Inviting students into the Family of God

Yesterday was Easter and part of our Easter message was to have an invitation, an invitation for people who are not that familiar with Scripture and for sure, don't speak Christianese.  I had the challenge, and honor to do that part of the service.  This was my attempt:

(I would also love to know how you do this in your context.  What do you expect people to know or understand when you have an invitation.  What are you inviting them into, what level of commitment are you expecting?  You know, the usual debrief sort of questions.)

Ok, here is my stab at it:

EASTER MEANS YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  BECAUSE JESUS IS ALIVE YOU HAVE FULL ACCESS TO GOD AND ARE INVITED TO BE PART OF HIS FAMILY

MY ADOPTED FAMILY:

When I was in high school I had adopted parents.  You know, the parents who weren’t your parents because you couldn’t really stand them or they were incredibly uncool.  Well my friend Craig had parents who were incredible and incredibly cool.  I spent every lunch hour my sophomore year in High School at their house, invading their fridge, playing video games, watching TV.  Lunch turned into after school and even many weekends.  In fact, I was there so much I considered them my adopted parents, and they would often refer to me as their adopted son.  

How cool, adopted into a family that was so generous with their food, never asked me to do anything dumb like chores, and seemed to simply love me for being me!

But my understanding of this family system got shattered when one summer they started talking about going on a “family” vacation to Hawaii.  YES!!  Hawaii!!  I’ve always wanted to go, and now is my chance.  

As the planning got underway it became clear that, of course, I was not coming with them to Hawaii.  Because, even though we used the language of family, the truth was that I wasn’t really family.  I was a guest.  In fact, I was even an honored guest. And because of that, they were generous with their food, I didn’t have to do chores, and they we just fine with me, my grades, and my lifestyle.  

Often times we are in relationship with people and we use words like family, or we have expectations like a family, but in truth we are simply guests, people passing in the night.  And depending on how these relationships go down, many times people can feel hurt, rejected, and crushed to realize that the other person is not as invested in them as they were.  And it is easy to feel like you have no people!

BUT THAT IS NOT THE PICTURE WE HAVE IN SCRIPTURES:

All over scripture there are pictures of how God desires humanity to be connected to one another.  From the

  • Picture of Marriage where two people come together as one flesh.
  • To being children of Abraham and having a tribe, a people.
  • To being the Body of Christ where we actualy belong to one another
  • And finally to being the actual Family of God!

This picture of a family is not of a giant family reunion with distant cousins, but of an intimate family with God as our heavenly Father, and through Jesus we have been invited to be actual sons and daughters of the High King!

According to scripture you are not alone!  

BECAUSE OF EASTER YOU NOT ONLY HAVE A PEOPLE, YOU ARE INVITED INTO A FAMILY

You have a people, but even more than that, you have a Family! The invitation this Easter is to no longer to simply be a guest.  To sort of have people, to sort of belong.   

I mean, even as a guest there is great comfort in not being alone!  To come and go as you please, but not to have any true or deep connection. But even better is to solidify that place by actually being adopted into the family of God! 

THIS FAMILY IS A BYPRODUCT OF BEING A CHILD OF GOD!

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most famous and beautiful stories in all of scripture.  The basic idea is that there is a Father who is a wealthy land owner living in a palace.  He has two sons who share in the work and blessing of this home.  But one day, the younger son has had enough and no longer wants to live under the authority, (and blessing) of the father, so he cashes out, takes his inheritance, and skips town.   

He soon realized that as soon as the money runs out, so did his friends.  His life spirals into chaos and despair and finds himself at the end of his rope!  It is at this point he has an epiphany and considers what it might be like to return.   

Some of you have run away from faith and you are at your wits end, ready to come back.  When you do, you might be wondering what sort of welcome you can expect.  

Some of you are still living in a distant land doing your own thing.  Some of you are still enjoying the high life, while I suspect that some of you may be ready to consider different options.  

EASTER IS THE POWER AND MECHANISM THAT MADE ADOPTION POSSIBLE:

Easter is taking this parable to the next level!  Easter is the Father actually dispatching his Son to run to this distant land to find the people at the end of their rope, those people who are lost and alienated, to cancel their debt, to forgive their sin, to heal their brokenness, and invite them back into the family, back into life at the palace.  

The invitation of the risen Christ isn’t one out of pity or even mercy.  It is an invitation into full adoption and ownership as a child of the King!

By saying yes to this invitation, you are being adopted in not as the Cinderella step-daughter, but as a full daughter and son, sitting in the seat of honor where the daughters and sons sit, and invited to have both the full rights as well as the responsibilities as the very daughters and sons of the King!  (This means that you get to both, go to Hawaii with the family, as well as do the chores  that allow the family business to function)

We say yes to the invitation of Jesus to be adopted into His family when we repent.  This is just the churchy word of saying we are done with being in charge and a life and lifestyle that is simply about me and my pleasure, and turn away from the life and lifestyle of the distant land and begin to head toward home.  

And when we get close, Jesus give us a picture of what this reunion will look like:

Luke 15:17-24

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

We are so glad to have you as guests.  And our prayer this Easter is that you would encounter the Risen Jesus and experience the reality that you are no longer stuck, that you so have game, and that you are not alone.  In Christ you have a family, and even more so, you are invited into an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father who loves us more than we could ever understand!