Friday, April 3, 2015
What kind of family?
Almighty God, we beseech You graciously to behold this, Your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men and to suffer death upon the Cross. Amen
What an odd prayer. On Good Friday, when we admit that our sins put Jesus on the cross, we have the nerve to pray the Father to behold us, His own family, for whom Christ was content to suffer the betrayal of friends and the suffering of wicked men to the cross. Who would want to claim such a family! Disciples who run and hide when Jesus meets the cross. People who still hide our faith and find it hard to admit we are really sinners or whose sins required death to pay their guilt.
We might have trouble connecting family to the cross, but not Jesus. From the cross He spoke to blessed Mary His mother, “Woman, here is your new son.” And to John, “Here is your mother.” From that moment on they were family.
I have to admit that if I were suffering on a cross for the sins of the world, I would not be thinking of my mom or my dad or my wife or my kids. I would be thinking of me and screaming in the pain of it all. But in the midst of the wounds He wore for the world, Jesus cannot help but think of family – and not only Mary His blessed mother but those who through His death would become His brothers and His sisters by faith, His forever family of heavenly promise.
We all have relatives we would choose to forget if we could. We do not live in picture perfect families. Every one of us suffers from some measure of dysfunction. Warts and all. That is how families come. The TV shows about family all look and sound hideous with fat and weak fathers who goof up all the time and loud domineering mothers who try to manipulate everything for themselves and deceitful, conniving children who think love has a price tag on it. As much as we hate to admit it, there may be more truth in this than we care to admit. We all have our skeletons. Can Jesus love people like us?
For surely Jesus sees accurately. He is not naive or idealistic. He knows us as we are and not as He would like to think we were. He knows us as sinners. He sees us as the screwed up dads and moms and kids we are. How could God love us? But in the moment of His greatest test and torment, when He could easily disown us and turn His back on our need, He loves us. He claims us – sins and all. He loves us and saves us even at the cost of suffering and death.
We wonder “who is my brother” – especially when family means coughing up money to bail them our or vouching for those who you know will screw up again or forgive those who will only do the same thing to you as quickly as your forgive them. We wonder about our families but we need not wonder about Jesus. He is our brother. He has shown His love for us that while we were yet sinners and enemies He died for us.
Jesus asked once “Who is My brother?” He was not asking because He did not know the answer. He was asking because we do not know the answer. Jesus is our brother not because we are worthy of Him, no, He is our brother because He has chosen to love us, to die for us, and to redeem us. Here on earth love has different forms and faces. Not with God. For God so loved means that this is how God loves – in only one way – the cross.
Who is Christ’s brother? “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister,” says Jesus. What is the will of His Father in heaven? That all would be saved and come to the knowledge of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Jesus’ family is dysfunctional – not just His brothers who refused to believe in Him or blessed Mary who pondered and grieved for Him. You and I are the dysfunctional brothers and sisters of Jesus whom He has claimed by His death, forgiven of our sins,
and restored to the placed He has prepared for us in the family of God that is His Church.
When Jesus speaks from the cross: “Woman, behold your Son.” “Behold your mother.” He takes care not only of Mary or John but of all Marys and Johns and Larrys, too. He expends His blood in suffering to redeem us lost and broken people and make us His family the Church. The Church is not some fake family or symbolic family. The Church is the family for whom Christ died, the family that endures to eternal life. We are not family because we act like it – we squabble and whine and compete and backbite like the best of them. No we are family because we share a common life – born of the baptismal womb to everlasting life – One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
You are His own, whom He has called by name. You belong to Him. He has called you from darkness into His marvelous light, died your death that you might live, and lives to set you free. You are His family, His brothers and sisters whom He has redeemed by His precious blood. The people for whom He sets a table and feeds us to everlasting life on His flesh in bread and His blood in wine.
Christ’s death is solitary but it is not barren. As Jesus describes, His life is a single solitary seed planted in death that bears much fruit. You are that fruit – those for whom He died and by whom live as His forgiven and redeemed people by faith. He binds us together in the blood thicker than water through the water that washes with His blood. He daily forgives all sins to me and all my kin. And on the last day He will raise up me and all my fellow believers to everlasting life. There is no family greater than this. In the end it is not arrogance that claims the title family but faith that Christ means what He has said, He has accomplished what He has promised, and He can be trusted to give us what He has pledged. Amen.