A Prayer-Reflection on Becoming Children of God through Christ

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

To move from achieving to receiving,
earning to inheriting,
slave to child—
all through Christ, the only Son of God,
born as we were born
to bring us into life from death,
into light from darkness,
into belonging from captivity.

Now, His Spirit in our hearts by faith,
we live as children,
calling out to our divine Father,
free and fully alive,
breathing deep God’s fresh air,
secure and at peace
in the Father’s house.

Maundy Thursday 2021: welcoming Jesus and Jesus welcome to us

Join with us for worship this Maundy Thursday at Eastbrook Church as we remember Christ’s Last Supper with a simple reflection on Scripture and response. The Maundy Thursday experience is available today all day at any time online here or you can watch it below. You can also download a companion “Maundy Thursday at Home Experience Guide” put together by the Eastbrook Church staff.

Before He went to the Cross, Jesus gathered with His disciples for one final Passover meal. The basis for our engagement with Jesus’ passion this year is through Matthew’s Gospel, taking us to Matthew 26:17-30 for Maundy Thursday.

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

What Does it Mean to Belong with God as Exiles on Earth?

Belonging

I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:9-10)

Because we are called and chosen, we can entrust ourselves to God. Because God has named us as His servant, we know that He is our God and we do not need to fear. Our place of belonging is not ultimately in a land or in a place but with our God.

And because our home is with God, then all places become places of home as God is there. We are simultaneously displaced and belonging, refugees on earth and returnees in God. Each place we step is a place of alienation from that place while simultaneously being an experience of homecoming in God.

The difference is not just one of perspective but of reality in God through Christ. We say, “I do not belong here,” in terms of place, while also saying, “I do belong here,” with God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Ironically, we all search for belonging yet often feel we do not belong. We seek belonging in a friend group, a hobby group, a social group, or a religious group, but we still often struggle with a sense of disconnection and alienation. How is it that we can both apparently belong and feel like we do not belong? What is it that is wrong with us that this pervasive sense of alienation occurs?

I’d like to suggest that it is because we need a different sort of belonging. We seek belonging through external connection or place, but it is inner, spiritual belonging that we truly seek and that truly changes us. We were made for God and, as St. Augustine so memorably writes, “our hearts are restless until they rest in You, oh God.” When we come to the place of rest in God through yielding ourselves and our destiny to God, that is the beginning of our journey to belonging.

It is not that place is irrelevant, but that the first place we need to belong is with God. When we let go of our wildly surging press for belonging in this place with this people, then we are open to understand our chosenness in God and our calling from Him. At that transforming encounter with God through Christ occurs, we also find a restful home in God that enables us to rightly engage with the world around us. We live in simultaneous alienation and peace, displacement and contented rest. We do not belong, but we do.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
(Hebrews 11:13)

Hungry to Know

One of my friends in college was always afraid that if she left one of our gatherings something really fun would happen immediately afterwards, leaving her out of the fun. We would joke around with her about it, promising that we wouldn’t do anything really fun until after she left for her apartment. Today, there’s a name for that: “fear of missing out.” The fear of missing out has become seemingly more pervasive since social media enables us to tell everyone everywhere about the amazing food we are eating, the cool people we are spending time with, and the once-in-a-lifetime vacation we are having. Everyone else can peek into it and experience the fear (or reality) of missing out.

In one sense, the fear of missing out reflects the insatiable desire built within humanity to understand what is going on in the world and in our lives. We scramble to be “in the know” or “on the inside track,” and we hate feeling “out of the loop.” In his essay, “The Inner Ring,” C. S. Lewis wrote that this desire: “It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it … Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care.”

This hunger for understanding is built into us by God. We certainly recognize that this hunger to know has led to many important breakthroughs, whether in cancer research, philosophical understanding, or our conception of the physical world. Yet, left to our own devices, this hunger to know often pushes us into a mad scramble to indiscriminately know and be in on everything without stopping to consider what is really worth knowing and why. 

In its best sense, this hunger to know leads us into an encounter with that which is beyond us and, ultimately, God. This week our devotional is built around this theme of the hunger to know. 

Let us begin with some of the greatest prayers on this theme:

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11)

“Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:12)

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off:Choose to fast from information in some way this week: reduce your access to the news; reduce how often you check your email or social media; avoid gossip forums or conversations. Think about why we so often desire to “be in the know” when it comes to other people or events.

Put On: Replace the time you use to gather information with practices that will help you hear from God, such as regular Scripture reading, prayer, or sitting in silence before God. Make a commitment to change your habits regarding to how much time you spend taking in “news” about the temporary world and how you will begin to spend some of that time learning about God’s kingdom.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]