by Rev. Garrett Rocha
I don’t know about you, but there are distinct moments where I realized how much I was grateful for my family. It was a wonderfully brief moment that reminded me of how vital my family is for me. One that brings a smile to my face is an interaction shared with my sister. It was during Christmas, right after I had started college. My sister and I were in the living room reflecting on how the past year was particularly tight with finances. We looked at each other and she said, “This is the best-worst Christmas ever!” Then the both of us laughed for about five minutes straight. We still giggle at the phrase. It was a point of bonding for the both of us because we came to the same conclusion that Christmas is not about the stuff under the tree, but about the relationships deepened as we celebrate the birth of our Lord. Because there was not an overabundance of gifts, we got to focus on the family bonds we shared and the sacredness of Christ’s birth. Families can be a place of comfort and joy. They can also stir up feelings of great anxiety and pain.
There are many instances in scripture when the weight of the world pushes a family to desperation. The scripture that comes to mind is of a worried father for the health of his child. The Centurion who seeks Jesus in Mark 9:14-29 seeks healing for his child, but struggles with belief and unbelief. At this point in the story Jesus is in the middle of his ministry and the disciples are trying to live into the life that he has put before them. Chapter 9 of Mark deals with the importance of faith and how that impacts one’s life. We also see the frustration and anger of Jesus, as the lack of faith hinders his ability to heal. There are a few things I wish to point out. First is the fact that the father readily admits that he is a part of the unbelieving generation. Much like the woman who was bleeding for many years, the father seeks Jesus, knowing of Jesus’ power. In a unique moment, the father asks for his faith to be healed, as if wounded by the effects of the procession. With his faith healed, the casting out of demons from the boy is successful. In a true sense of vulnerability and honesty, the father seeks healing for himself as he struggles to care for his child. The situation that the father found himself was unbearable. I can only imagine the powerlessness that he must have harbored in his heart as he sought for solutions and while at the same time keeping his child safe. This reinforces a very important truth about God that could easily be missed. God, the creator of the cosmos, does not force power on humans, but wants their trust to actively work in their lives. That means our salvation by grace through faith is on our willingness to allow God to work in our lives. That means that we can harden our hearts, shutting out God.
My example is quite light hearted as compared to the one in scripture, but the issue is the same. The deep bond we share with family members is one that is to be cherished. Our faith in Jesus is the ground, motivator, and sustainer of all of our relationships. If our faith has experienced a severe wound, like the one from scripture, it will have a significant impact on those around us. Likewise, if our faith is strong and focused on the power of Jesus, even when experiencing poverty, joy often flows from our heart like a babbling brook of laughter. The intense love that we have for our family members should mirror the love that God has for us. The world will not always treat us fairly or kindly. Sometimes our physical bodies will fail due to exhaustion or illness. Our minds may become overburdened from the stress of responsibility. Our hearts may be wounded by repeated promises left unfulfilled.
In whatever season you find yourself in, I encourage you to press on after Jesus, the model and perfecter of our faith. The answers we may receive may not be the ones we are looking for. Sometimes it is the best worst thing ever. Sometimes it is being in the thick of the storm that life is throwing you at the moment, be it poverty, be it illness, be it loss, be it anger, be it betrayal, be it uncertainty.
Whether it is seeking relief or sustaining belief, may your ground and inclination be faith in Christ. Our family can be a wellspring of faith nurturing and strengthening our bonds with one another. That faith encourages us to trust and motivate each other to grow to our fullest potential. Lack of faith, or wounded faith of family members can also have significant negative affects on our personal lives and the lives of those closest to us. I am grateful for family because they encourage me in their own special ways to be the best person I possibly can be. They trust in my skills, talents, and experiences as I navigate new things in my life. Likewise, I trust them for wisdom, guidance, and accountability when I wander from my goals. In what ways are you grateful for family? I encourage you to seek the grounding of Christ in whatever family you find yourself in and find the sources of babbling joy there.
Take a bit of wisdom from a Scottish family blessing that I am fond of:
May the blessing of light be on you—light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.
I hope to see you on Sunday at 8:15, NINE45, or 11:15 for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via Livestream. Blessings upon you and I cannot wait to see you!