Tag Archives: child of god

The Lap of God

Nearly forty years ago my wife-to-be introduced me to an image of God that has shaped my life ever since.  She wrote me a letter in which she described how God as king invited me into his great heavenly throne room. She described the room as filled with the beauty and wonder fit for a king and how at first I felt overwhelmed.  God then encouraged me to come right up to the throne (like a small child approaching his beloved parent).  With great love and warmth, God’s mighty arms picked me up and placed me on his lap, where I am safe, warmed and filled with love.

I think of that image each Christmas when we read from the beginning of John’s gospel and the coming of the Word of God, Jesus.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, (John 1:12)

Madonna and JesusI also imagine the inverse of the image when I read the Christmas story of Luke, when Jesus is wrapped in clothes and laid in a manger.  I don’t think the infant Jesus spent all his time lying in that manger.  Like any proud parent, Jesus was held in the lap of Mary and Joseph.   Not only are we invited to sit in God’s lap, but God invites us to hold his son when we hold a child of God in love.  As Jesus reminded his followers in his parable from Matthew 25,  And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

The image blazed with light again this past Sunday when I worshiped with my son and daughter-in-law at Christ Presbyterian Church.  Their evening service, called the Table, normally has communion, but for the fourth Sunday in Advent they had a candle lighting ritual instead.   On the platform steps there were placed over a hundred small votive candles and lighting sticks.  We were invited to come forward and light a candle as a sign that we are “waiting” for our savior.   I lit a candle with the rest of the family, but I noticed that my son did not return to the pew afterwards.  A few moments later my wife nudged me and pointed to the candles.  My son had returned to the sanctuary with our 2-year-old grandson, Jack.  My son was helping Jack light a candle.   Afterwards he and Jack came back to the pew and Jack opened his arms for me to hold him.  As we sang a Christmas carol of Emmanuel, God with Us, I felt tears of joy and grace fill my eyes and flow down my cheek.   I was being held in the lap of God, even as I was embraced by a tiny child of God.  O the wonder of God’s grace.

My wife Carolyn and I hold in our laps two children of God, Grace and Jack.

My wife Carolyn and I hold in our laps two children of God, Grace and Jack.

May you be held by the love of God in this Christmas season.

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Baptism ABC: A is for Adoption

Last evening my grandson, Jack Keller, was baptized. My son and daughter-in-law come from different faith traditions regarding baptism and my son wrote about this on their blog. I plan this week to write on the various perspectives of baptism and how it can be a vital touchstone of faith.  Baptism is a beautiful collage of images and promises that revolve around this gift of God. Each image has value, worthy of reflection.

In baptism, therefore, every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life. Christians always have enough to do to believe firmly what baptism promises and brings – victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with his gifts. In short, the blessings of baptism are so boundless that if our timid nature considers them, it may well doubt whether they could all be true.” (Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, BOC 461)

In the Lutheran tradition, the focus is on God’s promise and God’s initiative in creating the covenant relationship. I cannot come to God on my own, but the Holy Spirit calls me through the Gospel. Baptism is a tangible expression of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. One baptismal image that expresses God’s initiative is adoption with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was baptized by John prior to beginning his ministry.

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Though Jesus was God incarnate, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit as a sign affirming Jesus’ authority as God’s Son. God did this prior to Jesus starting his ministry, before he preached or healed.  The same Holy Spirit is given in our baptism and we are “adopted” as God’s children.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:14-16).

One of the ways this is enacted with an infant baptism is that the infant is normally held by the Christian sponsors or the pastor during the baptism. The pastor or sponsor represents God’s claim and blessing upon the child. After the baptism the child is given back to the parents as a gift from God with the understanding that the child will be raised in faith.

Baptism is a powerful reminder of who I am: I am a child of God. I am God’s child, not because of my actions or inactions, but because of God’s tangible grace given to me in baptism.

Next post: B is for Belonging.

Lord Jesus, Thank you for claiming me as your child.

“Do I Have To Go?”

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a helpful book on preaching that extends way beyond preaching. Here is a section that she wrote regarding where we go when we follow Jesus.

Affirming the ministry of every baptized Christians is not an idea that appeals to many lay people today. It sounds like more work, and most of them have all the work they can do. It sounds like more responsibility, while most of them are staggering under loads that are already too heavy. I will never forget the woman who listened to my speech on the ministry of the laity as God’s best hope for the world and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be that important.”

Like many of those who sit beside her at church, she hears the invitation to ministry as an invitation to do more —to lead the every member canvas, or cook supper for the homeless, or teach vacation church school. Or she hears the invitation to ministry as an invitation to be more—to be more generous, more loving, more religious. No one has ever introduced to the idea that her ministry might involve being just who she already is and doing what she already does, with one difference: namely that she understands herself to be God’s person in and for the world. (The Preaching Life, p.27-28)

I totally agree with Barbara that our ministry is our daily activities and relationships, but lived with the identity of being a child of God. God has placed each of us in our unique settings to be God’s agent, God’s hands, feet, heart and voice in God’s world. We don’t need to travel to a distant land to do “mission” work, we do “mission” work in our homes, offices, schools, and community as we interact with others. A “mission” trip may help us to see the needs of God’s world and to discover our dependable strengths and gifts to meet those needs. It may strengthen our relationship with God and others, but mission can happen wherever we are.

Lord Jesus, let me rediscover my mission in you today.