At yesterday’s service I publically processed some of my thoughts from the Global Vineyard Conference, how it impacted me personally and how I think it will impact the congregation. My reflection largely revolved around the issue of family. I wanted to reformulate those thoughts into a more coherent message for our family, thus this post.
The Father and His Family
When Jesus came to the earth, he primarily revealed God as Father. We see the theme of “God as Father” in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it is rather minor and easily overshadowed by the others names/revelations of God. Jesus isolates and elevates this understanding of God, making it the basis of his ministry. He cemented this foundational understanding of how we are supposed to interact with God when he taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father…”
For a large number of us, the word “father” does not conjure up a joyous, virile and empowering image. Rather, it awakens in us a deep sadness, longing and even fear. Too many of us have had fathers who were absent, distant, abusive, cruel, disinterested, addicted, impotent or controling. Even those of us whose relationships with our dads are relatively healthy and intact still feel a gnawing emptiness, as though they were not all they were inteded to be. Very few are those who enter adulthood with a strong sense of what a father should be – an image to aspire to if one is male or someone to look for if female. Most of us are limping along, trying to do the best we can.
Therefore, when Jesus teaches us to relate to God primarily as a father, as THE Father, it is understandable that we have issues. It is all too easy to project onto God the faults and failings of our earthly dads and not look at it the other way – that God is the One who defines Fatherhood and that our dads were the ones who fell short. God is a Good Father, the Perfect Father – never cruel or manipulative, never controling or unjust. Because God can only give what he has, James (the half-brother of Jesus) declares that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly Lights.” Pretty amazing really… if something isn’t good or perfect then it isn’t from God.
If God is a Father, then we (his children) are a family. John the Apostle says that “to everyone who receives Christ, he gives the right to be reborn children of God.” As Christians, we have been adopted into the family of God – God is our Father, Jesus our Elder Brother and the rest of us siblings together.
I am going to hazard a guess that when Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, I want them to be one as you and I are one (John 17:21)” he wasn’t envisioning a suburban middle class lifestyle where we all live in seperate houses and only see each other once or twice a week. Instead, I think he was describing a heart posture of longing and delight that would have a profound effect on our lifestyle. I think he was envisioning a family – a family of God where every dividing wall of gender, race and economics is torn down and we all worship before the Throne singing “Worthy is the Lamb because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language, people and nation. You have made us a kingdom, and priests to serve our God…”
“You have made us a kingdom…” This family is also a Kingdom, a group of people who have sworn allegience to a King and who are committed to obeying him wherever they happen to currently live on the earth. This bond of obedience, of wanting to hear God and obey him, is stronger than any earthly bond (Luke 8). The Blood of the Lamb is thicker than the blood of this world and our connection to God through Jesus is more certain, more sure and more lasting than anything this world can provide. One day this world will burn away, yet the family of God, the Kingdom of God, remains.
Life in the Kingdom is simple. We eat together around a table. We work together. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We create and we party. We serve and we enjoy. We love deeply and well and we clean up our messes. Most of us do this with our biological/adoptive families, why wouldn’t we do it in Church?
For too long we have confused the American Dream of upward mobility and ever increasing possessions with the Kingdom of God. The two are not the same. I think we are due for another Reformation, another way of “doing church” that will recenter our attention on the issues of family and Father. At least, that is what I see for our congregation. Going forward, I think we will have a much more deliberate emphasis on knitting ourselves together into a family through small groups and other events. I forsee a large number of campire conversations and poutlucks in our future.