Faith Works 3-18-17
Family of faith, family of God, forever families
We are all born into families.
Some of us keep them, some of us leave them, some of us marry into new ones.
We seek family in everything we do. The myth of the rugged individualist swinging an axe to chop down a tree to build their own cabin is complicated by the fact that the metal axe head was dug by miners, refined by steelworkers, crafted and delivered and sold by others to a concern which had bought hickory handles elsewhere, put them together, and sold them yet again to a hardware store where it was purchased.
That brawny lumberman is part of a family even while chopping all alone. Unseen but very present is a whole cast of characters, an invisible gathering of participants, a certain choir of harmonic singers.
And most projects, our everyday work, calls for co-workers. The congregation I'm a member of has an adult Sunday school class called "Co-Workers in Christ," though they usually get called the Co-Workers Class for short. They know that in prayer and study and service they need each other.
Like most long-standing adult Sunday school classes, the Co-Workers began as a young married class. At one time, we had four adult classes, all of which were young marrieds to begin, and you could accurately guess the decade of their founding by looking at the average age of the attendees.
Married couples soon learn, if they didn't know before the wedding, that family life is not and cannot be about just two people. God bless all single parents however they came to that role, but two parent families aren't even enough. You need supporters and helpers and grandparents and aunts and uncles to raise kids, to do anything that couples and marriages and families want to be about.
We need each other in this life, and I suspect there's a reason most of our conceptions of the life to come involve reunion, and being reunited with family and friends and those we love. We need each other in the next life, and perhaps even to reach it.
Jesus talks about his Father, and Paul speaks in the earliest Christian writings as do the earlier Psalms about adoption, of how we can be not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but sons and daughters of the Most High.
In the work I do around our community I see a great deal of family fragmentation; not broken but shattered families, where children are taken from parents who are unable, incapacitated by drug use and confusion, to care for them safely. Around 400 children are in that situation right now.
Many will be a part of restoration and renewal, as their parents find a better path and families are reunited. Some few, but not few enough, will end up needing to find a forever family, an adoptive home where they can know security and stability in their growing up.
One of the more joyful experiences I've ever had in our stony old courthouse is to be present at adoption finalization hearings. Judge Hoover always tries to do it up right, making it more than just a legal event. And grim nervousness that a courtroom always evokes usually gives way to smiles and celebration. They know, these children do, that they now have a family to love and support them.
We all need that. Even when our birth family is far away, distant across the country or long enough ago in time ties have parted, we need to know whether young or old that there is someone for us.
"God-with-us" is one of the names we have for Jesus, "Emmanu-El" in Hebrew. We need to know that the arc of the universe does not bend against us, away from love, apart from family and connection. So our church families become places where we find more and more visible reminders of what God's intention for us really is; so we share with our biological families and geographical neighbors the joy that is ours in faith communities and religious connection.
Family life, the work (and it can be hard work at times!) of living together as family, is a witness. We live it out just by being a family, sometimes. The best witness is caring for one another, showing an unselfish love that is the reflection of "the love that moves the sun and other stars," God's love at work making of us all, one.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your church family at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.