October 2, 2016 / FAMILY OF GOD / Sara Wolbrecht / 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
So – any kids in the room, this morning? I am so glad kids are in the room with us! Kids, listen up, I’m going to talk a little bit to everyone, including you. And I want you to listen closely, because there will be two things for you to do (which I think will be fun) after I’m done talking. So listen, and I’ll check in with you near the end, ok? Ok.
We wanted to sing that song today – because HELLO it talks about God and football. Oh man. But what’s interesting is the language – that like many many songs we sing in church, it refers to God as our what? Our Father. And God IS our Father, and our mother and parent and Creator and so so many other things. Especially when we look at what the bible actually says.
One of the ways in which the Bible is phenomenal is that it gives us all kinds of language and metaphor and insight and perspective and experience around who God is. And then also who we are. Like, God our “Father”, and we as God’s kids. If you've been around the church for some of your life, much of this language has become really normal. Made into bumper stickers and coffee mugs. But today I want to take a moment in the midst of a Seahawks game to spend some time in one of the most profound ways in which we understand who God is and who we are.
And yes, it absolutely fits as a necessary piece of this journey we are on this fall here at Salt House this conversation around BECOMING WE, how we love God and love ourselves and love our neighbor well. And it is simply this: that we are all a part of the Family of God. We catch moments of this language in the Old and the New Testament. I want to share just one snippet where Paul mentions it in passing in 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul writes:
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NIV) Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia.
So in this correspondence, this letter written to folks who were new Jesus-followers in the city of Thessalonica, this “God’s family” language names how this community of people that was connected across the middle east – that they already saw themselves as God’s family, as children of God.
Which is a really, really, really big deal. In the ancient middle east, your family means everything – it defines who you are. Your name, your identity. Family defines your work, your vocation: whatever your father or mother did: that would be your occupation, too. You would stay with your family your whole life – in the same house, on the same land. (Women would leave to go marry someone, but then they’d stay with that family).
Which is why Jesus has such tenderness and love and fights for justice especially for widows and orphans – for people who do not have the societal family structure around them anymore – they practically have nothing if they don’t have family. To be an orphan or widow was a death sentence.
So yeah, we sing, it’s my Father’s house. But holy cow! This is a big deal! Again – we see it on bumper stickers, but it names a deeper reality that we know to be true: that somehow we belong to God, God gives us our identity. And that it isn’t just a “God and me” connection, but a “God and we” connection. That everyone is in and connected deeply at the core of who we are – connected to all humanity. And when we let that phrase, family of God, take us down deep to that place of intuitive awareness…yes. Oh, yes, that absolutely feels, seems, we experience it as true. This deep belong to God. Amazing.
And yet I want to name two ways in which I think we really really struggle to fully experience this reality. How many folks walk into school or work, and you’re thinking, “I am totally a part of the family of God.” It’s just not there with us during the week. I’m going to name two ways in which we struggle to own this, and then invite us into an activity to have fun and meaning with over the course of the second half of the game. OK?
For the first one, I invite you to close your eyes. Imagine now, that God sees you – sees all of you, your body, spirit, the things you did and didn’t do this week. And imagine God saying, with such delight: Oh, I love the way I made you. You. Just you. The way you are. …Breathe in that affirmation. Because this is how God sees us – like that parent who proudly pulls out their phone to scroll through picture after picture of their kids, with story after story – God would totally bore someone with proud stories of you, this is what God does because God delights in you. But my friends, We struggle to own this beloved identity. To remember it. To know that we truly are children of God.
And so here’s your assignment. We’re going to make a big ol’ display of faces. A wall of family portraits, of God’s family portraits. But instead of photos, we’re going to each draw a picture of ourselves. When is the last time you made a self-portrait? Well, today is your day. It can be realistic or not. It can be as simple or detailed as you wish. Your face, your whole body, your torso. But today, we spend a few minutes noticing our selves, capturing ourselves on paper, and celebrating that we are part of God’s family.
That’s the first point and assignment. The second, is that we struggle to see that everyone, everyone, everyone is included in the radical welcome and love of God that we know as God’s family.
And so, listen closely, our second assignment is to draw a second portrait. Of someone else. Someone who is also included in the Family of God. It can be someone who we need to remind ourselves of – to extend grace to them (maybe because they’re difficult or mean to us at school or we fight a lot, or they’re running for president and yes even THEY are part of God’s family (are we preaching now)). Or it can be someone who we want to lift in prayer – someone who we wish KNEW they were included in the family of God.
So kids: do you know what you’re doing? What two things we all get to do together?
So two drawings for us to make. Pens and crayons and pencils are around – get up and find what you need. Have fun and take care and intention with this. No art skills required. And then when you’re done, at any point, please come post it up here. As together, we make a big ol’ wall of God’s family.
Let’s pray – God, we thank you that we’re all a part of your family. That you ground us in who we really are, as your beloved kids, and that nothing we say or do can ever ever take away the love and grace and forgiveness you give us.
God, as we turn now to the Holy Communion, where we grab hold of bread and the cup that give us the physical reminders of how you, God, give us what we need – and you meet us as we are, with grace, with love, with gratitude. May this meal and may our time drawing, that we may sink more deeply into your love and acceptance for us, so that we may live with radical love and acceptance for all. Amen.