Matthew 5: 1-9

5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

3 You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4 You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

Have you ever wondered why God used the word family as a description of us being a part of Him? We are a part of the family of God.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on the holidays we just had. As pastors December is always an exciting and busy month. I always wonder why we do so many things, but when I reflect, there is nothing I want to stop doing. Especially now as my children are all over the place experiencing the newness of adulthood having fun with new loves, friendships and adventures, I love the holidays even more having my children all together.

But with family always comes stuff. As a young person I remember some crazy family gatherings. I always wondered why certain family members were not with us, or the issues that kept them away. Yet when we did all come together, us kids always had a blast. Cousin time was the best.

Family is unique. We yearn to be a part of a family. The traditional Norman Rockwell picture of a large family all around the dinner table is such a desire for so many. We yearn to be in a family, to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. When I think of the different cultures and how they experience the holidays or family coming together I love it. Most other cultures are louder than mine, with all night gatherings, music and traditions. My one daughter is married to a black man and my other daughter in a relationship with a hispanic man. Their holidays were so much fun, loud and long. While my husband and I were asleep before they even got started. But we are drawn to our families, with their traditions and yearn for that sense of connection and joy.

Let’s think through Matthew 5 and the Beatitudes. Where else, outside of family predominantly, do we get to practice being poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers? We get to be full of flavor, be a light  and show lovingkindness in not doing corrupt things but instead sacrificially loving. When my mom wants to talk politics and knows I don’t, I get to practice love, practice listening and being present for her. In my family a lot of people just want to be heard. I’m practicing being a peacemaker, practicing being meek and pure in heart. It can be very difficult at times.

I think this is why we were put in families. This is our first place where we get to practice total surrender of our wants and in turn to learn how to love one another. We are blessed in our families when we care.

It’s the same in the church. Here we get the privilege of being in God’s family, with all of our differences, cultures, hurts, habits and hangups in the language of Celebrate Recovery. Often we come from a broken home where there was pain. Hope of Jesus draws us to him and into His family.  

Often this family can resemble our genetic family. We bring our past right into our present Church family. I’ve seen people be saved by grace and then leave because they did not experience grace and have no clue how to give it. Practicing being nice takes work. Practicing how to fight fair, practicing what we read about in the beatitudes takes laying down our pride, insecurities, and immaturity and meditating on the One who put us in the family and called us.

Then there are those of us who are in a genetic or adoptive family, church family and also a denominational family. Being in a denomination gives us another spot to learn to love one another as Christ loves us. We are broad in our cultures, and the RCA is trying to grow that width of diversity. We are broad in our thinking and broad in our styles of worship. This diversity in thought and style can cause division and pain. Break up a family. We are given the beautiful gift of getting to practice the scriptures. When we practice we grow. And for some reason, I don’t just get to practice in my family. I get to also practice in my church and now in my denomination. I sometimes wonder if the Holy Spirit knows how much practice I need, which is why my area of practicing keeps growing.

This is the gift of family. We work through stuff. We in the RCA are a family. Our family is in pain and they need us to be poor in spirit, pure in heart, meek, merciful, peacemakers, help them mourn, and be the light. We can hunger and thirst for righteousness and still bring flavor, salt, to our family.
So, as a family, let’s not forget to be in prayer. Maybe we are at the end of our rope, maybe we feel we have lost what is dear to us. Let’s be embraced by the One most dear to us. Maybe we have not been the characteristics we see here in Matthew 5. Maybe somewhere in our hearts we hate the “other” maybe discouraged and don’t want to love, let’s be humble in spirit and ask our Lord to show us how to cooperate with one another.

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