Three weeks ago we started our summer learning journey called Play: Becoming Kids Again (listen in on the Podcast). The past few Sundays we've focused on developing a theological framework for the journey. This framework will lead us forward into the next month as we look at several postures of play. Here's an overview of where we've been:
Becoming Kids: A Critical Step (Matthew 18:1-4)
In response to the disciples' question of who's the greatest, Jesus suggests they fundamentally misunderstood what God is up to in the world. To enter God's kingdom, you must become like a little kid again. Greatness is not found in moral superiority, social status, or intellectual prowess but humility, hospitality, and the playful abandon of childlike faith.
One commentator writes that to become like a child is to "give up our adult-mania for greatness." This requires recognizing and naming so much of our learned behavior as unhelpful and even destructive (sinful), turning from this (repenting), and instead embracing the posture of a child to enter God's kingdom (salvation). Like Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born again and begin to approach God as a child would a parent.
God as Good Parent: An Essential Understanding
So often our relationships with our parents are complicated and difficult to navigate; too often they're painful and broken. The stories told in the Scriptures indicate this isn't a new phenomenon - there is inherent difficulty in navigating cross-generational relationships (particularly when our biologies are intertwined!). And yet the Scriptures continually bring us back to the image of God as a good parent. Not just as a loving Father but also as a loving Mother, the perfect image of a good parent - strong, gentle, wise, guiding, nurturing, and protecting.
Through the work of Jesus, God is actively creating a new family - inviting each of us to bring our own experiences with our parents to the feet of the Good Parent who desires to give good gifts. This invitation to see God as Good Parent transforms our approach to prayer and the way we relate to the God who invites our full stories into deep and abiding relationship.
The Revelation of God's Kids: Creation's Breathless Anticipation (Romans 8:14-21)
In Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus is baptized God's voice from heaven proclaims "this is my beloved son and I'm pleased with him!" This affirmation of Jesus' identity shapes his vocation in the world; the very next story is one where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Clarity on his identity as God's beloved leads to faithfulness in his vocation as Jesus follows God in the midst of temptation and trial.
So Paul writes that our identity as God's beloved kids is made possible through the work of Jesus which gives us access to life in the Spirit (which the Scriptures describe as the very breath of God). While we struggle with our inclinations toward brokenness and captivity (Paul talks about this as sin or our fleshly nature), God's Spirit continually invites us to embrace our identity as God's kids because our vocation (to enjoy, explore and grow in the world God's gifted to us) depends on it! Paul even writes that all of creation itself waits with breathless anticipation for the revelation of God's Kids (Romans 8:21). The world around us is waiting for us to wake up to the Life God's invited us into. The world around us is waiting for us to play!