Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a Mark 6:30-34; 53-56
LET US PRAY: Holy, still-speaking God: open our ears to hear your word this day, open our hearts and minds to fully live out your message for our lives. Amen.
WHAT is FAMILY??? (your explanation)
(I asked my husband this question and his answer was: ‘It is the group with which you have a common tie.”)
Could I have 2 volunteers who would be willing to describe their family?
Tell me about who is in your family. (these are the statistical data of your family. Very necessary.)
NOW: tell me a story about a favorite activity or time with your spent with your family. (THIS is what I call the “narrative” of your family.)
BOTH = equally important.
- Without the statistics of your family, you might never be approved for a mortgage or college tuition loan.
- HOWEVER, it is the narrative of your life that forgesANDstrengthens connections within the family.
Our Gospel lesson for today gives us a picture of the close family relationship that existed between Jesus and His disciples … one that can be viewed through both the statistical and narrative lens.
Mark starts off rather abruptly, telling us “the apostles returned to Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, our Gospel lesson ended with Jesus sending the disciples out … 2 x 2 … into the surrounding communities, with these instructions: GO. Take no excess baggage, just a staff, their sandals and the clothes on their back. AND: when you reach your destination:
- Stay with anyone who will welcome you.
- AND, shake off your dusty feet in protest against anyone who won’t receive you.
Well, they have now returned from their mission trip and proceed to report all their successes and failures to Jesus.
THIS trip MUST have been an exciting time for these apostles. After all, this was the first time in this Gospel that Jesus had sent them out on their own … full of their mentor’s teachings, full of great expectations and, perhaps, even full of a few worries about what they might achieve. Yet, we get no sense of what happened in Mark’s rather cut-and-dried recording of this momentous expedition. Leaves you kinda flat, doesn’t it?!
NOW: think for a minute about your own family gatherings … sitting around the table for hours with folks you may not have seen for a while … sharing stories … laughing and maybe trying to outdo each other with outrageous stories about family events … catching up on the latest gossip … as if you did this EVERY day.
- This happened recently in my own family when my cousin Jeanine came for a visit from GA … and we seemed to pick up right where we left off 4 years ago, on her last visit.
SO: what is it about the “narrative” of family that keeps you going … that feeds your soul? FAMILY is the place where:
- You are welcomed and accepted, no matter what has happened or how much time has past
- You can laugh and cry … play and grow
- You will be encouraged to reach for the stars and receive the support to do it
- You can challenge each other ~ speak the truth in love ~ and kiss away the boo-boos
- Work and learn together … argue vehemently then forgive each other
AND, what is so wonderful is that FAMILY is not defined by birth certificates.!!! RATHER: I believe that family is truly a “connection of the heart” that draws and holds us all together. I think of our Kevin Weikel … who forged strong ties as a camper at Mensch Mill … ties that drew him back as a camp counselor and which continues to support himAND his family ~ some 15 years later ~ in his ministry in Connecticut.
AND: what better family connection than the narrative of our own church family. Look around at every one here today. WHAT draws up together as church family?
- Common heritage
- Family always a member here
- Most like the church we grew up in (for newer members)
- Beautiful structure, stained glass windows, music programs, Sunday school or youth group
AGAIN, I am still dealing with mere statistics. I invite you to think bigger with me. What ARE the narratives that join us together as church … as a church family???
I think that what brings us together as church is a deep desire ~ whether recognized or not ~ a deep desire and a deep need to blend OUR narrative with the narrative of others … and to enmesh our combined narrative with the narrative that grounds us … that is, the narrative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me go back to today’s gospel reading for a moment. Underlying the stats of that reading is a wonderful story that is filled with energy and love. The Gospel says that the apostles … “told Him all that they had done and taught.” In MY mind’s eye, I can see these apostles …
- Tripping over each other, trying to get close to Jesus
- Almost out-shouting each other, vying for Jesus’ attention
- Pumped up and excited by those YES moments, when everything they did was well received … and
- Filled with questions about what they did wrong when they were rejected.
And, Jesus wisely takes them to a quiet place … where they can catch up on their rest … clean their clothes ,,, just BE and have time to catch their breath. Meanwhile, Jesus is, in essence, giving them their space by quietly ministering to the crowds who are flocking to be close to Jesus and his apostles … giving them time to decide how they will put their faith-filled experience into practice in the days to come.
My friends, we have had many exhilarating experiences ourselves … successful week of VBS … exciting times with new and old friends at national and local Youth Events … special services that honor our heritage and achievements. BUT: what IS it that brings our narratives together so that we can BE church together??
The short answer is: discovering the ways that we can live out the Gospel narrative every day. “OK,” you say. “And that is ……. ?” Well, for starters: just take a look at the tables by the doors into this worship space.
Jesus calls us to feed our neighbor, to welcome the stranger, and clothe the naked. And, if you look carefully, you will see:
- sign-up sheets to provide a dinner for families temporarily without a home and housed at St. Stephen’s UCC during August … folks eager to connect with others in the community over a shared dinner.
- An opportunity to reach out to our sister congregation, Living Water UCC ~ meeting the faith needs of their congregation and neighbors in a new church building in a poor neighborhood of Phila … desperately in need of office supplies, paint, trash cans copiers, and everything in between.
- An invitation to outfit a school bag with all of the things you loved getting as a child ~ new notebooks, rulers, pencils, markers, and the smell of opening a brand new box of crayons!
And, THAT IS THE SHORT LIST!!! You know: if I were to try and sum up by what it means to BE church together, that word would be CONNECTEDNESS! We find a great definition of that word in Matthew’s Gospel … when Jesus taught that whatever we do to and for anyone else, we do to and for Jesus.
Now, I have often heard people tell stories about those serendipity moments when you suddenly discover a random connection linking you to anotherANDclaim that the world is getting smaller. That happened to me when I was talking with the elder volunteer in the gift shop at Heifer Ranch in Arkansas … who said she was from a small town just North of Phila. Saying I, too, lived just North of Phila … I soon learned that this woman was born and raised right here in Sellersville!!!
These moments just reinforce for me that our world isn’t getting smaller but much LARGER … enriched by the many narratives that connect us together as friends and family in Christ.
Like a fine tapestry made up of many and varied beautiful threads … our lives are an intricate intertwining of narrative stories that connect us more fully and with our God. Never pass up an opportunity to share yours!!! AMEN!!!