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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Adopted by the King

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

July 16, 2017

Ephesians 1:1-14

 

What fun hearing about the experiences our youth and adults had on this mission trip! Because we are highlighting our youth mission trip today, I’ll keep the comments for my sermon short.

 

Today we are kicking off a 4-week sermon series on the book of Ephesians. This is a letter written by Paul to the church at Ephesus. At the time it was written, Paul was in prison. As difficult as it must be to be imprisoned for one’s faith, the blessing that comes with “doing time” is “time.” There is time to think and pray. There is time to reflect on God’s love and God’s work in the world. There is also time to write letters to friends. Paul put that time to good use.

 

Ephesians is only 6 chapters long. The first three chapters outline key theological points, and the last three chapters talk about what those ideas means for the daily life of believers. A key theological point of that first chapter is that of Christians being adopted into God’s family. So that is the point we’ll focus on today.

 

To do so, I invite you to imagine yourself as a child on the streets of New York City in the 1800s. Our congregation was founded in 1887 by Swedish immigrants. The mid-to-late 1800s was a time when many people were immigrating from Scandinavia and Europe to the United States. They came over on ships, taking a long and dangerous journey. Not everyone who set off for America made it. Disease was rampant in such tight quarters, and many died en route. This created the unfortunate situation where many children arrived in America as orphans – with no mother or father to care for them.

 

Imagine how difficult it would be to arrive in a strange land as a child. You don’t speak English. You don’t have any money. And worst of all, you don’t have a mother or father to care for you.

 

That was the plight of 30,000 kids in the mid-1800s. New York became so overwhelmed by all these orphans they couldn’t take care of them all. As a result, many kids were sucked into lives of crime or prostitution just to survive.

 

A pastor, named Charles Long Brace, felt that something had to be done for these kids. He believed the children would have better lives if they left New York City and were raised by good Christian farm families. There was a real need for labor in the growing farming communities of the Midwest. He knew that farmers would welcome homeless children, give them good homes, and treat them as their own.

 

So, the solution he came up with was to put them on trains heading West. At towns along the way the conductor would announce that there are children in need of homes and invite the local townspeople to adopt these children. By 1929 about 200,000 kids were adopted through the orphan trains.

 

Among the children who were adopted in this way, two became governors, one became a congressman, and two others became supreme court judges. One was adopted by a middle-aged couple in Michigan, named Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford.

 

Can you imagine the wonder that child must have felt when he was driven in a car to a huge mansion and told that this would be his new home? Just think if you were that lucky child! Everything there is yours to enjoy! By some miracle you now have a family that loves you and a new home! What a family and home it is!

 

That is the picture painted in Ephesians to portray our condition. We were once orphans, left to our own devices, struggling to scrounge out a life. But through the grace of God, we have been adopted into God’s family. We are sons and daughters of the most high King. We are inheritors of all God’s good gifts. We are heirs to eternal life.

 

That is the good news. That is the message of God’s love and salvation, lavished upon us. Just like those kids who rode the orphan trains, we did not do anything to earn our adoption. It is pure gift. We are inheritors of all God’s wonderful gifts. We are named and claimed by God as his beloved sons and daughters for all eternity. What a blessing that is! Thanks be to God!

 

I invite and encourage you to read the book of Ephesians as we are focusing on it for the next three Sundays. It is a quick read yet it is a powerful story of God’s redeeming grace.  

 

May God fill you with a new appreciation for his forgiveness, love, and grace.

May you live into your role as God’s beloved son or daughter.

 

Amen.