When New Song Church moved to Drouillard Road twenty years ago, some of the first people we met in the neighbourhood were Phil & Sheila. At first they came around for social events and meals. Eventually, they made a confession of faith and were baptized in 2001. Later, they were married in this church and now both have finished the race and gone to be with the Lord.
I remember the lively banter as both would talk to you at the same time. In those days Phil had quit drinking and had a hot temper. He was very emotional and it would take time before he reached a more comfortable baseline. Through it all, Sheila loved Phil and he loved her. When she passed a year before he did, Phil had a broken spirit. He so missed her.
Do you know how Phil and Sheila met? It was at bingo. Phil was a runner and Sheila was there to play. That night they struck up a conversation that would lead to their coming together. You could say they both got Bingo!
They soon discovered that they both lived in this neighbourhood a few doors down from each other on Albert Rd. This was Sheila’s neighbourhood for much of her life. How fitting that both of them are celebrated in a place that was part of their earthly home. This is where they lived, where they were baptized and where they married.
As we listen to stories about people we know, we are reminded of whom they are. Often, a person’s identity revolves around the way they talk, the way they think and the circumstances of their life.
Phil had different identities that the world around him could know him by.
· Missanabie Cree First Nations
· New Song Church member and kitchen cook
· Camper’s Cove maintenance man
· Ford City neighbour
· 12 step group member
· Mental Health consumer
· Son, brother, husband, father, grandfather
· Bingo caller
· Canadian citizen
While many of these identities are wrapped around a sense of who we are, there is one identity that supersedes them all. That is our identity as a child of God.
Paul, the first century rabbi said these words.
Phillip and his wife Sheila became children of God through faith in Christ. None of their other ways of identifying themselves matter as much in eternity. The Scripture tells us that their faith includes them as part of Abraham’s seed.
And who was Abraham? Before Judaism, there was a man named Abram who walked with God and heard from God. God told him to leave the place he was raised and to journey to a new land that God would give him. God wanted to set apart a nation of people in the earth that would live with a special relationship to Himself. The nation of Israel would be borne from the descendants of Abram.
Abram’s identity would be changed by God to Abraham. This was a change in his core identity.
The Scriptures tell the story of God’s people having a new identity as children of God. By faith, followers of Jesus are adopted into this new identity as God’s children.
If you belong to Christ, then you also are heirs of the promise given to Abraham. Before the national identity existed—before the Christian identity existed--- Abram was a child of God because he trusted in God. Abram had no rule-book or scripture to follow and no group to identify himself with. He simply trusted God and God determined to multiply that blessing that was in Abram’s life.
Phil was very aware of the brokenness in his life. He had his own list of failures and ways that he lived recklessly apart from God. When he chose to submit himself to God and follow the ways of Jesus, he received an inheritance from God.
Phil entered into this life of purpose and destiny. In his own humble way, he was saved by the faith he had in God to save him. It was a gift to him, not something he built for himself. He could not save himself but came to the One who could.
Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Long before there was even a religion to pin it on, Job believed that God was knowable and that there was life beyond the grave.
Jesus comforted his followers with these words about where their faith would one day lead them.