I picked up a newspaper this week and on the front page alone there were two stories of family in crisis.
There was a story of the family unable to pay the loan on their farm. The farm that had been in the family for years was now being auctioned off. The paper said emotions were high, the anger and frustration of people losing not only their livelihood, but also their home. A family in crisis.
Just below that was the story of a man who had been laid off at the Glass Works. He had been there five years, but he and his wife had just bought a home and were hoping to settle down and begin their family. All of a sudden, the bottom had dropped out. They didn’t know where they would turn. A family in crisis.
A family that has worked together to preserve and now must scramble to make ends meet. Sometimes the threats to our family life come from the outside. This is true for those faced with economic hardship. For laid off workers. For families that must take second and third jobs to make ends meet. The routines and schedules that used to make families click become jumbled and family time is squeezed in between so many other pressing commitments.
What hope is there for the family? If left to us, there is no hope. The good news is – we’re not alone. The God who created us and set us in families to live together has not abandoned us and left us to work things out on our own. God provides the support and direction we need to make family life work, even in the midst of crisis. Our God becomes involved in family life.
God becomes involved in family life. First, God calls people to be a blessing to families. When God makes a covenant with Abraham and Sarah, God does not just say, I’m going to bless your family but that your family will be a blessing to other families. God does not play favorites and choose select families to rescue from the wicked ways of the world. Through one family, as others come to know the loving mercy of God.
Sarah and Abraham recognized that they were on a journey with God. Even in their old age, they continued to follow where God called them. There was no point at which they felt they had arrived, they continued to trust and look to God for guidance and direction.
Abraham and Sarah were real people, with real struggles of their own. Sarah was barren for years. In her day, a woman unable to have children was scorned by the community, looked down upon by friends and neighbors alike.
Abraham, or Abram as he was then called, was a common wanderer. He was so afraid of others that he told his wife Sarah to pretend to be his sister so if they wanted her they wouldn’t kill him first. Abram was a common man, frightened by a world beyond his control.
And yet Abraham and Sarah trusted God and this trust rubbed off on others. They became a blessing to families who thought they had to make it on their own by living a life that pointed to something more, trusting in God. They were a blessing not so much because they told families how to live but they showed in their own family life that they depended on God.
There have been and continue to be those within the church who, like Abraham and Sarah, are a blessing to families. The church itself plays this role as we respond to the needs and concerns of all family members. As we point families beyond themselves to the household of God.
This function of the church, to be a blessing to families, is particularly important as people face new family situations. As couples are newly married, as step-families are formed, as single parent families look for ways to structure relationships, to provide their children with support and guidance. We, as the church need to recognize that families aren’t what they used to be and that support for families now is going to look different that support 20 years ago.
Another way that God becomes involved in family life is by calling the church to be a family in Christ. For some, the church family provides a home away from home, a safe place to be loved and accepted
I was talking with a pastor friend of mine who told me that growing up, she was one of the neighborhood kids dropped off at Sunday school. The church became a second home for her. When her own family life became chaotic, she turned to the church and found there a safe place to grow up and build trusting relationships. The church became a family for her and she has since devoted her life to service within the church.
At our best, we as the church can be the home away from home, the family that can be a blessing for other families, the family to turn to when life becomes chaotic. By ourselves, we could never pull it off. In our own families. In our church family. Pressures within and without to be something other than who we are.
But we’re not alone. God gives us the strength to face the challenges. God walks with us. God blesses our church family to be a blessing to other families. God calls us to be a family in Christ that doesn’t tear down, but builds up everyone within the family.
As you look at the paper, the news doesn’t look good for the family. As you look to God, in Christ, there is good news.