“we all need a home”

Someone recently told me that. It is wonderful, the family settings we can live in. But even the best of them is not without some hurts and wounds along the way, even with some cracks and brokenness. And tragically, sometimes those fractures are not mended and there can be a parting of ways. Home together as family does involve a commitment.

When it comes to church, we Christians at least here in America I think have some difficulty seeing it as family or being comfortable there. Why? It could be in part because of our own experience as family. And churches in our society are like a dime a dozen. Unlike days of old when there were parishes, and you had your church according to your location, in which you may well attend and be part of for a lifetime, now people so to speak go shopping for church. Wherever it’s the right feel, or serves the needs of one’s family, or their own needs, we stop and shop there. Maybe for a few years, maybe more, but often less. Until we move on to our next church and church experience. The older I get, the more I value the practice of those who have been in one church for decades, even entire lifetimes. Unfortunately not true of myself. Though there are times, sadly, to leave a church.

But the church in Jesus is meant to be our primary family, in a certain sense more family than our own family. Though of course each have their unique special place. Jesus made it clear that his sister, brother, and mother were those who did God’s will. And we find in the New Testament letters an emphasis on a community held together in the bond of love in Christ, with the fruit of the Spirit moving that fellowship, and the gifts of the Spirit helping it, all toward growth together into maturity in Christ.

We need a home where we don’t have to perform and have it all together. Where we can be our honest, even broken selves. I’m not saying at all, excusing our sin. But really being honest with ourselves and others. Just that sense given to us together by the Spirit who leads us to the broken body and blood of Christ for us individually and in our relationships with each other.

We need a place where we’re at home. Where people really care for us. Grace-oriented, so that by and by we can start measuring up, but not at all about measuring up, even while there is loving accountability. Where we realize that we’re all in this together, that when one suffers with whatever, we all suffer. Where when one rejoices and is happy, we all are happy for and with them. The sense that we’re indeed not in this life alone. But we’re present and in place for each other. And together for a broken world. In and through Jesus.

God’s redemption of the broken spaces

We had a most interesting, informative series entitled “Finding Hope in Family Conflict,” specifically on the story of Jacob and Joseph from Genesis. Anyone would do well to watch/listen to them all. A great ending, so although best to watch/listen to each, if you want to get something of it as a whole and just sample one, “Week 7/Family Reunion” might be my suggestion.

What came home to me in the last one, is how Joseph chose not to react in his hurt with hate and additional hurt inflicted on others, but instead trusted in God, and put himself in a place where God could heal him, so that instead of hurting, he could be God’s healing presence to others.

In Joseph’s case, though he certainly had some blame, as we all do in any close relationship, he was really the victim of wrongdoing by his brothers. In our case, it could be either that we were victims, or that we were primarily to blame. And many of us have both. The question for us all: Do we believe that over time God can redeem that suffering for our good, and for the good of others? Even if we were the one to blame, we can at least pray, submit, and trust in God, that God can do a redemptive work in it. God does, and God did, as we see in this story in Genesis. All of that in and through Jesus.

 

looking toward the end

Sometimes there seems to be no answers, or the prospects don’t look good. Maybe it’s telltale signs, or even possible indications that our time may be drawing near. It is amazing how resilient we humans can be, but we’re also so fragile in this life.

We will naturally do what we can to prolong our lives and make them better, but we can’t escape reality, as the years go by, and seem to hasten on. We likely will take a good look at our lives with some, and even maybe much lament, but also with understanding, and even thanksgiving to God for God’s goodness in his grace and mercy in the midst of it.

It is important that we think in terms of how we end well, or live life now, whatever age we are, because our mortal existence is uncertain and death is certain, unless of course the Lord returns prior to that. I think most importantly we should want to make first priority, love within our family. Where relationships may have been hurt, we need to seek healing. And we simply need to be present with others. Not on our computers or phones, but really present with them. And above all, we need to pray.

Of course we also need to be committed to a church, part of a fellowship or communion of believers in Christ. Meeting regularly for teaching and worship, and participating with each other in small groups, or however our church practices that, sometimes in the meetings themselves. And we need to be drawing near to God ourselves, daily, and all throughout the day.

All of this we want to do in prayer, and with God’s help. In the love of God, loving others. In the word, and in prayer. Trying to leave a blessing behind for those who follow us, a spiritual blessing, though where we can be a help materially can be good as well. All of this as always, in and through Jesus.

holding on to what lasts

“See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17

Essentially what seems to be at the heart of this picture is the curse of Genesis 3 being removed in what is nothing less than a new creation. Maybe making the old new, or making something brand new that has similarities to the old. Different, either way.

So much that occupies our minds is destined to be forgotten forever. I know this application is not quite what the passage above is getting at, but it’s nevertheless apt from it, I think. What I’m thinking of is perhaps made more clear by our Lord’s words in the parable of the sower:

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19

This reminds us of our Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, telling us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, rather than treasures on earth, and not to worry about material provisions since we are in the Father’s care. But instead, to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, knowing all of our needs will be met (Matthew 6:19-34).

There is no question that we have responsibilities on earth that we would just as soon forget even now. But insofar as they are connected to that which lasts, we need to do as well as we can in fulfilling such.

What lasts is the love of God that is in Jesus and present to us by the Spirit. We want to live in that love, and share that love with everyone, particularly our families, where often the rubber meets the road as to just what kind of people we really are, and more importantly, are becoming. And we have special responsibility to them. I think of Paul’s words:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

So we can’t shirk our duties in the name of devotion to God, and think we are devoted to God. But in the midst of that, we must put first things first. Doing the best we can, realizing that in this life, much of it will be a crap shoot, meaning neither fool proof nor assured. But in all of that seeking to hold on to that which will last. A prayer in the Book of Common Prayer is helpful here:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

a precious new life

Now we have two precious granddaughters, Morgan Marie and our new arrival Mandie Lynn. It was a blessed weekend, our daughter Tiffany called on Saturday morning, as it seemed that the special day had come.

I can still remember Morgan’s arrival nearly seven years ago. I don’t think we were as prepared, but it was every bit as special. And now her little sister is here, a bundle of love, a human being made in God’s image, loved by God and by her family. Tiffany and Chris are experienced at it this time around, and with some healthy apprehension, are ready for what’s next. We want to help them by our prayers and doing what we can.

In scripture whenver the birth of a baby girl or boy is spoken of, it is special. In the created order male is no better than female. Together they constitute “Adam” or humankind in Genesis. Made in God’s image, they have the unique call to be rulers in submission to God’s rule. Especially as stewards of the earth. Something which humankind has botched, but is especially fulfilled in Jesus. Everyone of us having our part and responsibility. Both in and through creation and new creation- in Jesus.

And so for Mandie Lynn, I pray that God will help her at a young age to be a person of faith, even as I trust God is working the same in Morgan Marie. That they will be stalwarts for Jesus, devoted to God and God’s will in Jesus out of love for God and for others. I pray for God’s protection on them both and on this fledgling family.

The only bad thing about the weekend is that between Mandie Lynn going here and there and I having to go in and out, I did not get to hold our new granddaughter yet! Other than that we were blessed indeed. And we pray God’s blessing on this family, that they might be a blessing to each other and to those around them. In and through Jesus our Lord.

moorings and fellowship

Moorings is both a nautical term and used figuratively to signify a basis of security. It is known that more important than the actual content of what is presented is the fellowship as in friendships and relationships in helping someone to become aligned with this or that group. I think this has even been said for those in the church.

When I think of this in terms of the church, I’m thinking both of staying as well as entering. At the same time I wouldn’t suggest that one’s faith couldn’t and therefore shouldn’t withstand a barrage of conflict and difficulty from others, and worst of all, neglect. Nor am I suggesting that it’s all about loving others to keep them in the flock. Though love in the letter to the Colossians is called “the perfect bond of unity.”

As humans we have a strong sense of need to belong. Our identities are formed within that context, or malformed when it is lacking. Unfortunately the group or fellowship one might find may not be good.

We in Jesus are supposed to know the greatest love of all, God’s love in Jesus. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” This is a love which looks for the lost and is one heart with the found.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. So that whatever deficiencies we encounter in the church can be overcome. But a basic way this human need of belonging is met is through the gospel itself. A good news which tells the world and brings into reality through God the basis for this new life in the community, indeed the kingdom of God, the people of God, his sons and daughters, indeed family, in and through Jesus.