HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Deuteronomy 6:1-12
EPISTLE LESSON Galatians 3:1-14
Two humorous observations from Bill Cosby's book, Fatherhood. He writes: Now that my father is a grandfather, he just can't wait to give money to my kids. But when I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life. How he got up at 5 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked twenty-three miles to milk ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a month. The result was that I never got my 50 cents.
But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house: "Well, let's see how much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids." And the minute they take money out of his hands I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that is MY money.
The other story that Cosby tells that I like is the difference between Mother's Day and Father's Day. He insists that Mother's Day is a much bigger deal because Mothers are more organized. Mothers say to their children: Now here is a list of what I want. Go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother's Day. You do that for me.
For Father's Day I give each of my five kids $20 so that they can go out and by me a present--a total of $100. They go to the store and buy two packages of underwear, each of which costs $5 and contains three shorts. They tear them open and each kid wraps up one pair, the sixth going to the Salvation Army. Therefore, on Father's Day I am walking around with new underwear and my kid's are walking around with $90 worth of my change in their pockets.
Technically we could argue that Father's Day is not a religious holiday; but it is nonetheless important for us to recognize it.
I read a story this week about a young man who wished all his life to hear his father say, “I love you.” His father had died in World War II when this man was only three years old. Although his mother had assured him many times as he was growing up that his father loved him, her affirmations never quite filled the emptiness he felt.
Then one day when he was helping his mother move, she handed him an old army picture of his dad. But the picture and frame slipped out of his hands and the glass shattered all over the floor. As he picked up the pieces, he noticed a piece of paper stuck behind the photo. It was a letter from his father. Knowing that he might die in the war, he had written a letter to his three-year old son and hidden it behind the picture. His letter expressed all his love for his son. Now, at the age of 40, this man finally received what he had longed for all his life: his father’s love.
Have you ever been going through a difficult time in your life and opened your Bible looking for encouragement? This passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians might fall out:
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
If there’s anything I would like people to know about our faith and the scripture it’s that there is a lot of love and encouragement here. What more could you look for than to know that you are a beloved child of God? You don’t have to be or do or meet any man-made criteria to be a child of God.
The first church I served after seminary was in a small town, downstate Illinois. I grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago – the University of Chicago area. It is one of the longest term, successfully integrated neighborhoods in the country. People from all over the world come for the educational and research opportunities, the exceptional medical services at U of C hospitals and the many cultural and historical offerings of the city. People in Hyde Park expect to meet and work and socialize with people who were born and grew up in other communities, other parts of the country, other cultures and places around the world. So for me it was something of a cultural shock to discover that the sentiment in that small town with about 3200 residents about 50 miles east of St. Louis, with little to offer had an attitude that said “if you weren’t conceived here, you will never belong.” If you were not born and raised in that town, if your parents and grandparents weren’t from there, you were a second-class citizen.
In the Galatian Christian community, there was evidently a faction that kept insisting that the primarily Gentile Galatians must follow the Jewish law if they wished to be truly Christian. If they didn’t enter into the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic Law, they were second-class Christians, they would never fully belong. So Paul says to them in no uncertain terms: nonsense!
“Have you taken leave of your senses?” he asks. “Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
2-4 “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?”
You are a child of God, not because of what you have done, but because of who God is and what God has done.
Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness believes the first thing we need in our childhood to enjoy our adult years is unconditional love from at least one adult in our lives. This unconditional love gives us self-esteem and encourages us to see the world as a friendly place.
Unconditional love of God – unconditional. We don’t have to be born in a particular place, have a certain pedigree, work at a specific job or profession, or belong to an exclusive country club to be a child of God. You don’t have to be rich – or poor to be loved by God. You don’t have to come from one particular culture, be the Big Man on Campus, the sports hero or the summa cum laude graduate to be loved by God. There’s nothing wrong with being good at sports or academics, or having a great career or standing in the community where you live. But there’s also nothing wrong with not being or doing any of those – at least not in God’s eyes.
If there was anyone well-acquainted with the promises extended to Israel through the law it was the elite-educated, formerly-zealous Pharisee, Paul. Heightened by his obvious emotional attachment to the Galatian Christians, Paul's argument against these Judaizers is both theologically brilliant and emotionally barbed. The Law – while it guides us in ethical behavior, gives us direction in getting along with one another and living lives that reflect God’s will, the Law is not what saves us or makes us lovable.
We all want at some level for our father to love us and approve of us and be proud of us. Some of us are more confident in that than others, as our earthly fathers, even the best of them, are also imperfect human beings. Be confident today of this: You are loved by God unconditionally, you are a much-loved child of God.
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