It matters that we are named and claimed by God. It matters that we are created in the image of God. It matters that we are God’s Beloved in whom God is well pleased.
May 9, 2021
Child of God: Naming Each One
Romans 8: 31-39
Pastor Heather McColl
Romans 8: 31-39
So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
We continue our worship series: “Roll Down, Justice” with Child of God: Naming Each One, Romans 8:31-9.
Have you ever had a week where moment after moment keeps bringing you back to what is important, where moment after moment keeps wiping away everything which distracts you so that after a while the only thing you can see are the foundational truths, the pieces of wisdom which always lead us back to God’s grace, which always lead us back to God’s love for all of God’s children? Well for me, thankfully that was my week. From interactions and conversations with people to opportunities for ministry where God still showed up despite my clumsy and very human attempts, my week was filled with such moments. All week, I was reminded why it is so important, why it is essential that we as people of faith ground all our relationships, ground all our actions, ground all our words in the very fact that there will never be a single person whom we encounter in our daily lives who is not named and claimed as a Beloved Child of God.
I could tell you about a hundred of such moments which happened this past, moments which reminded me of this fundamental Truth, moments which reminded me of how often I take this life giving Truth for granted, moments which reminded me how very needed this Truth is in our world right now. I could tell you about a hundred of such moments but I will only share with everyone one such moment.
On Wednesday afternoon, I gathered with one of our elders to lead a first for me. We gathered to lead a virtual pastor’s class. With this class, the gift which I was being given was that I had been part of this child’s baby dedication and now, now I am honored and humbled to continue being a part of this child’s journey as he discovers more about his faith.
However, it occurred to me, as I was talking with this child, how rare a thing this interaction really is, that this child was dedicated and told from birth that he was a Beloved Child of God and now he is exploring what that name Child of God truly means for him, to him through the waters of baptism. I was thinking how rare a thing it is that this child has been surrounded by adults who have supported him along his journey of faith, telling him over and over again that he is made in the image of God and loved more than he could imagine. As I talked with this child about the books of the Bible, I thought how rare a thing that this child will hopefully never question his self worth, never question whether he is welcome, never question whether he is loved because from the beginning of his days here on Earth, he has been told over and over again…how much he is loved by God who formed him, who created him in God’s very own image. Since the beginning of his days here on Earth, this child has known that he is named and claimed by God as God’s Beloved Child. How appropriate for today’s message, Child of God: Naming Each Other Romans 8:31-39.
As I sat there, listening to this child talk about what he wanted to learn about his faith through this virtual pastor’s class, I realized that for many, this gift of knowing that we are created in the image of God, this gift of knowing that we are God’s Beloved children, this gift of knowing we are named and claimed by a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine, for many, this life giving, this life saving gift is never shared with them. Sometimes this happens because they did not grow up in the church. It was simply never part of their upbringing, something which is becoming more of the norm nowadays. Or sometimes the reason why people have never heard this life giving message is because church just wasn’t their thing. Maybe they went when they were younger but their journeys took different paths. Again, something which is becoming more of the norm nowadays as well.
However, I know that for many, the real reason they have never heard this life saving message is because instead, they were told, they are told by their churches, by people of faith that they do not belong, that they are not welcome. Rather what they are told is that they do not fit what is considered “normal” for their communities of faith, for our society, for our culture as a whole. For many, they never have heard this life giving message because instead they are told by churches, told by people of faith that there is no way they could ever reflect the image of God because of their sex, because of their race, because of who they love or because of the gender to which they identify. For many, they have never heard and still aren’t hearing this life giving, this life saving message because somewhere along the way, someone deemed them not worthy, told them that they were not welcome, and because of that, the name, Beloved Child of God, was never shared, is never shared with them as a gift of grace and love.
As I talked with this child who knows who he is, who knows whose he is, the contrast of these two different paths was not lost on me. Far too many times, and more often than we would like to admit, our churches have done more damage to the Kingdom of God here on Earth rather than building it up because we constantly preach a message which goes against the very fundamental Truth which Paul offers in our text today, that Truth being…that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created, that “no matter what the world says, no matter what the Church says, that no matter what anyone says “you are a child of God”, named and claimed and loved more than you could ever imagine. Let me say that again, the fundamental truth of the Gospel message is that “no matter what the world says, no matter what the Church says, that no matter what anyone says “you are a child of God”, named and claimed and loved more than you could ever imagine.
When Paul made this statement some two thousand years ago, I don’t think Paul had us specifically in mind. Yet I think Paul understood how broken a heart can be, how damaged a spirit can be, how empty a person can be simply because they are constantly told that they are not welcome, that they do not belong, that they are not accepted.
After all, like us, Paul lived in a world where systems constantly dehumanized people. Paul lived in a world where systems belittled people. Like us, Paul lived in a world which thrived on power, money and greed. And all that mattered was who you knew and how much money was in your pocket.
I don’t think Paul had us in mind when he wrote this statement some two thousand years ago but I’m sure he would agree that no matter how things change, the more they stay the same. Because back then, as well as now, the narrative which constantly surrounds us, which shapes our culture is that we are not enough. We are constantly bombarded with messages from social media, podcasts, audiobooks, and YouTube videos which tell us that if we just buy this product, if we just get this cosmetic surgery, if we just hide all our feelings, if we just deny everything about ourselves, then all our problems will go away.
In writing this statement about God’s love, Paul understood that the greatest gift our faith shares with us is that it breaks through the constant negative narrative and reminds us who we are, reminds us of whose we are. We are Beloved Children of God, named and claimed. We are created in the image of God. And nothing, nothing on Earth, nothing created, no rulers, no height or depth, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.
For us as people of faith, this is what strengthens us. This is what gives us hope. This is what gives us the courage to be in relationship with one another.
This life giving, this life saving gift is always our starting point to any conversation, to any relationship. This life giving, this life saving gift is always our starting point for the very difficult, the very messy work of justice making because it reminds us that there will never ever be a single person whom we encountered in our daily lives who is not a Beloved Child of God, created in the image of God, and loved more than we could ever imagine.
As people of faith who live in a world which seems obsessed with who is “right and wrong,” “good or bad,” “in or out” or on “this side or that side,” it is a radical endeavor for us to name each person as “Child of God”. This naming of who we are, of whose we are, reminds us that we are called to end this world’s damaging, destructive life draining message which goes against everything we know to be true about our God. As ones who have experienced the grace and love of God, we are called to share this love, this grace with others because we know the transformative power it has to bring about healing and wholeness for all of God’s people. As Beloved Children of God, we are called to love one another because God first loved us.
May these words bring us comfort. May these words bring us hope. May these words continue to be our starting point to embracing the waters of justice as they roll down, washing away the hurt and the hate so that we can become the people of welcome which God has created and calls us to be.