub Scout den mother, dried his tears and cleaned and bandaged his scraped elbows and knees.
We may not be children of God by virtue of birth as Jesus was, but we are children of God because he loves us and cares for us.
The passage says that God loves us as a parent loves a child, and the implication is that the “parent” knows the child. A parent knows and understands his/her child better than the child understands his/herself. We think we know ourselves, but God really knows us. In a world where more and more relationships are “virtual” instead of personal, we are intimately known by God. We are not a Social Security number or a screen name. We are beloved children of the living God. And friends, God’s love is big enough to maintain a relationship with all of us.
Bob Kaylor, Senior Minister of the Park City United Methodist Church in Park City, Utah writes, “That's why it totally doesn't matter from what nation or tribe or continent we come. When we consider the diverse array of colors, cultures, languages and personalities that populate this earth, it should offer us some inkling of the breadth and depth of the love this Creator has for the world. There's no limit to God's love. We may wish to prevent a population explosion on our ever-more-crowded globe based on the limited resources of our fragile planet, but we needn't worry that the well of God's endless love will ever dry up. There'll always be enough to go around.”
Not only is God’s love enough to go around, it is enough to cover our sins. The apostle John writes, 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
We all know that children can be selfish, annoying, whining, self-centered, unreasonable, cranky grouches. That’s especially true of other people’s children. Truth be told sometimes we’re like that as God’s children. When we behave like that the Bible calls it “sin.” Today our culture doesn’t like that word very much. A parent would call it “acting out,” or "inappropriate behavior," or having "a tantrum." Call it whatever you like, but God calls it sin. And John reminds us here that when we “act out,” we are meant to remember that Jesus died to “take away” the consequences of these lapses in behavior. In the first part of this letter John wrote, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) God has provided a remedy for when life goes wrong, when we go wrong. And that's good news.
How then shall we respond to this good news? According to John’s letter, “this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (v. 11) We may not like everyone – from the troublesome co-worker and the neighbor’s noisy, ill-behaved children to the person who disrespects us and treats us like dirt.
As Kaylor writes, “They're all children of God. We don't have to like them. But we are called to treat each one with the respect that God first offers to us.
“ We worship the God from whom all blessings flow; we benefit from the bottomless source of mercy and grace. Now we get to offer some of that love and grace to the people we encounter every day.
“We don't get to turn to God and say -- I've done my part; I've cared for all the people that I can care about today. I have reached my limit. There is no Dunbar's number on caring. What God asks of us is to receive this love so that we can share it as Jesus does. When we say that we are members of the Body of Christ, we are saying that we wish to follow Jesus, to serve Jesus and to live as Jesus did. What Jesus did was to offer love. We are asked to love as freely as Jesus did.”
God loves each and every one of us. God knows us – our inmost thoughts are transparent to God.
God’s love is limitless – There is never a person to whom God says, tough luck, I can’t love any more people.
God’s love is big enough, powerful enough to cover our sins.
As children of God John reminds us that we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Beloved, welcome to your place at God’s table, for you are part of the world’s largest adoptive family.