Sunday, May 10, 2020

Christians & Family & Sunday

As many of you as were baptized into Christ 
have clothed yourselves with Christ. 
 There is no longer Jew or Greek, 
there is no longer slave or free, 
there is no longer male and female; 
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:27-28 (NRSV)

Christian Family Sunday. Given that most of us struggle to remember what day of the week we're experiencing I consider it a public service to let you know that this is the first day of week nine of the COVID-19 shutdown here in Ontario. At Trenton United our last communal worship service was eight weeks ago, March 15th. That morning we distanced rather awkwardly, afterward the board wisely decided to shut down until April 5th (we wish!) then the United Church declared a denomination-wide moratorium on gathering for what most of us have been able to take for granted for a lifetime. 

We still aren't permitted to gather but I'll remind you that in the United Church we generally acknowledge Mother's Day, and I know that our pastor loves his mother dearly. For the past 40 years, roughly, we have placed a greater emphasis on being part of a Christian family which welcomes people of all ages and without emphasis on any pre-conceived notion of what it means to belong. I've always valued this approach as gospel, and perhaps the emphasis of the earliest creed of the church. 

The Forgotten Creed - Stephen J. Patterson - Oxford University Press

I'm currently reading a book entitled The Forgotten Creed: Christianity's Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery, & Sexism by Stephen Patterson. He argues that a few verses in the book of the New Testament called Galatians may well be a creed which predated anything written by the apostle Paul, but incorporated in this letter. Patterson suggests that Paul includes this baptismal affirmation which is a radical statement of inclusion, unprecedented in the ancient world.  

I grew up in the United Church and in the 1950's it was a given that a family included a mom and a dad and some configuration of kids. Spinsters and bachelors were okay, but we should feel somewhat sorry that they'd missed the family boat. Gay people? Not in our churches. Gay couples, perhaps with children? Our Father Knows Best heads would explode. 

Over the passage of time we've wrestled with what it means to belong within the Christian family and along the way there have been embarrassing face plants and ugly family feuds. It hasn't been pretty, but we've done our best to find our way toward acceptance and inclusion, by the grace of God. Do I remember the full church and overflowing Sunday school of childhood fondly? Mostly, but who felt left out? . I figure that our understanding of who belongs is more fulfilling, more mature. 

One day we will gather again on a Sunday to be the Christian Family, or I hope we will. There is something about being together, realizing that each person in our circle of worship and prayer and praise is precious, for which we hunger. I hope we come back with a renewed commitment to radical hospitality as Jesus people. 

Well, this isn't the blog entry I started out to write, strangely enough, and it's become a sermon (sorry,)I'd like to believe that the first creed of the church which breaks down unhelpful distinctions and dicotomies could be a theme for our day. Perhaps we could sing a verse or two of the hymn Part of the Family, or at least hum a few bars.

To those readers who are moms, happy Mother's Day! For the rest of you, wherever you are, consider yourselves loved and accepted in Christ. 

Come in, come in and sit down,
you are a part of the family.
We are lost and we are found,
and we are a part of the family.

1 You know the reason why you came,
yet no reason can explain;
so share in the laughter and cry in the pain,
for we are a part of the family.  R

2 God is with us in this place,
like a mother's warm embrace.
We're all forgiven by God's grace,
for we are a part of the family.  R

3 There's life to be shared in the bread and the wine;
we are the branches, Christ is the vine.
This is God's temple, it's not yours or mine,
but we are a part of the family.  R

4 There's rest for the weary and health for us all;
there's a yoke that is easy, and a burden that's small.
So come in and worship and answer the call,

for we are a part of the family.  R

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