Sermon for the 7th Sunday of Easter: Family – preached at the Eucharist, Sherborne Abbey, on Sunday, 29 May 2022 by The Reverend Robert Green. (Acts Ch 16: v 16 – 34; John Ch 17: v 20 – end)
My late wife’s godmother was unable to have any children, so she and her husband decided to adopt a baby. It was in the 1940’s and there was a war on. The local doctor arranged it all, and they welcomed in to their home a lovely baby boy. He grew up to be a highly intelligent young man, and gained a degree in Metallurgy. It was a highly successful adoption. In due course he married, and his work took him to live in Australia. His adoptive mother as she became older, and by this time was a widow, moved out to Australia to join him and his family, and there she died. Very soon after her death, he began to research for his birth mother, and found that too she had died, but her sister was alive in America, and so he was able to make contact with his birth family. He loved his adoptive mother dearly, and he would not take any steps to find his birth mother while she was still alive, but in the end he needed to know where he belonged, and there are many examples where family members have lost touch with each other for all sorts of reasons, and there is that need to find each other. As families we are in relationships, and doing research on family history sometimes brings some disturbing news. As far as I can gather my great grandfather was illegitimate; he took his mother’s name, so I am not quite who I think I am!
The point is this, as Christians we have two families. Our earthly family, and our spiritual family. Our earthly family consists of our blood relations, and has certain rules to avoid in-breeding, therefore where we belong is important. One of the reasons why some civilisations have failed is that incestual relationships were permitted amongst the rulers, and they were unable to maintain their dynasty as their members became weak and malformed.
Our physical earthly family has its limitations, but our spiritual family has no such limitations. At our Baptism we became members of God’s family. We were reborn into a spiritual family, and all members of that family are our relatives! As baptised members of the Church we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. It does not matter if we were born illegitimate, what colour our skin is, what age we are, able or disabled, we are family, and all who want to join are welcome. Isn’t that wonderful? I once had the privilege of baptising a man in his eighties, incidentally he was born illegitimate, and although his parents subsequently married, there was a certain stigma about their first born. We were able to welcome him into God’s family, and he became a full member of the Church.
It is to this relationship that Jesus speaks in the Gospel reading this morning. It forms the conclusion of his prayer at the Last Supper. In fact the whole prayer is about relationships; first his relationship with the disciples, and then for all those who will be brought into relationship by virtue of their witness, and their message. “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them”
Isn’t this also what we pray at every Communion Service prior to receiving the consecrated Bread; “that he may live in us and we in him”? We can pray this because we are already part of the family, and this is a way of renewing our relationship. So each time we come to the Eucharist it is by our Father God’s invitation, indeed it is, as we pray, ‘His love that compels us to come in’, that we might once more be fed on the precious body and blood of His Son, Jesus.
It also follows that when we know who we are and where we belong, like the disciples, we can share the good news with others. The way we live, and what we do or don’t do can speak volumes, for at our Baptism we are urged to not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified and remain faithful to Christ to the end of our lives.
My sisters and brothers let us value the privilege of being part of this universal family and show what that means in all that we are.