“The story of my life is centered around adoption. I was adopted and I became a parent through adoption. But the process and assumptions about adoption have changed in the past 50 years,” said the Rev. Leslie D. Callahan.
Callahan gave the homily for the 9:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4, morning devotional service on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Her homily title was “Family Values,” and the scripture text was Romans 8:12-17 (NRSV) —
“So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
She said, “When I was adopted, it was carried out in secret. The child felt ashamed, the parents who placed the child for adoption felt shame and even the adopting parents felt shame.”
She continued, “I was chosen by my daughter’s birth parents to raise her. She had information about their family and mine. She feels like she belongs to a larger family without shame. Shame is deadly to the soul and makes it impossible to be whole.”
While processes have changed legally and socially, as long as families have been formed, there has been a choice by the person doing the adopting to adopt. That person had to decide to say, “You are my child.”
Callahan said, “In ancient times, it was as simple as that. ‘You are my son, my daughter.’”
Paul used the metaphor of adoption by choice in the letter to the Romans. “God made a choice, choosing us in public. We are God’s children,” she said.
This is an informed choice, Callahan said, because God knows what God is doing.
In the 139th Psalm, the writer speaks about being known by God.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. / You know when I sit down and when I rise up; / you discern my thoughts from far away. / You search out my path and my lying down, / and are acquainted with all my ways. / Even before a word is on my tongue, / O Lord, you know it completely. / You hem me in, behind and before, / and lay your hand upon me. / Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; / it is so high that I cannot attain it. / Where can I go from your spirit? / Or where can I flee from your presence? / If I ascend to heaven, you are there; / if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. / If I take the wings of the morning / and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, / even there your hand shall lead me, / and your right hand shall hold me fast. / If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, / and the light around me become night,’ / even the darkness is not dark to you; / the night is as bright as the day, / for darkness is as light to you. / For it was you who formed my inward parts; / you knit me together in my mother’s womb. / I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. / Wonderful are your works; / that I know very well. / My frame was not hidden from you, / when I was being made in secret, / intricately woven in the depths of the earth. / Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. / In your book were written / all the days that were formed for me, / when none of them as yet existed. / How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! / How vast is the sum of them! / I try to count them—they are more than the sand; / I come to the end—I am still with you.”
Callahan continued, “Adoption is a relationship, not a transaction. God chooses us and it is an informed choice. Adoption occurs when the parent claims the child, but it is not complete until the child bonds with the parent.”
God did not leave the adoption of humanity to chance. By God’s Spirit, we choose God as well. “We say, ‘You are my parent, Abba, you are mine,’” she said.
In the beauty and gift of God’s grace, we become children of God who claims us as children. The challenge is to live in the world in the power of that relationship, to live in the world as God’s family.
“We don’t just enjoy and bask in being part of God’s family,” Callahan said to the virtual congregation. “We are a reconciled people who participate in the work of reconciliation. We do not just have privilege, we have responsibility; not just grace but being part of the mission.”
She continued, “We have been given glorious freedom, we have been reconciled by faith. We are waiting to see God’s children live out our family values.”
Callahan concluded her homily with a question. “Since we are God’s children, joint heirs with Christ and are siblings in the same family, what action will you take to live out these family values? What will you renounce because it reflects badly on your family?”
The Rev. Paul Womack, a retired United Methodist minister and co-host at the United Methodist House in Chautauqua Institution, presided from the Hall of Christ. Joshua Stafford, interim organist for Chautauqua Institution, played the Tallman Tracker Organ. Michael Miller, a Chautauqua Opera Apprentice Artist, served as vocal soloist. The organ prelude, performed by Stafford, was “Allegretto Piacevole,” by Edward Elgar. Miller sang the hymn, “In Christ There is no East or West.” The anthem was “Andantino,” by Elgar. Stafford played “Allegro,” by Elgar, for the postlude. This program is made possible by the Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed, Sr. Chaplaincy.