Sunday, September 05, 2004

Romans 9:22-26 - "Lo-Ammi/Ammi"

(1 Samuel 1:9-11,20,24-28)
My Son's Baptism
Thursday, September 2, and Sunday, September 5, 2004

Today is a big day for our son, Samuel. His adoption is complete, and he got a new name—and it doesn’t have anything to do with the adoption agency or the courts. I’m talking about Samuel’s spiritual life, but first, let me explain Samuel’s earthly life.

As many of you know, Samuel’s birthmom, Jamie, contacted us back in March to ask Susan and me to adopt her baby. On June 3, we were with Jamie and her mom, Ellyn, when Samuel was born. Since then, he has been living with us, even as we go through the adoption process. In July, Jamie ended her parental rights, legally making it possible for us to adopt Samuel. Susan and I are foster parents through Lutheran Social Services until in January when the adoption will be legally complete.

So you see, Samuel’s earthly adoption isn’t complete. And his name is already Squires, so he doesn’t need an earthly name change. But today Samuel’s adoption is complete, and he did get a new name. We’re talking about his spiritual life, and what is true for Samuel is true for you. Yet, because Samuel is adopted, his earthly story is a good way to understand what happens for all of us spiritually.

The concept of adoption is pretty simple: you take a child who wasn’t born to you as your son or daughter. The process is much more complicated; there are lots of different ways adoptions happen—internationally, through foster care, closed adoptions, and open adoptions like Samuel’s, where his birthfamily remains part of his life. There are lots of steps involved, but it essentially comes down to saying, “Samuel, you weren’t born into our family, but we take you as our son.” In other words, Samuel was not our son, but now we call him our son.

That’s where those strange looking words come in that are the title of this sermon listed in your bulletin. “Lo-Ammi/Ammi” Those are two Hebrew words. “Lo-Ammi” means “not my people.” “Ammi” means “my people.” The prophet Hosea uses those words in talking about what God does for His people, and Paul picks up on this, quoting Hosea in our reading from Romans chapter 9. In Romans, it says, “Those who are not my people (lo-ammi), I will call my people (ammi). Those who are not loved I will call my loved ones. Wherever they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called sons of the living God.”

Essentially this is where God says that He will adopt us. We were not God’s children, but now He will call us His children. We were Lo-Ammi, not God’s people, but now we are Ammi, God’s people, God’s children. Just like how Samuel was Lo-Ammi, not my son, but now through adoption, Samuel is Ammi, my son, just like that, you have been adopted by God.

That is your spiritual adoption, and it happened at your baptism. That’s why today I can say that Samuel’s adoption is complete—his spiritual adoption. He is God’s son today. That’s why today Samuel got a new name. Samuel used to be called Lo-Ammi, but now he is Ammi, my people, my son, God’s son. Through His Word and the water, God has adopted Samuel into His family. Because Samuel is God’s child, He will receive all of God’s blessings, all of the things in God’s will. Samuel inherits it all: faith, love, forgiveness, and life forever.

You, too, on your baptism day, or if you haven’t been baptized yet, on the day when you first believed in Jesus, you too were adopted by God. Your name has been changed from Lo-Ammi to Ammi. You are God’s people, and you will get everything that is His—faith, love, forgiveness, and life forever.

In case we have forgotten why being adopted by God is so important, let’s remember that the kind of situation we were in spiritually. What would it mean if we weren’t in God’s family? Why is it such a big deal to go from being Lo-Ammi to Ammi? Why is it truly Good News when God says, “Those who are not my people, I will call my people?” Because look at these other phrases used to describe us in Romans chapter 9: “objects of His anger” and “headed for destruction.” To be outside of God’s family means to have no hope for life and salvation. Our only hope to have life after death was for God to adopt us, to take us into His family.

Speaking about Samuel’s earthly adoption, he went from being Lo-Ammi to Ammi, from being not my son to being my son. However, it’s not like if he hadn’t been our son that he would’ve had no other hope, that no one would’ve shown him any love. If we hadn’t adopted Samuel, that wouldn’t mean he was “an object of anger” or “headed for destruction.”

Spiritually, though, that’s how bad it is. If we are outside of God’s family, if we do not believe in Jesus, if we haven’t been baptized into God’s family, if we reject our baptism, reject God’s love, then God will direct His full anger at us, sending us to destruction, eternal death, hell. That’s how important it is to be adopted by God. When your name was changed from Lo-Ammi to Ammi, God stopped you from heading towards destruction and has you heading for salvation.

You see, Samuel’s adoption story only works up until a point to be a reminder of how God adopts us, because Susan and I are not his saviors. We have chosen to love him and raise him as our son, but we can’t rescue Samuel from every danger in this life. We’re not saviors. Yet, when it comes to talking about our spiritual adoptions, becoming God’s children through baptism, then we are talking about a Savior. Jesus Christ does ultimately save us from every danger, from every evil. Jesus rescues us from sin, death, and the devil. That’s the most incredible kind of adoptive parent that you could ever imagine.

Please remember, before it looks like Susan and I did this gracious act on par with God, let’s remember that God was completely selfless. Even though we love Samuel, it would be a lie to say that we’re completely selfless. We’ll admit it: we wanted a child. It’s not all about Samuel; some of it is about us. We’ll admit our sins, our imperfections. Yet, when God adopted you, it was completely about you. It was selfless, all about doing something for you. It was an entirely loving act of God to take us into His family.

Now that we know that our name was changed from Lo-Ammi to Ammi, from Not My People to My People, from Not God’s Child to God’s Child; now that we saw Samuel’s name be changed today in baptism; now I’m going to tell you that Samuel’s name is still Lo-Ammi. I still need to call him Lo-Ammi, Not My Son. I have to remember that Samuel isn’t really my son. Again, though, I’m not talking about earthly things. I’m not saying that Samuel is less of my child because he’s adopted. I will never stop calling Samuel my son. Even though the adoption will not be finalized until January, I tell Samuel all of the time: “You are my son. I am your daddy.”

When I say that Samuel is still Lo-Ammi, Not My Son, that is because I always need to remember that first and foremost Samuel is God’s Son. You saw it yourself: today Samuel became God’s son through baptism. Now as Samuel’s earthly father, I need to remember that the most important thing is Samuel’s relationship with his heavenly father. As parents, Susan and I committed ourselves today to make sure that Samuel visits with God, learns about God, continues the relationship with God that started today.

As much as I want Samuel to be my son, to do what I want, I’ve got to admit that Samuel is Lo-Ammi, Samuel is Not My Son, Samuel is God’s Son. I want Samuel to watch Cubs games with me, to work in the yard with me, to listen to music I like, to follow the rules of our house. Yet, that’s all about my will, my thoughts. I have to realize that I have to set aside my will—knowing that God’s will has to come first in Samuel’s life. God is the true parent. As Christian parents, we have to be willing to say what Hannah said over her son, Samuel.

Hannah had been waiting for a child, and she promises to dedicate her child to God if God will grant her prayer. When Hannah does become pregnant and Samuel is born, she follows through on that promise. She takes Samuel to Eli the priest and says, “I am giving Samuel to the LORD. He will be dedicated to the LORD for his whole life.”

Hannah set aside her wishes, letting Samuel become a servant of God. In that same way, with our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, the children and youth around us, the people in our lives, we have to surrender our will, our control, our desire to be the ones who direct their lives. We have to set aside our wills and call them Lo-Ammi, Not My Child, Not Mine. We have to acknowledge that these children and people belong first and foremost to the Lord.

Here in the story of Samuel Squires’ earthly adoption we have to turn to the story of what Jamie, Samuel’s birthmom, did.

From the very first time that Susan and I sat down with Jamie to talk about the adoption, she said Samuel is our son. She handed us early ultrasound pictures and said, “Here’s your baby.” When we were with Jamie while she was pregnant, she would tap her stomach and say, “Do you hear your mommy and daddy?” In the hospital as the time came for Samuel to be born, in response to something I said, Jamie looked me right in the eye and said, “He’s your son.”

Jamie will always be Samuel’s birthmom. Jamie will always be the one who carried Samuel for nine months, who gave birth to him. Jamie will always have a relationship with Samuel that is truly unique. However, in order for Samuel to be adopted, she had to call him, “Lo-Ammi,” Not My Son. That is an incredible gift to us, a gracious, loving act. Jamie had to say to Susan and me, “He’s your son.”

That is what I need to do before God. I need to look God in the eye, so to speak, and say, “Samuel is your son.” Whatever I want for Samuel in life, whatever plans I make for him, whatever I do for him as he grows up, none of that should get in the way of Samuel’s relationship with God.

But why would I want to get in the way of that relationship? Oh, there could be lots of reasons—pride (I’d rather be the important one), laziness (it’s easier to teach him about baseball than about God), or just wrong priorities (there’s so many other things to do in life). But really, why would I want to get in the way of Samuel’s relationship with God? Why would any of us want to get in the way of our loved ones’ relationships with God? Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure our children, our spouse, our relatives, our friends continue to have a relationship with God?

By having that relationship with God, by being God’s children, you have His love, you have His forgiveness, you have the promise of living after death. You will inherit everything of God’s. You went from being completely outside of God’s family to being completely a part of God’s family. You were headed for destruction, but now you are headed for eternal life.

At your baptism, someone stepped out of the way so that you could have a relationship with God. Your parents, grandparents, sponsors, someone said, “He is not my son,” “She is not my daughter,” and they brought you to God. Because they stepped out of the way, because they admitted that you were God’s child first and foremost, because they saw how important it was that you be adopted by God, you became a part of God’s family through baptism. God now calls on us to step out of the way, to stop trying to be in control of our children or the people around us, to see that the most important relationship that people can have is with Jesus.

So today is a reminder for me that Samuel is Lo-Ammi, Samuel is Not My Son, Samuel is God’s Son. May God help me to be like Hannah, dedicating my Samuel to the Lord. May I be able to say to God everyday, “He’s your son.”

Yet, today is also the day when Samuel’s adoption is complete, and he got a new name. Samuel has been adopted by God forever. Samuel got a new name today. That’s why his baptism cake says, “Samuel is Ammi.” Samuel is a son of the living God.

Make yourself a cake today, or a poster, or a card, or something that says that your new name is Ammi. __________ is Ammi. __________ is Ammi. __________ is Ammi. Through baptism, you are God’s people, adopted into God’s wonderful family. You are a child of the living God.