Dear Church family,
Have you ever wondered why Phil and I begin so much of our writing to you with this descriptor? Have you wondered why we call you church “family”? We have other options available to us. We could call you “friends,” or I suppose we could call you “fellows.” We could even be more formal and call you “congregational members.” But, over and over again, we choose “family.”
There actually is a reason. We firmly believe that “family” is the most appropriate term for what we are to each other. In Jesus Christ, we were all made brothers and sisters to one another. In a very real sense, we did not choose one another. God chose us to be a family. Of course, this leads me to the obvious point that “family” is also the most honest term for what we are to each other. While we have some choice in who our friends are and most groups have some say in who their members are, family is yours no matter what. We are a group of people who often enjoy one another but we also are a group of people who can sometimes wonder, “What in the world do I have in common with so-and-so?” Or even, “How can I learn to bear so-and-so?” On the surface it may look like we don’t have much in common but, under that surface it becomes crystal clear: we are family. With Christ as our brother and God as our Father, we love one another. In the real, sometimes feeble, and honest way that only a family can.
I bring this up because Mother’s Day is on Sunday.
And I love to consider mothers through the lens of the great mother in the Bible, Jesus’ mother Mary. We, of course, remember the wonderful scenes of her pregnancy and the birth of her firstborn son. But we often gloss over the glimpses of difficulty we see once Jesus has grown. All of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12, Mark 3 and Luke 8) mention it. Mary and some of Jesus’ brothers show up to talk to Jesus. It is assumed they want him to stop this preaching and teaching nonsense and come home. Jesus refuses to see them and, instead, says that his real family are his followers, not the ones who raised him.
Clearly, there are differences and disagreements in this family. There is, at the very least, misunderstanding and a fair amount of heart break. Yet, as we know, Mary is one of the few who stays with Jesus as he hangs on the cross. She will not leave him to suffer alone.
And that is family; when it is at its best. Families have disagreements and they have their fair share (or more) of heart break. But family, when it is strong, is there for us when we need them. Family makes sure we will not suffer alone. That is why we so often call ourselves a church family. We strive to be that kind of community with and for one another. On this upcoming Mother’s Day, I hope you will take a moment to thank someone who has been that kind of family to you. It may be your mother from birth or it may be a mother or a father from your church family. Whomever you choose, thank them for being family to you.
Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us a family. At our creation, your Father placed us in families and we thank you for the gifts they have given to us and the ways they have encouraged us. Through the sending of your Holy Spirit, you placed us in families of faith. We thank you for this second family and for the strength and hope we gain from them. We thank you that we did not choose this family but that you did. Help us to always stand and support and love one another. In your name we pray. Amen.
Christ’s peace be with you all,