And I want to talk about three stages in the history of the family
And I am very grateful to an American preacher called John Ortberg for a lot of what I am going to say today.
Ortberg, identifies the first moment in the history of the family in heaven:
Three Critical Moments In The History of the Family
Imagine one day, that God is with his angels, and he says to his angels, I have an idea, I am going to create a family.
And an angel says “What is it?”
And God says “I am very excited about this idea.”
“Of course I am excited about all my ideas,
One of the great things about being God is that never have a bad idea
But this one’s kind of unique,
The Family is the going to be the way that I connect people
A binding together in love
And is going to work like this
Adult people are going to sign up to take care of a tiny little stranger.
“Are they going to get paid?”
“No, actually that little stranger is going to cost them a lot of money
More than that, that little stranger isn’t going to be able to talk at first
It will just cry and scream and you’ll have to guess why
It will make messes all the time that you have to clean up
It will be really vulnerable, you will have to watch that kid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Then when it’s two that little stranger will be able to say words like
“No” and “Mine” and it will throw tantrums, and then I thinking about inventing puberty, and I’m not too sure about that thing yet
But if they do, they will get strange thing called hormones, changes will come over their body
Pimples will come out, their voices will crack, their limbic systems will melt down,
Then, they’ ll grow up and just when they are mature and interesting and able to contribute they’ll move away
That’s the idea, what do you all think
Lord, no-one’s going to sign up for that, no-ones going to get excited about that
Why would they do that
And here’s where God really gets excited, here’s the cool part
They won’t even know why,
They’ll look down at the little body, those little hands, those little feet
And they’ll think that that tiny little stranger is beautiful
Even though he looks like every other little baby
And every other little baby looks like Winston Churchill
And then one day that little stranger will smile, just for them
And they’ll think they’ve won the lottery, they won’t have words to describe it
And one day that little stranger will say “Dada” “Mama”
It will say “Dada” first, because Daddy’s are so sacrificial and noble, and Mum’s are good too,
And one day those arms will open up and wrap themselves round that neck
And that day, they will sense why arms and legs got made
And what it’s all about in this sneaky kind of a way
It’s just about grace,
Those core thing in the universe.
And those children, they will be in families, And they will hate their families
Their Mum will be intrusive, always asking questions, to which the answer is always “fine”, and “can’t remember”
And Dad will be embarrassing, and crack bad jokes
And older sisters will be patronising and superior
And younger brother will be annoying and immature
But one day at school she will hear that that younger brother is being bullied
And she will march up to the bullies at playtime
And tell the bullies, that if they mess with him,
They mess with her.
But one day when a relationship has broken up, they will call Mum
And one day when they move to a new city, they will stay with older sister
And one day when they get married, they will be next to Dad.
The family is this reflection of the Father
This bond kind of reflects God
For this reason, says Paul in Ephesians 3,
I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes it’s name.
The kind of ideal family, reflects God.
The Family Goes Wrong
The Bible roots its story in the story of dysfunctional family.
Things start going wrong for them, when they were clothes,
Or rather the clothes go on, when something goes wrong inside of them
A rebellion, a twistedness,
But this shows up in the family putting on clothes.
The clothes are sign, that the members of the family are a little bit scared of each other.
What are the clothes about, they are about hiding,
Because you have the power to hurt me.
I have noticed with children, that round about the same time that they don’t like strangers to see them naked
Is round about the same time, they are frightened of strangers.
And the family that is fearful
Blames the other members of the family for its pain.
And what do families do that are frightened
They blame their mistakes on each other
“They screw you up, your Mum and Dad” as Philip Larkin once put it.
What the family does is it takes it out on each other.
You see this with the first family.
God comes into the garden, and sees Adam and Eve wearing clothes
God turns to Adam, have you eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
And what Adam needs to say at that moment, one word “yes”
But the words is “The woman”, “whom you gave me” gave me the fruit,
And I ate.
And this moment of fear
And this moment of blame
And Cain murders Abel
And Ham sneaks up on his naked drunk father Noah
And Abraham cannot have children, so he father’s Ishmael, who teases his little brother Isaac
And Jacob and Esau come out the womb wrestling, striving with one another
And Jacob’s family dynamic is based on competition, favouritism, competitive child production,
And Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery
And this pain, this pain spirals out,
And this pain goes through David and Bathsheba
And into Jesus’ own family, where the family Joseph and Mary have to explain that Mary is expecting a son and Joseph is not the father
And if you think that the problems in Jesus family are only about reputation
Then look at the number of times that Jesus is in disagreement with his parents, his mother, or his brothers and sisters.
But we in the Church have not been good at such imperfect f
When I do funeral tributes in Cambuslang for people who are in their seventies and eighties. People who got married round about the 1950s, and you do the family tree, “Where were you married”
And if they say “Glasgow Registry Office” or “Martha Street”
Then you can tell almost exactly how the next two questions are going to go.
and you say “When were they married?”
And then you do the birth dates of the children, and you say who is the oldest,
And you get the date, and then you do a bit of maths
And you are shocked, because I thought pre-marital sex wasn’t invented in 1950, it came along about 10 years later,
Almost half I would say, of the funerals for people in that situation is of that order.
And the odd thing about this emphasis
Families have never conformed to the norm, then you don’t go to Church.
Or you are allowed back into the Church, once you have shown suitable sorrow
You see that with Sarah Palin’s daughter, make amends by getting married
But what is odd, is that such broken families
May not be allowed into the Church, but you would find a home in the Bible
And the Church not a place where smug, contented families can get together
And advertise their smugness, their contentedness,
Their togetherness, their loveliness
To other smug, contented, together, lovely families
Because our heritage, is this brokenness,
So tonight we are going to show that if you have a problem in your family, you don’t have to go to Martha Street.
Ever been in a family where there were drinking problems
Where there was a betrayal of trust
Or experimenting with drugs
Or an unwanted pregnancy,
Or angry bitter words got spoken on regular occasions through clenched teeth
Where Mum or Dad felt they had failed in their career
Or in their finances
Where kids got into huge amounts of debt and had to be bailed out
Where children had to go one day to court and Mum and Dad had to watch them there
Where two people tried for years and years and spent a fortune on IVF and then one day had to come to the painful realisation that this is not going to happen
Where parents have invested a fortune in tutors, only for all the exams to still be failed
Where the parent is regularly called up to school because the child has been excluded again
Or where a disability has placed huge pressure on finances
Or people that come to Church but have a spouse that stays at home
Or a married couple that look together and sit together but they have not been together for months
Young people who have never been asked on a date, and feel like a loser
Or people who have been through the pain of divorce
Or people who have never been married and wonder if you have to be married to be an insider
People who carry a secret and the guilt eats at them, and nobody knows
Parents who feel like a failure
Sons or daughters who feel like they have disappointed
Or parents that never see their children
Or brothers or sisters that haven’t spoken to each other in years
Stand up if your family has ever been affected by any of these things
Such families are not Martha Street families, they are Church families
This is your Church, where you take your place with Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Ishmael, And Jacob and Esau, and Noah and his sons, and Adam and Even, and David and Bathsheba, and Queen Esther and Mary and Joseph and Jesus.
Moment In The House
The third movement in the history of the family is when this gets reclaimed.
The body of the broken.
There is a moment in house,
When Jesus does something about the family,
He calls it back to itself
But with him at the central point
Its family mark II
And it is the family that welcomes back in all those who stand
It is a family where a model family where the daughter is unwell
And a single woman who has been ill for years will be called together
And a woman with five husbands
And a woman who has had a history of disturbing behaviour
And two brothers with bad tempers
And a mother and a son who are not related
And later on it will be slaves and their masters
And Greeks and Romans,
And men and women
Drawn together in a new family
A family that draws the outsider, and the failure
And the one’s whom the world says “You too should not get along”
And they say “We are sisters”
And the moment, is when Jesus is in a house
It happens in a house
And he is teaching
And someone says “Your Mother and brothers and sisters are outside”
And he says “Who are my Mother and my brothers and my sisters,
Anyone who does the will of God my Father, is my brother and sister and mother”
That Jesus is dismissive of his own family is not the only scandal in this text.
The second scandal is Jesus’ unfettered self-belief – he has the ability to bring about a family whose bonds are even tighter than the families of earth.
And the reason he knows he can do this, is because the family was his idea.