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

I’m going to try something quite different this morning.  I’m hoping to get you actively engaged with the sermon.  The big question I’d like each of us to consider is this: “Am I a child of God?”  One way I am hoping to get you involved is to ask those of you who are comfortable with reading in public to take one of these cards with Bible verses on them to share at various points during our discussion. Who’s willing? (hand out cards)

Let’s start off seeing if we already believe that we know the answer: if you are quite confident that you are indeed a child of God, please raise your hand.

Now I would to ask one of you with your hands in the air to courageously share with the rest of us why you believe that you are a child of God.  Anyone willing to share?

So, this gets at our first key question of the day: “What makes someone a child of God?”  Let’s hear a couple of key Scriptures to help us clarify our answer…

1 John 3:1  See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.

John 1:12-13 “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

So…“What makes someone a child of God?”   Perhaps the question ought to be first… “Who” makes someone a child of God?  (We must be born of God. God makes us His children, in His love.)  Those of us who are Lutherans or Roman Catholics believe that this happens when?  (At our baptism) 

Let’s consider another text: Galatians 3:26-27  “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”   In our baptism a couple of things happen: First, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (hence the old tradition of white baptismal gowns); and we receive the gift of faith.

This sets us up for the second key question of the day: “What do children of God look like?” First text-- Matthew 5:9  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Hmmm… what do you think of that?  The children of God are peacemakers.  What does that mean to you?  What is a peacemaker

How do we make peace?  How about this text?—2 Corinthians 5: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” 

Doesn’t that mean that our primary means for making peace is by sharing with others the great news that God, in His amazing grace, has done the work of reconciliation, taking away their sin and guilt, as well as the punishment and death that goes with it?  Brings more meaning to our greeting, “The peace of the Lord be with you”, doesn’t it?  Children of God are committed to the exceedingly important mission of helping other people come to understand that God wants to embrace them as His children, too.

Another Scripture to help us answer our second key question of the day: “What do child of God look like?”—Ephesians 5:1-2  “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

What does a child of God look like?  Ideally, we look a lot like God.  So how do we understand that?  Listen carefully to these words from 1 John 5:2  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

Children of God are people who love.  But this love is not an emotion; it is a commitment to action.  This love is agape love, love that responds to the needs of another.  Just as God responded to our greatest needs by sending Jesus as a sacrifice, so our love for others is sacrificial. 

This morning’s reading from Hebrews 13 provides a more detailed description of what a child of God looks like.  A child of God is a person who practices mutual love, shows hospitality to strangers, remembers those who are in prison, and those who are being tortured.  Children of God hold marriage in honor, and keep their lives free from the love of money, content with what they have.  Finally, God’s children continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, and do not neglect to do good and to share what they have, knowing such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

So, now I’ve got to ask you: does this describe you?  Do you pass muster as a child of God?  Are you a loving peacemaker?  Is your life marked with these great qualities of hospitality, compassion, generosity, etc.?  

Child of God, does this describe you?  If you are like me, your answer is yes… and no.  As saints who are simultaneously sinners, we are not always going to feel, look, or act like children of God.  We will never be able to reach a level of perfection on this side of the grave.  The goal is to keep maturing, keep growing. 

This growing and maturing does not happen in a vacuum.  Let’s hear one last verse: James 4:8--  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Draw near to God in prayer, and by participating fully in our word and sacrament ministry.  Draw near to God through the fellowship of this family in Christ, and through acts of service.  Draw near to God by seeking His Holy Spirit, and God will draw near to you.

And as you are drawn closer to God, you will come to look more and more like your Brother, Jesus, with lives marked by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control. Amen.

   April 2019   
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