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“Children of the Heavenly Father”
Galatians 3:26-27


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost–Father’s Day—June 16, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our Father’s Day message is based on today’s Epistle Reading from Galatians: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

In an interview a few weeks ago on National Public Radio, the popular author Stephen King shocked many when he declared that he is no longer an atheist, but he now believes in a divine Creator.  “What I’m saying now,” he told NPR, “is I choose to believe in God . . . If you say, ‘Well, okay, I don’t believe in God. . . .’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky, and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets, and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive, and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.”

I’m sure Stephen King didn’t realize that he was practically quoting the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”  But, Paul then goes on to condemn humanity because we fail to give God his due as our Creator: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. . .  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.”

“You are all sons of God . . .”  As both the Apostle Paul and Stephen King note, we are all children of God—all of humanity—first of all by virtue of the fact that God our heavenly Father is our Creator.  As the prophet Malachi says, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?”

But, like the sinful son in the parable of the prodigal, we all forfeited our birthright, our status as children of God, by our sinful rebellion.  The father in that parable represents our heavenly Father, and to him we must all confess, like the sinful son in the parable, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. . .”  Like the father in the parable, your heavenly Father gives you back your birthright.  As a free gift, he bestows on you the privilege once again of being his beloved child.  Paul explains in Ephesians, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” 

On account of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life, death and resurrection, your sins are all forgiven, and you are welcomed back into the family of God.  Just like in the parable, when the father says to his servants, “Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ . . .”  The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is like a spiritual adoption proceeding, through which your heavenly Father reclaims you as his own child.  In the parable the father puts a ring on his son’s finger, a symbol that he has been received back into the family and is his true son once again.  In the same way in Holy Baptism God places his Spirit within you, signifying that you are his true son once again. 

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  That’s sort of a funny expression: “clothed yourselves with Christ.”  But, it makes sense if you go to Revelation’s description of the redeemed in heaven: “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 

There is a strict spiritual dress code for heaven, perfection required, and we by ourselves have only soiled, tattered spiritual robes, unworthy to pass through the heavenly gates.  But, just as the father in the parable clothed his son in the finest robe, your heavenly Father cloths you in the spiritual robe of Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and THAT makes you worthy to pass through the heavenly gates. 

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Some well-meaning modern translations have changed “You are all SONS of God” to “You are all CHILDREN of God.”  Though the intention may be good, it really misses the point.  For in the Greek-Roman world only SONS had rights and privileges, only sons could inherit.  That is NOT the way God wants it to be, but it was the reality of that culture.  Paul uses that chauvinistic aspect of their culture to make a point: “You are all SONS of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”  What a wonderful thought!  Our heavenly Father bestows upon ALL of us the rights and privileges and inheritance of SONS.

There’s a true story from the closing days of World War II about a United States Army lieutenant, Peter Sichel.  His native land was actually Germany, but a decade earlier his family had fled the Nazis, abandoning their centuries-old, world famous vineyards and winery at Mainz.  Fearful of what would happen to a million valuable bottles of aging fine wines and champagne as the Germans retreated and the Allies celebrated, as they closed in on Mainz Lt. Sichel got special permission to go ahead and put his family’s property under military protection.

He found the family business all intact, even the sign above the main gate still said “Sichel and Sons.”  When the watchman refused to let him in, Lt. Sichel pointed up to the sign: “It says Sichel and Sons, doesn’t it?  Well, I am a son!  So open the gate and let me in.”

That’s what Paul means when he says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Trust in Jesus as your Savior and you have the right to enter heaven and claim your inheritance, eternal life.  “I am a son!  So open the gate and let me in.”  As the Apostle John says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Amen.

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