July 8, 2018

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The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture Reading: 
1 John 3:1-8

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.


  1. 1 John 3:2 Or when it is made known

Sermon: Family Resemblance

 Since 4 July fell on a Wednesday, let’s start with one more look at John Adams, whose no holds barred presidential election with Thomas Jefferson I mentioned last week. 

This morning’s clip from the HBO series chronicling Adams’ life finds the ex-president pushing ninety and taking a walk at his farm, Peacefield, with his youngest son, Thomas. 

Adams’ son John Quincy became President in 1825, after the House of Representatives decided the winner of a four-way race. 

The presidential election of 1800, though, dealt a serious blow to Adams’ reputation. On top of that, Adams’ middle son Charles died of alcoholism at the age of thirty. Adams’ daughter Nabby died at age 48 from breast cancer. Adams’ remarkable life’s companion, Abigail, died of typhoid in 1818. 

Adams’ youngest, Thomas, struggled with alcoholism as well. He ended up as caretaker at Peacefield only because his own law practice and career as a legislator ended in failure and resignation, respectively. 

This clip, then, isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a man facing his own mortality under such circumstances. 


Adams lets loose with a burst of joy, awe, and praise for the beauty and wonder of earth and life on it. Though his knees won’t let him kneel, he nonetheless has finally learned to delight in life’s everyday wonders, as his wife Abigail had long told him he should. 

Much the same thing happens in this morning’s Scripture lesson. Writing what had to be a very difficult letter dealing with challenges tearing the young church apart, the Elder can’t help but rejoice at a gift Christians too often take for granted. 

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that’s what we are. 

If we are truly God’s children, there should be a family resemblance. Here are just a few of the things we can inherit from our earthly parents. 

✓ Everyone looked at your little fingers—how many have the last joint bending inward toward your fourth finger? 

✓ How about our ears? The dominant trait is for earlobes to hang free, but many of them grow attached to the head. 

✓ Then there’s what genetic scientists call “mid-digital hair.” Some people have hair on the middle segment of one or more of their fingers, while others don’t. 

✓ Clasp your hands together. Which thumb is on top? Most people place their left thumb on top of their right, but not all. 

✓ My personal favorite is the Achoo Syndrome. People with this genetic trait sneeze two or three times in a row when they suddenly come out of the dark and into bright light. 

For the Elder, one spiritual trait defines us as God’s children above all others—love. 

If we get our ideas about what love is from Disney movies and the Hallmark Channel, God bless them both, we’ll end up with a skewed picture. You know how it goes: 

✓ Love is a feeling. If you aren’t feeling love, then you really don’t love your partner. 

✓ If you question whether you love your partner, you probably aren’t in love. 

✓ You should “just know when it’s right.” If you don’t, it’s not. 

✓ You should fall head over heels “in love,” which means, at the very least, butterflies, rainbows, and fireworks. 

✓ Your partner should make you feel alive, whole, and fulfilled. 

If we understand real love, these TV shows and movies are harmless fun. If we take them seriously, though, we’re in trouble. 

When the rainbow fades and the fireworks fizzle, it’s frightfully easy to forget what real love is. 

For help, we turn to the Apostle Paul. He reminds us that love doesn’t guarantee a smooth path. In fact, the life of love will battle impatience, hatred, envy, boasting, arrogance, and rudeness. 

We’ll often insist on our own way, Paul says. Love won’t. Love celebrates the truth, even when we don’t. Love perseveres whatever the obstacle—bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring against all odds. 

Our love should reflect that kind of love, the love of God poured out in the redeeming, reconciling, and renewing love of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. 

Jesus lived a dangerously welcoming life, breaking down barriers others thought important. Jesus practiced forgiving acceptance and costly compassion. He looked at, saw, and loved every human heart, each with its potential as well as its waywardness. 

When that kind of love moves into your life, it doesn’t just repaint the walls or rearrange the furniture. Christ’s love tears everything down and rebuilds. 

So, if we keep abusing people, hurting people, and hating people with no desire to stop, much less call it wrong, we live in a world that has nothing to do with being children of God. 

The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who don’t do what is right aren’t from God, nor are those who don’t love their brothers and sisters. 

The words “love” and “cross” are bound together in the life of faith. Love and sacrifice are parts of the same whole. 

Through them, we find the willingness to give out of what’s most important to us, to accept that we wouldn’t do what God asks us to do were we putting our interests and comforts first. 

Amazingly, we discover that as we give things up we grow, even when what we’re giving up calls for some sacrifices on our part. 


When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11) 

If we’re God’s children, then, we’re going to put an end to our childish ways. We’re going to grow up emotionally and spiritually. 

Beloved, we’re God’s children now; what we’ll be hasn’t yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we’ll be like him, for we will see him as he is. (1 John 3:2) 

The assurance that we’re God’s children now graciously overcomes the uncertainty of our not knowing what we shall be. So, we live in hopeful expectation of that time when, the Elder promises, “We’ll see him as he is.” 

For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we’ll see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I’ll know fully, even as I’ve been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12) 

As we look to a future the Elder only dares imagine, the one constant between who we are now and who, by God’s grace, we one day will be is God’s love, as we see it in Jesus Christ. 

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that’s what we are. 

And so, with John Adams and our brother Paul, I say to you, my brothers and sisters, “Rejoice always!”