Intro: Below is the sermon manuscript that I preached on August 10, 2007 after my wife and I and our new son Mason got home from Guatemala. I meant to post this a long time ago, but I had to make a few edits. I didn’t really make all the edits and I am fairly sure that what I actually said is different from what I wrote here but the general idea is here (I never follow my manuscript very closely) . I would link to the audio but it just figures that this was the week that our recorder decided to take a vacation. I hope you find this enjoyable. I am going to print it out to put in our adoption box that we are keeping to give to Mason at some point.
I’m posting this in light of the fact that we just had Mason officially welcomed into our church family this weekend at The Well.
Sermon Summary: We are Redeemed. We are called to be Redemptive
Bottom Line: Put up or shut up.
The first thing that I want to do before I get into the depths of my sermon is to say thanks to you guys for being part of our lives the past few weeks. As you know, between the miscarriage and bringing Mason home after a year and a half of the adoption process, our lives have been quite a rollercoaster. Someone asked me this week how we are dealing with it and I said that we could not have gone through it without you guys. Well, that’s not totally true. We would have been able to go through it. But it just would have totally sucked.
You guys have been a true picture or Romans 12:15. You have mourned well with us as we mourned and you have rejoiced well with us as we rejoiced. In all the years that we have been here at The Well, I realized that we have not been on the receiving end of this community’s compassion in this way. We’ve usually been part of the response. I have to say, that as the pastor here, I fond myself having two emotions. I was so moved and touched by your response to both of these events. Also, I was also so proud of the way you responded. It is my prayer that we can continue to grow and be a community of grace and compassion to those who are hurting and joy and celebration to those who are rejoicing. So, Melanie, Cole, Mason and I say thanks for the way that you have done that with us.
INTRO / SUMMARY
This has been a very hard sermon to prepare. This is the case for many reasons. There is so much I could talk about and there is so much I could say. But, what I want to do today is to take our experience with adoption and put it into the perspective of the Biblical Story and the gospel. What I want to say today is this: “God has adopted us into his redeemed and redemptive family.” If you can get what this means in the next 26 or so minutes, you’ve gotten what I am trying to say. If you fall asleep, just come back to this and you’ll be able to figure out where we are.
Now, I understand that the words “redeemed” and “redemptive” are big theological words. It is not my intention to toss around theological mumbo-jumbo. But I was not able to work out words that fit it better. So, I am going to use them anyways and do my best to explain them as we go.
WHY WE ADOPTED
When Melanie and I started out in this journey in January of 2006, we didn’t quite totally understand what we were doing. Now, we knew that we wanted to adopt and we knew that we wanted a boy and we knew the process was going to be very, very long. But, we didn’t quite have an understanding of the whole of this process. Of course, many people asked us all the time (and still do) “Why did you choose to adopt?”
Well, I wanted to give you an answer to that in two ways. I want to give you some reasons we did and I want to give you some things that are NOT reasons we did.
So first, some things that are not reasons we adopted Mason:
- So we could be like Brad and Angelina
- Because it’s fashionable.
- So he could grow up eating multicolored cheerios
- So he could grow up playing Little League
- So he would be happy.
Now, these are generally fine things. But, I want to make the point that we didn’t adopt Mason just so we could give him the American Dream.
So, why did we adopt him then?
So, here are some reasons we DID adopt Mason?
James 1:27 – “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”
Friends, I believe this passage to be very, very relevant for our lives. Also this is not just about adoption. For Melanie and I, this is how we have responded to this verse at this moment. But, I think this goes beyond adoption. This even goes beyond orphans and widows. In the early church times, because of the culture, the most helpless people were orphans and widows. In our times, who are the most helpless people and how are we responding? On a side note, in our culture, I can think of elderly, the aids victims, homeless, mentally handicapped and orphans. I have seen this community respond time and time again to these needs.
To give him a better chance at a full life. The fact is, while money does not equal happiness (there are plenty, plenty of people who have nothing who are very full of joy and happiness) I believe that Mason will have a better chance at a full life as part of our family. That is why his birth mom, out of a deep, deep love, chose to entrust him to us. She loved him so much, she believed that she would not be able to provide for him and sacrificed knowing her own child so that he would be better off with another family. You see, Mason’s birth mom makes about Q400 a month. That translates to about $40.00 a month. Her husband has recently left her to start a new family and she believed that she would be unable to provide a healthy life for her little boy.
Melanie and I do not believe for a second that adopting Mason guarantees him a perfect and wonderful life now that he lives in a family that is not in poverty. But, we do believe that having him as part of our family gives him a better opportunity for a full and healthy life. Please note that when I say “full life” I am not simply talking about the things I outlined earlier like television, little league and multi-colored cheerios.
Because we simply love him (without even knowing him). This is perhaps the most mysterious of the reasons we adopted Mason. It was amazing to me how much you can suddenly love someone so quickly upon first meeting them. The moment I laid eyes on him, I loved him. I love this kid so much and I want him to feel and know love as much as anything in the world.
So, how does this relate to the gospel? How does this relate to us being a redeemed people? Well, as you can already tell, its not that hard of a transition. Look at I Peter 1:3-5.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
If you look carefully, you can see the parallels here between the way we adopted Mason and God’s adoption of us as his children. You can also see the striking differences.
In His Great Mercy – Notice the difference between pity and mercy. This is why I said that pity was not one of the reasons we adopted Mason. To me, pity dehumanizes the recipient. It says, “oh, poor you, you poor sap.” Remember Mr. T in the 80’s, “I Pity the Fool!” I think sometimes in adoption and in God’s love can frame these ideas in pity as if God looks at us poor schmucks and feels sorry for us. Mercy on the other hand says, “You are so valuable and worth sacrificing for.” Can you imagine Mr. T looking tough saying “I have mercy on the fool!” Yeah, it just wouldn’t sound or look that tough. It might look something like this. Who is a little someone I like to call MR. G.
Seriously, though, we saw Mason and all other children needing families as immensely valuable. If you add in perfect love you have how God sees us. We are infinitely valuable to him and he has great mercy on our situation as human beings who naturally broken people. God’s mercy is born out of our his immense value for us.
He has given us new birth into a living hope – Okay so take a look at Mason’s life. In a sense, he has undergone a new birth has he not? Just a little more than a week ago he was living in Guatemala City with his foster mom. Today, he is sitting in this room and has a new mother, new father, new big brother and a community of people who love him. Notice something here, his standing is not only different (in terms of who his family is) but is reality is different. His life is literally changed. He has been given a new hope. He has gone from a child who might have been a statistic to a child who has been given a better opportunity for a full, healthy life. Again, this is an easy transition to the gospel. God has given us new birth to a living hope. But again, the example we have of Mason only begins to be a glimpse of what God has done for us.
You see, with Mason there are no guarantees that he’ll be better off here. Sure, the odds are better. But he is not guaranteed a perfect life here and we are not guaranteed that nothing will go wrong. At the same time, the odds are better. Look at God, we have been given a new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. Never Perish. Never Spoil. Never fade. This hope lies in the fact that one day we, along with the rest of this world, will truly be made complete. All the brokenness of our humanity will be fixed and all the brokenness of this world will be fixed. One day, full salvation will come. This is the inheritance that we hope for. This is the inheritance that Paul speaks of in Romans II Corinthians 15 when Paul says, if the resurrection were not real, we would have no hope.
This is because our hope as Christians lies in the fact that we will be resurrected as well. Friends, this is a beautiful, full and even much more rewarding hope than physical adoption. Our of his mercy, God has called us his sons and daughters, and has given us a hope that through the work of Jesus Christ we can confidently look forward to the day when we and the world will finally be who we were meant to be.
Okay. so, we are a redeemed people.
Hopefully you’ll remember what I wanted to say today is that “God has adopted us into his redeemed and redemptive family.”
God has been about making a family of His people for quite a long time. Whether we’re talking about Isreal in the Old Testament or the church in the New Testament, he has always been about creating a community of people who he desires to be part of what he is doing in the world. It is important for us to remember that God is not simply creating a family for the sake of creating a community. God did not create Israel so that Israel could huddle together and save themselves as the world went to hell.
Remember back to when we called Abraham, Genesis 12:2-3,
“I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Then we get to the Church, we see in John 20:21 when Jesus appears to his disciples after he has risen from the dead he says, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We just studied the life of Jesus for the last year and we know that the Father sent Jesus to love and care for others. Jesus now sends us to love and care for others. That is our primary purpose. To love and care for others. To be involved in what he is doing in the world.
Scot McKnight says the following,
“The church is not a collection of random individuals who happen to believe in Jesus Christ, who happen to be working out their own salvation, who happen to be living in proximity to one another, who happen to enjoy the same preachers and musicians and liturgy, and who happen to affirm the same doctrinal convictions. The church is a community of faith wherein humans are re-communioned to one another [God and the world].”
In a similar way that we didn’t adopt Mason just so that we can shelter him from the world and get him out of poverty so he could grow up with Little League, God doesn’t just adopt us so that we can get to heaven when we die, or so that we can huddle together and care for one another in this cold dark world and wait for him to save us. Rather, God has called us and adopted us as his sons and daughters so that we may be a part of what he is doing in this world.
While we may not have thought about this when we started, we now know that we have adopted Mason and in doing so we can introduce him to the love of God and teach him the joy of being part of what God is doing in the world. The wonderful thing is that he (and Cole) are not merely going to learn all of this in the context of the Hiestand family. He is going to learn all of this in the context of a community called The Well. And also, he is not only going to learn this in the context of a community called The Well. I pray he is going to learn this in the context of a community called The Church.
We have adopted Mason into our family. You have adopted us into your family. God has adopted all of us into his worldwide family. All for the sake of the world.
PUT UP OR SHUT UP
I want to say one more thing that I was very personally challenged by as I was studying this week. And, I want to say this with as much grace and compassion as the scriptures will let me. But, on some level, the book of James isn’t all about tact and being political. The book of James is pretty much in your face. And, I’ll be honest, it got in my face this week fairly well.
I have already quoted James 1:27 to you guys, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” It continues, “and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” So, it Todd’s paraphrase it says strongly, “take seriously your responsibility for those your culture ignores, and take your discipleship seriously”.
This probably isn’t news to anyone here. We’ve heard this before. In face, you’ve probably heard most of what I have said before. But…
The part that gets me is the section before. Verses 22-25. I interpret it this way, put up or shut up. I am going to be honest here. As a community we have done many, many good things. We are a community of grace and compassion. I have already stated my deep, deep love for you guys. But, honestly, sometimes I think we talk the walk much better than we walk it. We can talk all we want about being a community of that cares for the poor and needy. We can talk about being people that take their discipleship seriously. And like I said, sometimes we do well and shine brilliantly. But, I know (and I know this because I am speaking from my own life) that there comes a point where we need to put up or shut up. We need to stop talking about doing it and just start doing it. Honestly, I am struggling to figure out what this means in my life.
But, I do know that this concept of sacrifice keeps coming back to me. As some of you read in my blog I was very moved by the examples of sacrifice that Mason’s birth mother and foster mother made. What they did was truly amazing.
And, all I know is that the best thing I can do and the best thing we can do is to sacrifice a little more each day.
It’s true that God has adopted us into his redeemed and redemptive family. This is a family that has been given so much. We have been given an inheritance of that can never waste away. We are also a family that much has been asked of. God has called us to be a family that is actively involved in what he is doing in the world. It is not enough for us to just be redeemed people. We must enage in being a redemptive people as well. In order for us to do this, together, it’s going to ask of us more than we can ever imagine.
I want to end with a quote from Fredick Buchner:
“The gospel is not only good and new, but if you take it seriously, a holy terror. Jesus never claimed that the process of being changed from a slob into a human being was going to be a Sunday school picnic. On the contrary, childbirth may occasionally be painless. But rebirth, never.”
The question for many of us is “where do I start?” To that I say, start small. You don’t have to save the world. Shanna Cummings says it best. We need to be obedient to the moment. When you feel God calling you to do something. Do it. Stop making excuses. Just stop and do it.
We have embraced Mason into our home (The Hiestands).
You have embraced us into our community (The Well).
God has embraced us into his family (The Church).
So that we might be a blessing to others…