Part of what I do, Sunday after Sunday, whether I am preaching or teaching, is to set Scripture into conversation with the experiences of the people around me. Sure, Scripture says what it says, but people and circumstances change, and thus the synergy between the Word of God and the people of God, like God’s grace, is irresistibly dynamic.
One week ago, we, at St. James, started a Bible study series on the subject of adoption. As somebody with a background in religion and literature, I have always been fascinated by orphans’ stories in fiction from Annie to Bruce Wayne and by the ways in which God’s covenant with Israel is transformed through Jesus Christ.
Since coming to Mechanicsburg, I have been amazed by the number of families in the congregation who have adopted children. So, in this six-week series, I am setting my sincere interests in Scripture, theology, adoption stories and the good people of St. James into conversation with each other, and all early indications suggest that this experience is good for everybody involved.
I am grateful for the mix between people who have firsthand experiences of adoption and people who are there only out of love for God and neighbor. Since I am not adopted and have not adopted any children, I find that I am less of a teacher and more of a facilitator of this group. I ask questions, cite statistics and invite participants to help me to listen for God’s voice in the process.
If you are not already participating in this series and would like to do so, then please note that it is not too late to join us. The group expanded between the first and second weeks, and I would love to see this attendance pattern continue. We meet in the library every Sunday night through May 20 at 6:00 p.m.
In the first half of the series, we are looking at adoption stories in Scripture (and there are more than you may remember). In the second half of the series, we will consider epistle readings that provide insight into the theology of adoption that is articulated by the apostle Paul.
The series began with a reflection on Moses, who floated down the river as a baby in a basket and then was raised among Pharaoh’s people, who enslaves Jews before Moses dramatically leads God’s people out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land.
Last night, we discussed Esther’s story, which served as a springboard for considering how gender factors into decisions to put up children for adoption and children who are chosen for adoption. Esther is adopted by her cousin Mordecai, and like Moses, she uses her position of power to make a positive difference in the world for God’s covenant people.
Next Sunday, we will discuss the adoptive parent experience through the lens of Joseph’s story. Please note that even Jesus has an adoption story, which may, at least in part, explain why he is especially sympathetic toward widows and orphans and why the thought of welcoming Gentiles into God’s covenant with Israel comes naturally to him.
In Romans, Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear; but you received this spirit of adoption.” With this spirit, may we open our hearts and minds to people who are as different from us as we, non-Jewish people, give thanks that, in Jesus Christ, God welcomes us into God’s holy family.