We are the family of God…Yes! Rev. Phil Hagen Sunday, May 11th, 2008 Read John 20:19-23 It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the summer of ’90. In 1990, my mother, my two brothers, and I took a family vacation from California to Colorado and Wyoming to visit out cousins. It was the four of us with my mom driving our vintage 1988 Volkswagen Van. We stopped in little towns such as Winnemucca, Nevada on our way to Denver and Laramie. We learned practically every word to every Bonnie Rait song on our mother’s tape on that trip. To say we were a little stir crazy in a time before I-pods and portable DVD players was an understatement. Despite Bonnie Rait and the long drive, my mother, brothers, and I still look fondly on that trip as a time we really became a loving family. Today is Pentecost, Confirmation Sunday, and Mother’s Day and what better way to talk about families as an image of the church than on this day. As we explore the image of the family of God, remember apart we can do nothing but together we are family of God. So what makes the church the family of God? One way the church is the family of God is because of their love for the youth of the church. Today a group of our youth will officially join the church after going through the confirmation process. This group of students has worked hard over the last four months with Marilyn Young and myself going over the Church and who makes up the family of God. Last Sunday after church the confirmation class met with the session to be examined. One of the elders on session asked the class what they would change to get more youth to come to our church. The class talked about everything from changing the Wednesday night activities to changing the Sunday school curriculum. When asked what they would keep the same about the church the class responded by saying they would keep the genuine sense of community they have with one another. They admitted that our youth group wasn’t the biggest in town but everyone enjoyed each other’s presence and respected each other. The youth were honest with the session about the importance of the family of God loving each other and being honest with one another. The meeting the youth really helped the session members to understand more about the youth’s desires and hopes for this family. The key was the youth were honest and embodied what Jesus, “You shall know the truth and it shall set you free” (John 8:32). The family of God must be loving and honest with each other. Jesus was honest with his disciples in our lesson today in showing his disciples the wounds in his hands and side (John 20:20). Honesty and love define the family of God. Apart we can do nothing but together we are family of God. Today is not just Confirmation Sunday it is also Mother’s Day. No matter whom you are, the mothers in your life have really helped to shape who you are. A family just doesn’t seem like a family if there are no mothers. Mothers do many things for us such as giving us life, giving us direction, and giving us peace. But it is important to understand that not everyone has a biological mother who cares for them and that is where the family of God here in Palatka comes into play. The “mothers of the youth group” or our female youth advisors have played an important role in the lives of the youth of this church. Rhonda Fishburn is always gracious, loving, and helpful every kid in the youth group who needs a shoulder to cry on. Marilyn Young aka Grandma, is the trusting mother which all the youth can trust and affectionately love. Susan Van Epps is not only the mother of Caitlin Benson but she has taught most of our youth growing up in Sunday school over the years. Susan’s helpful ideas and thoughts about sharing the love of Christ have shaped a generation of young people in our church. Last but not least Sherry Mills
has become the fun-loving but honest mother to some youth who don’t have any guidance from their own biological mothers. Sherry seems many times to be just one of the kids and I know Charli and all the youth of the church appreciate Sherry’s caring attitude. Each of these mothers of the youth group has helped the youth of our church become part of the family of God. Just as the female youth advisors have been a mother to our youth so too has Jesus intended to be a loving mother to us all. Jesus exclaims, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood” (Matt.22:37). Jesus wants us to all know the love of the family of God and in the scripture from John today Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples, giving them new life and new hope. Apart we can do nothing but together we are the family of God. We are the family of God by our love and through the help of the mothers in our lives but the question still arises, who is in the family of God? We are all members of the family of God, no matter what. Many times we want to place limits or rules on who can be in the family of God but God calls us all to be part of God’s family. About a two weeks ago on a Wednesday night at Logos a family came in need of gas, food, and shelter. Their story seemed very similar to other families we have helped in the past. After I had talked to this family we drove up to the William Penn Hotel and we helped them get a place to sleep and some money for gas. When I was talking to the father of this family originally from Indiana, he said that he had grown up Presbyterian all his life and actually sang in the choir for many years. He felt finding a Presbyterian Church in the area would provide him the help he needed because he always felt as part of the family of God in the Presbyterian Church. Friends, we are all part of this family of God. Today is Pentecost Sunday or the birth of the church when a group of disciples who were altogether different became one through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made this group of individuals into the family of God which is the Church. Ultimately, in order to be part of God’s family you must forgive. God’s family is built around love and as Jesus left his disciples he ordered them to forgive the sins of others and their sins would be forgiven. Pentecost and the birthday of the Church isn’t about wearing red, speaking in tongues, or anything else other than being the family of God. We have many opportunities to be part of different families. Some families are very honest with each other; some families rely on “other mothers” to help them; still some families are called to forgive. Remember this: apart we can do nothing but together we are the family of God. Amen. Let us pray… Gracious Lord, we are all seeking to belong to one group or another in our lives. We are member of sports teams, community groups, work groups, etc. But the most important group we could ever be apart of in our lives is to be a part of the family of God, your family. Help us Jesus to let your Spirit fall down upon here today in this space so we can again live as the family of God. Amen.