Let us pray: Dear Savior, how wonderful it is to know that we’re a part, the most important part, of Your family. Each of us belongs to You and is related to each other through You. Each of us has countless brothers and sisters who care about us, pray for us, help us in need, and lend a ready ear when we need to confide. And over this blessed family of faith is Your love, care, compassion, and Your undying grace. Yes, Lord, we’re never alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS!
TEXT: I John 3: 1-2
Dearly Beloved By Our Big Brother, Jesus Christ:
How big is your family? Well, it depends upon exactly how you define a family. If you’re single, you have a family of one, and then you probably include parents and siblings as well. If you’re married, your family is at least 2; and then there’s also the children if you’ve been so blest. I suppose most people would include aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews in what is called: the extended family. The point is: our families are where our are hearts and our love reside. They are the people closest to us.
Of course, we all have relatives who are not close and some we’d even like to disown at times. These people are “family” but really not so much. For our hearts are not as directly tied to them. All our parents would move heaven and earth to save their child, but might well ignore the relative who’s in prison and shows no remorse over committing murder. Yes, family is where our love resides, isn’t it?
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It’s the one Sunday where Christ is portrayed as the Good Shepherd of His flock, us, the Holy Christian Church. Our epistle from St. John’s 1st letter likens all this unto a family. A family based on God’s love for us in Christ. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
FAITH IS THICKER THAN BLOOD! That’s really what John is saying here. Faith in Christ is what makes each of us a member of God’s extended family. Faith is the glue that binds us to Him. From God’s perspective, He binds us to Himself through grace, His boundless love for us. Earthly families sometimes run out of love. Sometimes people say hurtful things to siblings, do things to hurt parents, or turn their backs on those they grew up with. Then, such families are fractured, torn apart, because our love for each other is not boundless. But even though we all treat God like dirt at times and play in the mud of this world, His love for us will still, always, remain intact. Think of the story of the prodigal son who did just that to his father. And at the end of the tale, the father is still waiting, looking forward to that son’s return to the family. And when it comes, he welcomes him literally with open arms! That’s our God! That’s how much He loves us in Christ! Yes, God’s family is fueled by His boundless love that never quits, never, ever, ever! And if you doubt that, just look at the cross and look at the empty tomb. There’s you’re proof of God’s grace.
Notice how John says that not only should we be called children of God, but “that is what we are!” We’re blood-bought direct descendants of God Almighty! This isn’t just flowery language, this is our ongoing, living reality. I say this on account of Christ’s own words: “Because I live, you will live also.”
The world at large scoffs at all this. They don’t recognize the family of God. They cannot understand how faith can be thicker than blood. So, for all their pompous talk about their togetherness as families, who they often treat with disrespect and harshness, the world cannot fathom the depth of true, unselfish love, Christian love. Thus, they put all their emotional eggs in one basket, the basket of human bloodlines, which are cut off as soon as they die. Whereas we put our eggs into the basket of God’s grace, which never dies and even becomes more apparent after we leave this world and heaven embraces us!
John addresses this fact now as he writes: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
A few years ago I had the privilege of officiating at the funeral of a little baby boy. Little Isaac was born on Palm Sunday and died just a few hours later. I carefully searched for a text to convey the true meaning of his life and that moment in time to his parents and extended Church family. Finally I hit on this passage from Proverbs: “the day of death is better than the day of birth.” Little Isaac got to experience both on the same day! He not only saw and felt the warmth of his earthly loved ones, he also felt the embrace of Christ and all the saints via his baptism on the exact same day! Of all the people I’ve known, I’d have to say Isaac was the most blest! To paraphrase St. John, unlike us, Isaac didn’t have to wait for his future to be made known! Quickly after birth he saw Christ and was “like him” transported by faith into the aura of God’s boundless love.
As God’s family on this earth, we all need to treat each other with the respect, dignity, compassion, and tenderness that our Savior has for us. We’re baptized! We’re God’s children! Why would we ever want to renounce His birthright? So, take your time of grace and truly get to know each other. Talk to each other. Sit with each other. Share with each other. Be involved with each other’s lives. Act who and what you are: children of God. Yes, even value your church relationships more than you value your human familial ones! For church relationships last not just a lifetime but forever. And above all, never forget: Faith is thicker than blood. Amen