Perhaps you may have seen it. Years ago in downtown Richmond, there was a sign posted at the campus of United Methodist Family Service. It had a picture of Superman with the caption, “Even Superman had foster parents.”
However, perhaps long before Superman’s parents, there was another foster family – The one formed by Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus.
Of course, they were not “foster parents” in the way that nowadays we understand such relationship, but nevertheless, in a way they were. The Holy Baby was theirs, and they took care of him and loved him in a real and tangible way. And yet, they knew, that Jesus was not theirs alone.
In all ways they appeared as a regular family. Yet they were not.
In fact, we don’t know exactly when or how, but at some point, Jesus came to the same realization. Once, Mary and Joseph had to drag him out of the Temple, but not without Jesus having something to say, “Why were you searching for me?” Jesus asked. “Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with my Father’s business?” But – as Luke recalls, “They had no idea what he was talking about.” Indeed, Jesus wasn’t talking about taking care of Joseph’s shop.
Eventually, as Jesus grew up, He defined family in a new way – certainly in a non-traditional way. “My brothers and my sisters are those who follow in my Father’s steps,” Jesus said. He didn’t say those to whom I’m related by blood. Nor did Jesus say, “those who are baptized or those who pay their tithes.”
Yes, we may have responded to an altar call. Or we have been baptized. Or filled an application and joined a local branch of the Church. We may have been told that because we come to church at least twice in a year, we are considered “Members in Good Standing.”
Whatever the process a local institution designs to define its membership, nothing changes the fact that it is not “WE” who define who is “In” or who is “Out.”Surprise! It is God who calls the shots!
Jesus never said that those whom he considered family would have to follow him or do as exactly as He did. “As long as they follow in my Father’s steps, they’ll be alright,” He said.
In fact, Jesus went way back further saying, “Those who are not against us are for us,” (Mark 9:40, Luke 9:50).
No wonder that some were not happy with Jesus. Who was He to re-define family? Wasn’t it always the way we understood it? Why change it? Who was Jesus to re-define how people should relate to God and to one another?
And yet, despite the opposition, Jesus never backtracked. And that’s the only reason why we all are God’s family. And that we are here.
Which, it is Good News in many ways. Even when one doesn’t have a family of his or her own, even when for some reason or other one has become estranged from other members of the family, we all have become members of a new family, the Church. Indeed, we are family.
And that’s why we care for one another. Even when sometimes it is not easy or convenient.
And here is the thing – our relationship with God and one another doesn’t depend on us but it is by God’s supreme choosing. It is God’s will. And, unless God changes his mind, no one can change such fundamental reality. We are his beloved sons and daughters, members of one another in the Body of Christ!
As in any human family, not everything is picture-perfect. Even Jesus had to deal with family issues. Right after the calling of his disciples, Jesus began to his ministry. St Mark tells us that they were so pressed that they didn’t have time even to eat. In every sense of the word, His ministry was full-time.
BibleRef.com comments that, “The chain of events that lead Jesus’ family to worry about Him is not clear, however. So, it’s possible that people from Nazareth have gone to Capernaum for healing and returned, shocked to learn that the healer is Jesus. Then, Mary and the family came “to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind,’” (Mark 3:20-21).
In other words, they believed that Jesus was either out his own depth or, at worse, that He had lost it. Or even worse, the family thought they knew better about God and his plans than Jesus! Cheeky, isn’t it?
But is it not the case that when people begin to fight in the church it always boils down to individuals or a group believing that they know better than God? How many of the current destructive divisions in the church are caused by people believing they know better than God how to run the church?
So, I may disaffiliate from a particular congregation because I believe they are not following Jesus as I believe they should. But nothing can change the fact that we are born of the Spirit, as John’s Gospel tells us.
Or I can send packing members of “my church” because they do not toe the official line of teaching. But even if I were to do so, that would not stop them being children of God. And, even if it chagrins me, nothing can dissolve our relationship in the Body of Christ.
Even if we don’t talk to each other; and even if we believe that God may have nothing to do with them, we are members of a family, not of our own choosing. It is God’s Spirit will. God is always first.
Which brings me to our Gospel. “In the beginning,” affirms John. “In the beginning.” Or in other words, before anything else happens, then there is God.
And it is just not God – as a Supreme Creator beyond knowledge or imagination, invisible and distant . In the beginning it was The Word -- Jesus. For in John’s thinking, Jesus was nothing more and nothing less than what God wanted us to tell us about himself.
And according to St Paul in our second lesson, this is what God has to say about ourselves, “When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world, born of a woman. What God really wanted was all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Now, because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, ‘Papa, Daddy.’ So, you are a child of God.” Isn’t it good news?
Again, in the words of today’s gospel, the power to become children of God, and brothers and sisters of one another had nothing to do with human will, but it is God’s will.
As we close this year and as we look forward to the new year, let this fact be with you – We are the beloved sons and daughters of the Living God. And nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Nothing can ever separate us from God's love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us.
“We can't be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces from above or from below, there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)
Let this powerful truth be an opportunity to offer thanks to God, even when you had to go through challenges and disappointments, or trials and frustrations. You have made it through another year. It is not that you pulled it off, mind you! It was God’s doing.
And as we look forward to the new year with its own unknown unknowns, hopes and dreams, projects, and possibilities, be assured that you are going to pull it off! And as God beloved child, you are family to God!
And for all that, because we are God’s family, beloved brothers and sisters, we must all thank God.