Recently, two parents stood before me as they made promises to adopt their new son. They promised to take this child as their own, to give him their name and to include him fully in their family.
They promised to love him and care for him. They promised to share their faith with him so that he will always know how dearly God loves him. And on that day this child was also baptized, adopted as God’s own child.
Adoption is an image which St. Paul uses to describe our relationship with God. He says that in baptism we are adopted as God’s children. God claims us as his own children. This is God’s promise to us. This relationship is a gift – unearned, undeserved. Just as children receive nurture and guidance from their parents, God feeds us daily with his love and guides us daily with His Holy Spirit. And just as a parent’s love is deep enough to forgive, so is God’s. God forgives our sins.
This is an incredible gift.
Forgiveness brings freedom and new life. And finally, the last gift that God shares with his children is his own life. We are invited to allow God’s life to live in us and through us. This is the life that not only brings us fullness of life today, but this is the life that lasts for all eternity.
This gift is for all of us. This is what Peter said in Acts 2:39: “This promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away.
God invites all people into a relationship. Baptism is for children, teenagers, adults, even those at the end of their lives. It is never too late or too early to become a child of God. And it is never too late to reclaim this promise if it has been forgotten. Sometimes the struggles of life distract us from our relationship with God. We may forget the power of the promise given. We may forget what it means to be claimed as God’s own son or daughter. But the promise still stands. God will never forget his promise. We belong to God.
But this gift is not just about us. It is about all God’s children. In baptism, we join the family of God – the church. In baptism, we are joined together with all God’s children. We discover that we have lots of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandmothers and grandfathers. In the first letter from Peter we are told, “love one another deeply from the heart.”
As members of the family of God, we are called not only to love God but to love and care for one another. In the Episcopal Church, at every baptism, we are asked, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in their life in Christ?” We promise to care for and support each child of God – each member of the family. This includes those who are just a few months old and those who have lived many years.
Sometimes I hear people ask, “Why doesn’t the church do more for children?” and at other times I hear the question “Why doesn’t the church do more for the elderly?” I would like to propose that a better question is, “What can I do for my brother or sister in Christ?” Maybe it will mean an older person becoming an adopt-a-grandparent for a child who doesn’t have a biological grandparent nearby. Maybe it will mean a family making cards to send to a person confined to the home so that they remember that they are loved.
For me, one of the joys of church is that we all mix together. Throughout my life I have known many other children of God who were much older and much younger than me. I remember benefiting from this when I was in graduate school. During my last quarter, I lived in the Episcopal Center at the University of Georgia. I got to know a couple who were my parents’ age. They became my friends. They shared their faith with me. And eventually God used them to bring me back to him.
Loving each other, caring for each other, growing with each other, this is what it means to be part of the family of God. This is what it means to be God’s children.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at 501 Pine St. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.