“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are…. Beloved, we are God’s children now.” [I John 3: 1a, 2a]
Those words from the epistle of John have been resonating in my mind all week. We are God’s children. We’re beloved – beloved of God, who makes us all God’s children, and gives us this divine love to share. Being beloved is our first, our primary, our core identity. If you’re not sure who you are, or how worthy you are, or whether you’re good enough, know this: you are a beloved child of God, and nothing can alter that. “
We are children of God. That is what we are.”
I could end my homily right there, and leave us all a few minutes of silence to take that in, to sit with it, and let it permeate our whole being. It’s the heart of the good news. You are a child of God, loved by God. That is what you are. Breathe that truth in. Breathe the knowledge and reassurance of that in. Breathe out any doubts you might have.………
But I do want to add a little more, because what John goes on to say in the next verse intrigues and inspires and daunts me: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this:… we will be like him.”
What we will be is beyond our full comprehension. It’s like the caterpillar and the butterfly again: the earthbound, crawling caterpillar can have no conception of what a glorious, winged, free-flying creature it will become, nor how it contains within itself, in those imaginal discs, the inherent ability to become this amazingly transformed creature.
And “we will be like him;” we’ll become like our brother Jesus, if we let the truth of who we are unfold within us. Imagine that! We have it within us to become like Christ, through God’s power and grace and love at work in us. If we are children of God, and Jesus is the Son of God, then we’re all related, as close as it gets. He’s our brother, he shared our humanity, and we’re siblings with one another in this family of divine love. There’s a family likeness, and it’s the light of God love shining within us.
It makes me think of our dear friend Ernst’s prayer towards the end of his life: “Lord Jesus Christ, our brother, I put my trust in you.” Ernst’s desire as his life came towards its end was that we should all grow in love for God, for one another and for ourselves, as Christ has loved us. (I’m quoting from one of his texts to me.) And he was curious about the life to come, the communion of saints, how to love God with all his being now and hereafter.
Ernst had the courage to wonder what we could all become, what he could become, and he knew it was all about love. And now, as part of the communion of saints, we believe he sees God face to face. What a mystery that is for us here! But it’s part of the promise: as John’s epistle says, “We will see him as he is.”
When the disciples saw the risen Christ they couldn’t comprehend the reality of the resurrection or even recognize him at first. The transformation was too great, and yet it was still him. Still the same voice, the same hands and feet wounded by the nails, the same love and forgiveness. In today’s gospel reading it’s almost comical how they can’t believe their eyes, and they go from terror to joy while still wondering how on earth this can be. So he asks them to give him a piece of fish, which he eats in their presence to show he’s not a ghost or a figment of their imagination.
Jesus’ last words to the disciples in this version by Luke are to tell them to stay in Jerusalem “until [they]have been clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49b] He’s referring to what we now know as Pentecost – the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples while they were gathered together. And there’s that promise of transformation again: becoming transformed and empowered by the same Spirit that dwelled in Jesus, so that we can carry forward his work. The Holy Spirit enables us to become more and more Christ-like, serving this world as Christ’s hands and feet, and growing in love for God, for one another and for ourselves.
We are already children of God, as the followers of Jesus were, but we, like them, are called and meant to become so much more. We are to become like him, to grow up into him, to be transformed. At the end of our service we often use this prayer:
Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
It’s not our work, it’s God’s. But as we allow it more and more space to work in us, it can accomplish far more than we could ever ask or imagine. Perhaps all we have to do is trust and get out of the way.
So let me end as I began, with those words from John’s epistle, and as you read them or hear them, let them soak into your heart with their beautiful truth.
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are…. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this:… we will be like him.”