Family of God                                     John 3:1-17

Lent 2A                                                    March 5, 2023,                           St. John, New Orleans 

The act of adoption is a very powerful gesture. 

It means that someone has chosen to not only take responsibility for raising a child, 

but it also means grafting them into the family itself.

 Being a sibling to other children. 

Sharing in love and support 

and equally entitled to privileges within the family structure. 

It's usually seen when a child has lost their birth family.

But historically, especially in the roman era, powerful wealthy men could adopt a person who was already an adult 

if they had no heir, 

or if they didn't trust their natural born son to be worthy of their inheritance.

Sometimes we use the term more loosely, though. 

Maybe we had a favorite aunt and uncle. 

Or maybe we hung out at our best friend's house so often they joked that you were their, adopted child? 

Whatever their relationship, there was a closeness, like that of a famil.,

 But more than that, it was a choice to love one another.

Each and every Christian enjoys such an adoptive relationship with God. 

He chose to make us his own son or daughter. 

He brings us out of a former life of dubious distinction and into his righteousness. 

He rescues us from a destiny of death and destruction to one of joy and life eternal.

So, what does this mean? We have a new status as a child of God. 

Jesus referred to himself as the, “son of Man” to indicate he left his throne in heaven to be like us. 

And through baptism we make the reverse trip. 

We are elevated to become like God's own Son Jesus, 

by his blood on the cross we take on his righteousness. 

Moreover, we share his inheritance., eternal life in a new heaven and a new Earth. 

Communion with God forever. Eden restored.

It sounds incredible, right? 

Almost as crazy as telling your family, God is telling you to move to another country, some 2600 miles, on foot! 

Or almost as nonsensical as telling an old man he had to be reborn. 

How in the world can a few splashes of water poured while speaking the name of the Trinity have an eternal effect on anyone?

 It's possible because when God makes a promise, he keeps it 

because he is the only father capable of doing so. 

And that is what people like Abraham and Nicodemus relied on in our texts today. 

It wasn't anything they did or did not do.

Rather, they simply trusted God to do what he said.

It's interesting that Abraham and Nicodemus lived in the shadows of unfulfilled promises, yet they still believed and trusted God. 

Abraham was promised that his offspring would be a great nation, 

yet he died before he had grandchildren. 

Nicodemus wanted to follow Jesus into his glorious Kingdom, 

but instead helped to bury him after his execution. 

And today, many of you are struggling in life, 

looking for help and answers despite being a child of God like Abraham and Nicodemus. 

And that's OK, because they were just like you.

We hear their names and think, “aha! What pillars of great strength they must be! What quality of men they were!” 

And yet, Abraham lied about Sarah, passing her off as his sister, instead of his wife, when it was expedient for his business. 

And Nicodemus would only visit Jesus under the cover of darkness. 

And I'm sure, like me, you have hidden your faith, your relationship with Jesus, 

when you thought it might be awkward, or harmful to your goals and ambitions. 

You two have fibbed and lied when you thought you had no other choice. 

Yet, these two men also proved to us what matters with God is not actions, in the end, but faith.

Despite their despicable acts, God remembered their faith.

The entire nation of Israel would be known as the children of Abraham as they continued in faith. 

Nicodemus is recounted in the Gospels three times discussing and demonstrating faith. 

And you and I, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will be similarly recognized by God on the last day, 

so long as we still hold that faith when we die. 

Regardless of what crimes we commit between now and then, our faith will be credited to us as righteousness. 

And when God sees us as righteous, he sees us as his own, just like Jesus. Holy, pure, without sin.

Now, at this point, we might be tempted to say, “Whew! I'm baptized, I have faith, so all is good! Eat, drink, and be merry!” 

While, on its surface, such a statement may be true, 

(after all, the thief on the cross who started the day mocking Jesus as he hung on the cross, 

ended the day at Jesus side in heaven,)

God also warns us in the Bible that Satan uses sin to separate us from God. 

Whether physically, by keeping us away from the word and sacrament which nourish faith, 

or by the shame and guilt which come from our conscience after the fact, and tempt us to shun confession and forgiveness. 

Our sin, therefore, is the evidence we are exposed to daily 

which demonstrates our own inability to be righteous and heaven bound,

and instead, that we are totally dependent upon grace. 

To the point that, while we should always seek to remove sin from our lives, and avoid it at all costs, 

We also realize we are weak and succumb to temptation daily.

 But we also rest in the knowledge that the love and forgiveness of Christ is stronger than our weakness.

But this overwhelming power over sin and death is only available to those who surrender all to God. 

Abraham trusted that even at 100 years old, he and Sarah could still give birth to a great nation because God said so. 

Nicodemus trusted that even though he was lugging 75 pounds of scented aloes to Jesus’ burial crypt, He could still be the Messiah. 

And our parents and Freya’s parents, knowing they could not spare their children from the effects of sin, 

brought you and me and little Freya to the waters of baptism,

so that the power of God's name would drown our sins and link us to Christ. 

So that we would be redeemed.

 From the world, and even hell itself, 

and be joined, instead, to the eternal family of God. The Trinity.

Sure, being part of a family can be a real pain at times. 

Some of its members may be a nuisance or an embarrassment. 

Family expectations can be high or seemingly unobtainable. 

But if you ask the person who has no family what they would do to be part of a family,

you would realize its value and worth. 

Especially when the Patriarch is the perfect God Almighty himself.

May each of us realize the gift we have as baptized Christians.

To be accepted, and adopted into the family of God. 

And to have one another as brothers and sisters in the faith,

so that, whatever challenges life presents to us, 

we will remain faithful and reliant on God's power to save, and to keep his everlasting promises. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.