Someone posted a saying on Facebook the other day: “Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out.” For better or worse, we have been formed by those who raised us. Their influence shows up in our life, both in positive and negative ways. As a parent, its sobering to ask myself: How am I forming my kids? What Dad-isms will come out of their mouths when they are parents?
Several weeks ago the country said goodbye to a woman loved and respected around the world, Barbara Bush. One of her sayings that has been circulating:
You must read to your children and you must hug your children and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.
Isn’t that the truth? A family, it’s said, is the basic unit of society, and so instability in the larger society is generally a reflection of the way things are going with families. We need renewed attention at home.
Last week, one symptom of short-sighted thinking was neglecting important things, because of urgent things. There are no lack of “urgent” demands to keep us running crazy; but home is very often where the most important things are. God has given us very important “homework.”
This series: What is the work God has for us at home as a family member? I invite you to give thought to the family you were adopted into, married into, and born into. If you aren’t a parent (or currently raising children), don’t think you’re off the hook—we’re going to look at a variety of roles and responsibilities that go well beyond parenthood.
To get started, I want to introduce the concept of vocation (not to be confused with vacation). We generally use the word to describe a person’s career or occupation, but the word is richer than that: Vocation is the Latinate form of the English word “calling.” Originally, to talk of “vocation” was to talk of God’s calling—and that being ‘calling’ in the biblical sense, which is not usually about a person’s career.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Vocation, not to be confused with vacation.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
Scripture speaks often of God’s calling; mostly it is not about specific careers or ministries, but rather about living according to the example of Jesus in whatever situation they are in (persecuted, slave, married, single, a widow, a prisoner, etc.). In other words, vocation isn’t about climbing the ladder of success, it’s about living out God’s call on whatever rung you stand on.
And so, family vocation: What does it mean to live out God’s call as a parent (if you are a parent), grandparent, wife, husband, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin? .
In all of our family roles, sometimes we can forget God’s calling that is on those in such positions. (ex: Being a son / daughter is not just something you are, God has expectations for you.) Or, sometimes we focus on one role to the neglect of others. (ex: Parents, unless single, it’s not just about raising kids; you are also a husband / wife. God has a special way of working through these roles.
Be the Neighbor
Be the Neighbor
Jesus tells a story (well-known to us) about ‘loving your neighbor as yourself,’ and it impresses on us the concept of vocation. It is not directly a passage on family roles—in fact, it takes us well beyond family. But, it may be that we need our thinking shifted even when it comes to our nearest neighbors, the ones we sit around the kitchen table with.
Read and briefly comment
vs. 29 - There may not be such a thing as a bad question, but there are questions that reveal bad thinking—this is one of those. This man is concerned with who qualifies to be loved and served.
Does your thinking ever get that way? Who qualifies for love and service? Who deserves it? Do you ever withhold kindness, help, affection, mercy with a family member because they are (in your view) not doing / being who you want them to be? Sometimes, we keep a record of wrongs, resentment creeps in, and coldness moves in where love should be.
For this man, the half-breed Samaritans were the ones to whom “love your neighbor” did not apply. Jesus does a couple of things with the story:
re-characterizes the resented person, because we don’t always see people rightly—sometimes it’s the log in our own eye that is the real problem.
re-words the misguided question, because a “neighbor” is not a ‘qualifying person’ as much as a vocation. In other words, you don’t just have neighbors (thay you may or may not like). You are called to be the neighbor who loves.
A neighbor is not someone who somehow qualifies to be served (it’s that kind of thinking that gets us asking the wrong question: Who is my neighbor?). A neighbor is someone who does his/her God-given assignment in whatever situation you are in. (The proper question: What is my God-assigned responsibility?
In my experience, sometimes I can think of family positions (father, husband, son) as positions of entitlement. And there are certainly benefits that come with each of those, but they are not primarily about that: each position in the family is a vocation with God-assigned responsibility.
The question is “Who will prove to be the kind of father / mother / son / daughter / brother / sister that God calls you to be?
We are going to look more in-depth at these various family roles, but this story gives us the fundamental nature of what God expects: love and service.
“Love gives more than fairness requires.”
Be the neighbor who loves like this Samaritan! Be the father… be the daughter… be the husband… be the grandson… be the sister who loves and serves. That is your God-assigned “home” work.
Prove Your Name
Prove Your Name
The last thing I want to do today or throughout this series is pile guilt on you (or me). Family life is beautiful and messy. Families are often broken, and none of us have a picture-perfect or ‘normal’ family. I want, rather, to (1) encourage us to live as God calls us in whatever our family situation is, and (2) to assert that I believe the church can be the place of strong families.
Vocation refers to God’s calling. God calls us to live a certain way in the situation we are in. In
Becoming a Christian means bringing what one is into the service of God, circumcision, uncircumcision, slavery, freedom, or whatever.
The concept of family is being seriously eroded, dangerously eroded in our society. Strong families are needed. And, you could say, strong families run in your family.
Some of us are more familiar than others with our ancestry (they have an app for it now). I was talking with a friend last weekend who traced his ancestry way back, only to discover a seriously unimpressive lineage!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
I’ve long puzzled over this. What does this mean, God’s naming of every family? Naming was very significant in the ancient world. As I understand it, to give a name was to claim paternity and assert authority. In other words, God is the parent of every family and is the proper and final authority over each one. Ancestry.com won’t take you back that far, but the Bible does.
It’s not necessary that we analyze this to death, but rather, we marvel at the thought. God is the parent of my family. He claims us. He’s the Patriarch.
My son had a school assignment to track down and tell the story of a family member who was an immigrant to America. He chose his great-great grandfather, Fedele Mascientonio, who came from Italy and arrived in the US July 3, 1896. His parents couldn’t afford to get the whole family here, so they sent my great grandfather when he was 19 along with his two younger brothers (17 and 15). The rest of the family was never able to come. Before the three boys left Italy, there daddy told them: “Prove your name. Represent us well.”
I hear the echo of Paul on his knees before The Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”… and I realize that it’s his name that is to be represented my family. His is the heritage I’ve been handed. His self that is to be resembled. His is the name to be proved.
In other words, it’s possible (in fact, it’s God’s intent) that as we live daily life among our families, you and I will open our mouths, and our Father will come out.