The Forming Family

A Sermon for 11 September 2016 – Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans Service

(NOTE:  The NRSV Scripture reading below has pronunciation hints included for some of the difficult names listed.  Use them to aid you in your reading and not just skip over the gospel writer’s message of a very important heritage!  If you stumble over any of the names below, call to mind names in your own family line — perhaps unique family names passed on through the years.  Let all those ole’ family names surround you to steep you in your own long, proud lineage!)

A reading from the gospel of Luke 3:23-38. Listen for God’s word to us.

“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli [Heé-lie], son of Matthat [Máth-that], son of Levi, son of Melchi [Mél-kigh], son of Jannai [Ján-nigh], son of Joseph, son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum [Náy-humm], son of Esli [éS-lie], son of Naggai [Náy-guy], son of Maath [Máh-ahth], son of Mattathias, son of Semein [Sah-máy-in], son of Josech [Jóe-zech], son of Joda [Jóe-dah], son of Joanan [Joe-án-nan], son of Rhesa [Reá-sah], son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel [Shih-áll-te-al], son of Neri [Nár-rye], son of Melchi [Mél-kigh], son of Addi [Áh-die], son of Cosam [Có-sam], son of Elmadam [El-ma’dám], son of Er [Air], son of Joshua, son of Eliezer [El-ee-á-zar], son of Jorim [Jóe-rim], son of Matthat [Máth-that], son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam [Jóan-ham], son of Eliakim [El-ee-á-kum], son of Melea [Mah-láy-ah], son of Menna [Mén-nah], son of Mattatha [Máh-tah-tha], son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala [Sáh-lah], son of Nahshon [Náy-shan], son of Amminadab [Ah-mín-ah-dab], son of Admin [Ád-min], son of Arni [Ár-nigh], son of Hezron, son of Perez [Pée-rezz], son of Judah, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor [Náh-hor], son of Serug [Sáir-rug], son of Reu [Rue], son of Peleg [Péll-leg], son of Eber [Éb-ber], son of Shelah [Shéll-lah], son of Cainan [Káy-nann], son of Arphaxad [Ar-fáx-add], son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech [Láh-meck], son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel [Mah-háh-lah-lel], son of Cainan [Kén-nann], son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.”

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!


I heard a quotable quote this week. It stated: “Your life will be determined over the next five years by the books you read and the people you hang around” (Jim Rohn, source unknown). It was the second time I heard that sentiment this week. During an interview, an inspirational speaker said something like: who you love and spend your time with drastically impacts who you end up becoming. . . . It gives us pause to consider the people who are around us each day. They affect us – for good or ill. Think about it: if you are a young child who spends each day in a classroom of an angry, bitter, cutting teacher; I dare say you’re going to face pretty significant problems. If you are a teenager who surrounds yourself with other teens that try really hard to make a positive difference in the world; then even if it’s against your own will, it’s likely you’ll be pulled along to find yourself helping out others a little bit each day. If you are a grown adult who always is alone, your own mind may take over – leaving you in a state of constant worry, causing you to think you don’t matter to anybody else in the world, or maybe over-inflating how wonderful you may think you are. But if you surround yourself with friends who make you laugh, co-workers who encourage you instead of compete, family members interested in knowing more about what really matters to you; then it’s likely your life will grow into a garden of great joy. For you not only will love and cherish yourself. You’ll find yourself grateful for the amazing people with you on the journey. You will become someone who makes others laugh, encourages instead of competes, and wants to know more about what really matters to others. Your life will blossom to bring a beautiful fragrance to the world.

Though two of the New Testament gospels give the genealogical ancestry of Jesus, we are left to speculate about who surrounded him those first thirty years of his life. Before he stepped out into the Jordan River to be baptized by John; who greatly impacted his life each day? He wasn’t a loner – the culture in which he lived really wasn’t set up that way as is ours. He was a part of a family – a clan of a nation that long had known tremendous upheaval. In chapter three of the gospel of Luke, he’s traced back through the one thought to be his father, named Joseph. We’re told he came from the line of King David – which was why Joseph had to take his about-to-burst pregnant wife with him to Bethlehem when the Romans wanted to count up everyone in the lands they occupied. They were to be registered, not for any sort of upcoming election. More likely it was to know how much tax the Romans could expect from each of the lands they occupied. So Joseph loyally and courageously took Mary with him – ensuring a young woman impregnated before she was properly married was not left undefended back home in Nazareth. The story goes that Mary gives birth out back in the cave for the animals in order to ensure no other travelers to Bethlehem are defiled by her unclean state that night. And, though I doubt men were involved in childbirth in those days, we like to believe that dutiful Joseph is nervously pacing right there at her side the whole way. The infant descendent of King David through his father’s line, and likely of the great line of Israel’s priests through his mother’s side, is born into humble conditions while his parents were on the move out of town.

Luke seems to tell of Jesus’ birth more from the perspective of his mother Mary – leaving out a whole lot of details about the one thought to be his father. But it is made clear that both of his parents were God-loving Jews. They saw to the Jewish rites of his naming and presentation in the Temple. Luke 2 records: “When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it was written in the law of the LORD, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the LORD), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the LORD, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22-24). Skip ahead a few years to when Jesus was twelve, and the gospel of Luke records that “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover” (Luke 2:41). They were a faithful family practicing the religious rites of their people in order to be connected with their God. . . . These parts of Jesus’ story are unique to the gospel of Luke which leaves us to wonder – especially on a day like today when we come together to celebrate our family and faith ancestry. We’ve got to wonder how much this gospel writer wanted to emphasize the importance of being grounded for our work in this world by a faithful, God-loving family.

It may not have been the case for us all. Maybe our parents were or maybe they were not God-lovers who ensured we were raised early on as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Maybe today you brought with you a tartan or other family symbol that leaves you flooded with memories of love. Maybe you are finding yourself today nourished in this time of remembrance by moments when your mom took you along to help out aging neighbors, or your father taught you how to say your prayers at night before closing your eyes to sleep. Maybe your family symbol reminds you today of the grace you experienced from a grandfather who always had a soft spot in his heart for you, no matter how you messed up in your choices. Can you recall a great-grandfather or great-grandmother who taught you how to bait a fishing hook or feed the birds in order to just enjoy the beauty of God’s amazing creation? . . . Even if the particulars aren’t the same, I hope you can dig down deep enough inside to be sustained by experiences of at least one family member who treasured you as a precious gift from God. That’s worth celebrating today. Worth giving thanks to God for being born into a circle of love that has dramatically impacted for good who you have become!

And if you were not, know all is not lost. You are here. Now. And your commitment to Christ transfers you into another family. A family that better be sustaining you and showing you every moment that you are a treasured, precious gift to this world from God! It’s so easy to lose our way, as Christ’s body, the church. To forget why we really exist. We are here together in this world to be the kind of people, to each other and to all those we meet every week, to be the kind of people who positively impact the lives of others. We are here to lift each other’s burdens, and to be examples of faithfulness even when it’s costly, and to inspire others to commit to God’s way of love. We are together to ensure no one has to try to go it alone in this life – that all are welcomed and cherished for who they are just because they are our brothers and sisters in the human family – gifts given by God to shape us more fully into that beautiful fragrance needed in the world today.

We are family to each other now – whether we have a loving biological family beside us each day too or not. We are the family of God. Sons and daughters, and siblings to one another, of the One who once took on human flesh to be about a great work in and for this world. Surrounded in such a way, it’s a joy to consider who we shall become.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.


© Copyright JMN – 2016  (All rights reserved.)

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