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Sermons

No Cinderella Story

7/12/2015 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost  Text is Ephesians 1:3-14.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We all know the story of Cinderella.  Cinderella lived alone with her father until he remarried a woman with two daughters.  I guess you could say that they were one of the original blended families.  But, as luck would have it, Cinderella’s father died shortly after the marriage, leaving Cinderella to live with her stepmother and stepsisters.  In fairy tales, stepmothers are always evil and treat their stepchildren very badly, and the story of Cinderella is no exception.  Poor Cinderella became the servant of the household where she had formerly been a beloved daughter.  It took a prince, and right shoe size, for poor Cinderella to escape her miserable conditions.

 

But, that is a fairy tale.  In the real world, things often work out differently.  For, you see, I have another story to tell.  This one is not a fairy tale but one from real life.  It’s the story of Gary and Kim and their family.  Gary and Kim had long anticipated the birth of their first child.  When Gregory arrived, he was the beloved son everyone knew he would be.  As young Gregory grew, the family began to realize that he had some heath issues and on New Year’s Eve, when he was seven, Gregory suffered a seizure that took his life.

 

Gary and Kim were devastated.  They mourned the death of their only child and turned to their faith and church for comfort and support.  Time passed, and although nothing would ever fill the void that their son’s death had left, the pain began to ease, a little at a time.  Gary and Kim started to look forward with hope, instead of backwards with despair.  It was then that an opportunity came their way that would change their lives forever.

 

Three children – two brothers and a sister – had been born into a very dysfunctional family.  Their physical health and emotional well-being were in jeopardy.  After much prayer, Gary and Kim agreed to take the children into their home.  No one could ever take Gregory’s place, but Kim and Gary had enough love in their hearts to love and care for these three children in a way that they had not been loved and cared for in their young lives.  And, in time, the couple formally adopted Adam, Jesi and Dylon.

 

Now, most adoptions these days occur with newborns or children from other countries.  Adopting an older sibling group requires a special kind of love – the kind of love which knit these five people into a family.  Gary and Kim were not obligated to adopt Adam, Jesi and Dylon.  They chose them to be their children and being chosen to be Gary and Kim’s children meant that they were chosen to receive the blessings of Gary and Kim’s love.  As adopted children, they were given a new identity, a special last name, and a place to call home forever.

 

The same is true for God’s family.  None of us are born children of God.  Jesus is God’s only begotten son.  And yet, we are God’s children through an adoption process called baptism.  In baptism, we are given a special last name – “child of God.”  In baptism we become official members of the church, the family of God.  It doesn’t matter how old or young we are when we are baptized.  The age of a person and his or her ability to make informed choices is irrelevant.  For God makes his choice and he predestines us for adoption.  God loves us first – and that is the stuff of baptism.  God loves – God chooses – we simply receive the blessings of God’s love.  We are part of God’s family because God wants us to be part of his family forever.

 

There is no Cinderella story here.  Our position as beloved children of God cannot be wiped away by an unfortunate set of circumstances, a death, or the workings of an evil stepmother.  Our position in God’s family is rock solid.  We are loved by God unconditionally and eternally.  We are forever part of God’s family because of the birth of Jesus Christ.  For God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.”  That love is forever.  And so we can rest assured that God will not disown us, but will welcome us into his home as his children.

 

My friends, there is freedom in this – for we no longer have to worry about losing God’s love because we sin and fall short of the glory of God.  God chose us knowing that we are incomplete, sinful human beings.  God chose us knowing that it is our nature to continue to sin and to continue to put our will before his will.  God chose us, knowing we are who we are.  Just as we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot lose God’s love.  God’s love for us is unshakable because God loves us through choice, not through obligation.  So, once we become a beloved child of God, we are always a beloved child of God.  There is no Cinderella story here.

 

Being part of God’s family is a privilege.  It is not a birth right.  It is not something God owes us, nor is it something we can earn.  It is something we can only receive through God’s love.  As children we represent the family to which we belong.  We are to live as we have received- by sharing the mercy and grace, the love and compassion God has showered upon us with those around us.  As beloved children, God has given us a choice.  We can reject our family, distance ourselves from church, and forget about sharing God’s transforming love, or we can choose the road on which the shadow of the cross falls.  This road always leads to freedom and to ultimate victory.  For, you see, God has something more planned for his children.  “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance.”

 

My friends, receiving an inheritance implies a connection that exists even past the boundary of death.  Unlike Cinderella, we have the full rights and privileges that are extended to all family members whether we are born into the family or adopted.  We share in the assets and accept responsibility for the liabilities.  We rejoice in the happiness of others and cry with them through misfortune.  We enjoy the vacations as well as carry the workload.  If there is money or property to be passed down to the next generation, we will be included.  We share the history, the present and the future.  It is a group effort.  We are in it together.

 

It is the same for the people of God, the family of God.  No doubt you have heard someone say that it is not necessary for them to attend church; they are capable of worshiping God anywhere.  Of course, there is truth to this.  We can worship anywhere.  But, we cannot receive the benefits of being part of a family if we choose to exclude ourselves from that family.  God wants us to be family and to work side by side, combining our gifts and talents to the glory of God.  God wants us to be mutually dependent, working in coordination with one another to reach out to those in need.  God wants us to be a family – based not on DNA but on the bond between God and humanity – a family based on the loving bond demonstrated for us by Jesus Christ who willingly laid down his life for us.

 

May we be that blended family that God has chosen us to be through adopting us in baptism.  For, this is no Cinderella story – God’s love is forever and the bonds between us are eternal.  May we pray together and stay together in his name.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

We all know the story of Cinderella.  Cinderella lived alone with her father until he remarried a woman with two daughters.  I guess you could say that they were one of the original blended families.  But, as luck would have it, Cinderella’s father died shortly after the marriage, leaving Cinderella to live with her stepmother and stepsisters.  In fairy tales, stepmothers are always evil and treat their stepchildren very badly, and the story of Cinderella is no exception.  Poor Cinderella became the servant of the household where she had formerly been a beloved daughter.  It took a prince, and right shoe size, for poor Cinderella to escape her miserable conditions.

 

But, that is a fairy tale.  In the real world, things often work out differently.  For, you see, I have another story to tell.  This one is not a fairy tale but one from real life.  It’s the story of Gary and Kim and their family.  Gary and Kim had long anticipated the birth of their first child.  When Gregory arrived, he was the beloved son everyone knew he would be.  As young Gregory grew, the family began to realize that he had some heath issues and on New Year’s Eve, when he was seven, Gregory suffered a seizure that took his life.

 

Gary and Kim were devastated.  They mourned the death of their only child and turned to their faith and church for comfort and support.  Time passed, and although nothing would ever fill the void that their son’s death had left, the pain began to ease, a little at a time.  Gary and Kim started to look forward with hope, instead of backwards with despair.  It was then that an opportunity came their way that would change their lives forever.

 

Three children – two brothers and a sister – had been born into a very dysfunctional family.  Their physical health and emotional well-being were in jeopardy.  After much prayer, Gary and Kim agreed to take the children into their home.  No one could ever take Gregory’s place, but Kim and Gary had enough love in their hearts to love and care for these three children in a way that they had not been loved and cared for in their young lives.  And, in time, the couple formally adopted Adam, Jesi and Dylon.

 

Now, most adoptions these days occur with newborns or children from other countries.  Adopting an older sibling group requires a special kind of love – the kind of love which knit these five people into a family.  Gary and Kim were not obligated to adopt Adam, Jesi and Dylon.  They chose them to be their children and being chosen to be Gary and Kim’s children meant that they were chosen to receive the blessings of Gary and Kim’s love.  As adopted children, they were given a new identity, a special last name, and a place to call home forever.

 

The same is true for God’s family.  None of us are born children of God.  Jesus is God’s only begotten son.  And yet, we are God’s children through an adoption process called baptism.  In baptism, we are given a special last name – “child of God.”  In baptism we become official members of the church, the family of God.  It doesn’t matter how old or young we are when we are baptized.  The age of a person and his or her ability to make informed choices is irrelevant.  For God makes his choice and he predestines us for adoption.  God loves us first – and that is the stuff of baptism.  God loves – God chooses – we simply receive the blessings of God’s love.  We are part of God’s family because God wants us to be part of his family forever.

 

There is no Cinderella story here.  Our position as beloved children of God cannot be wiped away by an unfortunate set of circumstances, a death, or the workings of an evil stepmother.  Our position in God’s family is rock solid.  We are loved by God unconditionally and eternally.  We are forever part of God’s family because of the birth of Jesus Christ.  For God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.”  That love is forever.  And so we can rest assured that God will not disown us, but will welcome us into his home as his children.

 

My friends, there is freedom in this – for we no longer have to worry about losing God’s love because we sin and fall short of the glory of God.  God chose us knowing that we are incomplete, sinful human beings.  God chose us knowing that it is our nature to continue to sin and to continue to put our will before his will.  God chose us, knowing we are who we are.  Just as we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot lose God’s love.  God’s love for us is unshakable because God loves us through choice, not through obligation.  So, once we become a beloved child of God, we are always a beloved child of God.  There is no Cinderella story here.

 

Being part of God’s family is a privilege.  It is not a birth right.  It is not something God owes us, nor is it something we can earn.  It is something we can only receive through God’s love.  As children we represent the family to which we belong.  We are to live as we have received- by sharing the mercy and grace, the love and compassion God has showered upon us with those around us.  As beloved children, God has given us a choice.  We can reject our family, distance ourselves from church, and forget about sharing God’s transforming love, or we can choose the road on which the shadow of the cross falls.  This road always leads to freedom and to ultimate victory.  For, you see, God has something more planned for his children.  “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance.”

 

My friends, receiving an inheritance implies a connection that exists even past the boundary of death.  Unlike Cinderella, we have the full rights and privileges that are extended to all family members whether we are born into the family or adopted.  We share in the assets and accept responsibility for the liabilities.  We rejoice in the happiness of others and cry with them through misfortune.  We enjoy the vacations as well as carry the workload.  If there is money or property to be passed down to the next generation, we will be included.  We share the history, the present and the future.  It is a group effort.  We are in it together.

 

It is the same for the people of God, the family of God.  No doubt you have heard someone say that it is not necessary for them to attend church; they are capable of worshiping God anywhere.  Of course, there is truth to this.  We can worship anywhere.  But, we cannot receive the benefits of being part of a family if we choose to exclude ourselves from that family.  God wants us to be family and to work side by side, combining our gifts and talents to the glory of God.  God wants us to be mutually dependent, working in coordination with one another to reach out to those in need.  God wants us to be a family – based not on DNA but on the bond between God and humanity – a family based on the loving bond demonstrated for us by Jesus Christ who willingly laid down his life for us.

 

May we be that blended family that God has chosen us to be through adopting us in baptism.  For, this is no Cinderella story – God’s love is forever and the bonds between us are eternal.  May we pray together and stay together in his name.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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