If you listen to my sermons you've heard me say quite a bit about the call of parents to model love and forgiveness to their children. You've heard me talk about the importance of taking time for ourselves and the members of our families. Any parent can and should take his/her calling as a teacher and leader seriously, but the call to serve goes out to husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters (all members of our families!) too.
There's another problem, though: It's easy to see ourselves as members of an earthly family and suffer temporary amnesia when it comes to remembering the water of Holy Baptism that has made us members of God's family, too. Yes, we love and cherish those who are closest to us. But that may also become the reason we are often at risk of turning our family or our tribe into a kind of idol. There is always the chance (no, the likelihood) on any given day that we will put the wishes or opinions of those we love (our spouse, our children, our parents) before GOD's wishes or will for us. And that can be just as big an issue as NOT living out our vocations as loving family members in the first place.
I know that this talk of making family members into idols sounds harsh. But it's hard to ignore Jesus' frequent encouragement to view blood relations with a measure of detachment when considering ultimate allegiances. Remember what He said about His coming "not to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34)? Allegiance to Jesus does not always result in warm-fuzzy feelings between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters! Then there was that invitation to follow Jesus that broke up the family business (Mark 1:20), the call to follow that meant missing out on a family funeral. Is Jesus implying that "church business" always trumps family responsibility? By no means. It's just that if we're looking for an excuse to wander off the difficult path of discipleship, our family can often give us an "out." And when they do, we are often liable to take it.
Thank heaven Jesus' ministry was focused not only on his earthly family alone, but a new community of brothers and sisters...those considered by others to be "sinners"...whom He served and welcomed into God's Kingdom of life (Mark 3:34-35). That family includes you and me. Our individual earthly families might be either a blessing or a challenge to us, on any giving day of the week. They will never ever be the only family we need. God has made us reborn "children of God." Because of Jesus, we belong to God's eternal Family. God blesses us with the community of forgiven sinners like us to comfort us, challenge us, and together with us live as Jesus' Body on earth, in service to a world in need. As we gather around the Lord's table together today, let us receive all we need to encourage one another around our own kitchen tables at home. We are given to be the best family (the best Dads and Moms, husbands and wives, brothers and sister) we can be as brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of God...as members of God's forever family.