Romans 8: 14-17
What does it mean to be “family”? I posed that question on Facebook this week and here’s a snippet of the responses I got.
Family means: support, being there for one another- even when it isn’t easy, celebrating the joys as well as the difficult times, unconditional love, compromising, and forgiving even when they don’t always agree. It’s the freedom to laugh, cry, argue with one another and still know you belong to something greater than yourself. It’s the people you can share all of life with and still stand by each other through the good times and bad and count on them to be there no matter what.
Part of being a family is the responsibility we have toward one another. This relationship requires us to sacrifice for one another, encourage, support, compromise our own personal needs for the good of the group, and love and forgive each other through it all. In return, we have people in our lives who will do the same for us, and with whom we can share in the celebrations of life.
Another part of a physical family and sometimes, extended family is inheritance. Maybe we inherit money, property, or that favorite painting that always hung in your parent’s living room. We give gifts as we celebrate this life and then leave gifts for those we love to remember us after we are no longer in their presence.
Being the family of Christ is no different. When Christ died and was resurrected he offered us a share in his inheritance and gifts for us to share with others. We receive these gifts when we chose to be a part of the family of God.
Each one of us has been given gifts by God to be shared with not only this community but with the world in which we encounter. Now, the gifts are not limited to the 8 we talked about earlier. Those are just the general categories of gifts. Maybe you were given the gift of Organization and Administration, the gift of creativity and using your hands to make things, the gift of teaching and speaking eloquently, there are gifts of leadership, faith, and yes, even speaking and understanding foreign languages is a gift. Each of these gifts are a part of the most important Gift of all, the Holy Spirit. 4
Each one of us, no matter what our specific talents, enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit. When Christ’s physical body left this earth we were promised not to be left alone. We were then made aware of the Holy Spirit which guides us through this life, helps us interpret the word of God for our lives and current situations and who reminds us always of the presence of God.
Being a part of any family includes responsibilities. We are not only responsible for ourselves but we also have responsibility to participate in the family unit. When I was a child, we each had chores- my brother mowed the grass and took out the trash, my sister vacuumed and I dusted. We each took turns washing dishes and of course kept our rooms clean- well, sort of.
Not that dusting is a “gift” but as a family we work together as a team to help one another and to do our part to make the home a better place. God calls each of us to do the same thing. We are all the family of God. We are called to use the gifts we have been given to care for and support the people not only in this church but for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in this town, in this country and on this planet we call home.
This family is not just one church in competition with another church or groups arguing over members or resources. Our goal, no matter the name of our individual group is to spread the love of Christ to others. With God the resources are unlimited. The more we give, the more there is to give. The more we love, the more love we have to share. Yes, this may take some sacrifice but Jesus Christ, was willing to risk everything so that we could share in this inheritance with him.
He intends for every person around this world to be a part of his family. It is our responsibility, as the family called Christians to use the gifts we have been given to that end. Like family, there is no retirement from this line of work, there are no days off. We are Christians, we are family to each other and to everyone we meet all day, every day and everywhere we go.
As we consider what it means to be family, our ultimate inheritance for being the family of God is the gift of God’s love. The understanding that no matter what we do to disappoint God, we will never be unloved. No matter how far we stray from the will of God and the path for our life, there will never be a time when God will walk away from us. This gift has been present from the beginning of time and will be a gift to all future generations.
As we studied the Pentecost story in Bible Study this week one of the questions that came up was that the presence of the Holy Spirit is obvious in the lives of the disciples, especially in this story. But, where do we see the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Now there are many right answers to this question but as I was doing a devotional in the Upper Room this week, I read the Message version of Isaiah 43: 1-4. While this scripture has always been powerful for me this version really stuck out to me:
“But now, God’s message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: ‘Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called you by name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you are in rough waters, you will not go down. When you are between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end- Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy One of Israel, your savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” This isn’t the only scripture that tells of God’s love. It is in every word we read.
God’s love is our inheritance. It is the most wonderful thing we could ever ask for. This love was emphasized again in the life, death, resurrection and Love of Christ. Once again, God showing that he would do anything to prove his love towards us.The interesting thing about the answers I got about family on Facebook is that no-one limited their family to blood relations.
The beautiful thing about Pentecost and the birth of Christ’s church is that it was never limited. Even from the very beginning it was all encompassing of race, gender, language, nationalities, abilities and disabilities.We are family because we all believe that God is our true father. We say it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer- Our Father, not my father, but God the father of all. We are all brothers and sisters of Christ.
And we can go, confident knowing that God has chosen us, adopted us as his family and that we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to go with us and before us to prepare a way for us to continue the ministry of Christ. With the love of God, as God’s Children, we will always have unconditional love, support, forgiveness, freedom to laugh, cry and argue and know that no matter what- God will always be there, supporting us, picking us up off the ground, cheering us on and never wavering in Love.