The following sermon was preached on 3/21/2021 by Jerell Wilson M. Div, a guest preacher arranged by our Pastor.
24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
The Roman Catholic Church has Seven holy sacraments, Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Unction (or anointing the sick with oil), Marriage, and Ordination. Each of these sacred rites are believed to be instituted by God or Christ himself. Each has Scriptural references that support their legitimacy. But I’d like to make the argument that one has been forgotten. As we see in the text of John, Christ completes an adoption before breathing his last. I would argue that this is the institution of the first Christian adoption. When I was in high school, I used to sneak off campus and go to my friend’s house or eat at Sonic. One day I went to his house and talked to his mom about her experiences with foster care and adoption. Their family had recently adopted three siblings, great kids, but the process was awful.
The system was disorderly, the rules were made that made it even more difficult to adopt children, children with special needs were trapped in the system for years before getting help, and of course the social workers and foster care workers were and still are grossly underpaid and overworked – some managing as much as 20 children at one time. To my high school mind this was mind boggling; everyone I knew was “pro-life”, so it was outrageous to me that so many children were in the system waiting to be adopted while the “March for Life” showed so many tens of thousands of
people in favor of forced full-term pregnancies that were willing to adopt the children they forced into existence. It was also outrageous to me that the government was so bad at handing children over to people that wanted them. Many of my friends were denied the chance to foster because of medical history of things that are quite survivable, like diabetes
and high blood pressure.
Lastly, in a country where so many people on paper claim to be Christians, how could so many children be, in essence, homeless. How could the people of God who celebrate themselves being “adopted” into the family of God in Galatians 4:4-5, Romans 8:14-17, John 1:12-13, 2 Corinthians 6:18 be so stingy as to not offer that same generosity that God has given us to children? My high school mind, grew to a college mind that asked more follow up questions: Why were Black and Brown children least likely to be adopted? Why do we let children age out of the system when we know that them aging out of the system almost guarantees that they will turn to criminal behavior to survive when they are basically thrown out on the street? Where are the Christians organizing to fix this system and how do we collectively work to change the laws that hinder us from having a flourishing system?
We see in the text of James, that true and undefiled faith requires us to tend to widows and orphans – why then isn’t supporting a foster child even just with a donation, a regular practice in our faith? There’s over 500k Christian congregations in this country, and around 700k children needing homes, if our churches got serious about ending child homelessness we could wipe it out in a year. Of course a large portion of these children are on the streets because of the church. Over 25% of homeless youth are homeless because they were thrown out of religious homes for being LGBTQ+. And we need to address the rampant abusive nature of this homophobia in our churches. And Certainly there are families in our congregations that can adopt or foster, and even be so brave as to love queer kids too, but they need support, we already have the built in community to help meet those needs. Why hasn’t the church in nearly 2000 years found a way to reinvent the orphanage? We serve a God of boundless creativity and yet in this area we seemed trapped, and in our lack of creativity we have trapped nearly 700k children. Children that God has entrusted to our care.
I think we need to focus more on the John passage, Jesus while on the cross takes note of something his possessions are being torn apart and divided, then he sees his mother and refuses to let her be torn apart and cast aside. In this era of antiquity, women were completely dependent on men for survival, they couldn’t own land, or “work”, they needed sons or husbands to manage their finances, Jesus instituting adoption in this case was more for his mother than it was for the disciple whom he loved. And yet Jesus still chose to create a new family rather than just say “Take care of my mom for me”. Instead Jesus saw the value of making a new family unit, of forming a new “forever family”.
I wonder what Jesus thinks when he looks at his children being torn apart and divided up like his clothes were on the cross. I wonder if he is looking for his beloved disciples to step up so he can create new family units. I wonder how many of us on judgement day will be asked why we let so many children slip through the cracks, or if God will be specific as ask why we let Jessie go un-adopted, why we waited so long that Xavier aged out of the system.
I ponder these things because I believe they matter to God, so they should matter to the church. I’m not going to argue that every family needs to find a way to foster, but I am going to argue that more families should. All of the sacraments aren’t for all people, in fact in the Catholic tradition it’s impossible for everyone to experience them all (unless they cheat), getting ordained mean no marriage, and most people just don’t get ordained; God’s grace isn’t limited because we don’t practice every sacrament – but just because a sacrament isn’t for us doesn’t mean we’re excused from participating in it. Which is to say, just because you aren’t called to foster or adopt, doesn’t mean you get to ignore the whole process, rather it means you need to find other ways to be of service.
Notice how there were other disciples there, the Mary’s, they weren’t given direct instructions about what to do in this adoption process, but three days later they were doing a familial task, preparing to anoint the body of Jesus on Mary (his mother’s) behalf! Even without being directly told to do something they practiced discipleship and followed the lead of Jesus. I find this to be absolutely frustrating when we compare it to the current system of adoption; where families often raise concerns that they have little to no support, they need babysitters, they need community, their
children need other adults in their lives as guides not just parents, the parents need listening ears and shoulders to lean on. We should be building communities that are prepared to meet needs of fostering/adopting families without being told. If you aren’t going to be a beloved disciple ready to take someone into your home, then be a Mary, ready to jump in and help the disciples that are tending to the widows and orphans. This “discovery” of the lost sacrament should inspire you to do a few things; first, ask what you can do to help, how can you get involved either in the direct work of bringing someone into your home, or the indirect work of meeting their needs by supporting behind the scenes. second you need to ask what your church can do, how can y’all be a community that meets needs without being told? Lastly, you need to ask how can this make me more like Jesus? The apostle James described this work as pure and undefiled religion, how much more like Jesus; how much more can you manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Sacraments are an outward sign of invisible grace, but I think this sacrament in particular makes grace just a little bit
more visible to the world, just a little bit more tangible.
Now that you have seen and heard, you are responsible, faith without deeds is dead. So what is your faith calling you to do? Amen.