Year B, Trinity Sunday, Romans 8:12-17; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021
To get a handle on this passage of scripture, it’s important to define two key concepts: slavery and adoption. Why does Paul use these two words to encourage the community of Roman believers?
Slavery was a common practice in Rome; in fact, 30-40% of the population was estimated to be enslaved. Slaves completely depended on the whims of their masters for survival. They had few rights and could be executed for disobeying their masters. They could be tattooed or branded by their owners, and had a life expectancy of only 17 years, while many Roman citizens lived into their 60s.
In Rome, during Paul’s ministry, they considered an adopted child equal in every way to a biological child—with full rights of inheritance and to the family name. Since having children the good old-fashioned way was unpredictable, wealthy Romans frequently adopted boys to insure they could pass down their fortunes and family names. When a child was adopted in Rome, they immediately gained the status and power of the adoptive family. There was no stigma attached to adoption in first century Rome; rather, adopting out a child was one way for a family to gain status!
Paul used these two familiar practices to demonstrate the shift we experience when filled with the Holy Spirit. We are not slaves to God, only doing God’s bidding out of obligation. We are not slaves to sin, dependent on greed, gluttony, and lust for satisfaction. Instead, we are adopted! When God adopts us into God’s family, we are loved unconditionally and have access to God’s status and power. We inherit the Kingdom of God!
What a great day to talk about adoption in our contemporary lives! Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz is a touching depiction of adoption based on the author’s own experience. This book pulls readers into the excitement of waiting for the new baby to arrive along with the parents and their community. The mommy and daddy have dreamed of this baby and love her unconditionally, just as God dreamed of us and loves us conditionally.
Over the Moon can spark discussions about family diversity with the kids in your ministry. Children’s literature has come a long way towards better representation of diverse families, but adopted and foster children are still too often left out of the conversation. If you would like more recommendations for books featuring adoption or fostering, leave me a comment and I will send you a list.
Questions to ask before you read:
- What is adoption? (Be prepared to hear about pets!)
- How many kids can a parent love?
- Does God love some kids more because of who their parents are?
Questions to ask after you read:
- Why are the mommy and daddy so excited to meet the new baby?
- What will the mommy and daddy give the baby as it grows?
- What does God give us as we grow?
Katz, Karen. Over the Moon: An Adoption Story. Square Fish, 2001.
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