Pastor John E. Kerr
Theme: “Be Prepared for a Disruption” Text: Matthew 10:24-39
Sunday, June 21, 2020
I don’t care for this passage of scripture as we celebrate Father’s Day today. I wish Matthew had not written it down or a gust of wind had blown his notes with these words on them out his window.
These words seem contrary to what the American family needs right now. Some families are so fractured and weak that the last thing they need is another reason to set family members against each other. We don’t need to put more distance between us than already may be there.
My brother Bob lives in Davis, California, and before his retirement worked at the University of California, Davis. He traveled for the university up and down the Pacific coast by plane and saw children of all ages traveling alone to visit father or mother who were divorced. These children were collecting huge numbers of frequent flier miles. I’ve heard children say that it’s easier to commute between parents than to live in the crossfire of a parental house war.
There are other things that divide families. Parents who abuse their children, and grown children who abuse their elderly parents. There are parents and kids who don’t speak with each other over money, lifestyle, dating preferences and religion. Brothers and sisters have fought so long that they’ve erased each other from their address books and email address lists. Some of you have been cut off from each other and you want to work it out, but you can’t because letters and emails aren’t answered and packages come back marked “Return to Sender.”
This is painful. Rejection by your family or your rejection of your family can consume all of your time, and you have little time for anything else. You spend time trying to get your family together or keeping yourself apart from your family. We know all too well how to hurt each other deeply. Is it any wonder then that a large number of homicides take place among family members?
And there is something else that can cause family pain—our image of the perfect family. How do you picture the perfect family? Well, she said, “If you ask me, the perfect family is when mom and dad love each other and brothers and sisters are each others best friends and they stay together forever.” He says, “Yes, I agree. And in the perfect family everybody sits down for meals together and tells stories and rejoices in each other’s successes. And grandparents are happy also in a perfect family.” “Well, for me a perfect family also remembers each other’s birthday and holidays with cards and presents and parties and family gatherings.”
But the reality is that some families are close and some families aren’t. Sometimes we feel like failures if our family doesn’t fit the perfect picture. But close families can have their own problems as well.
George McGovern, former United States senator from South Dakota, 1972 presidential candidate and historian, wrote a book called Terry that is about his daughter who died of alcoholism at the age of 45. She was intelligent, funny, compassionate and loving. In his book, McGovern quotes one of Terry’s diary entries addressed to her father. It said, “Dad, I wish you were home more. . . I wish you could understand what I’m going through.” McGovern later said that he was proud of his family and his daughter and his public service, but he said, “What I regret is that I didn’t carve out more of those precious times to be with my kids.”
Jesus knew about families. He grew up in one with a brother and sisters. He knew how influential families are and whether they function well or poorly, whether we’re loved by them or estranged from them. He knew how our family could consume us and how important it is to be away from them, so that we can discover who we are.
I am a son, husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, grandfatherand each of these roles has shaped me into who I am. I am also a Christian, a child of God and a pastor. These roles identify who I am as well.
You are a child, s son or daughter, mother, father and a child of God. When you truly know who you are, then I believe you can survive the brokenness, opposition, name-calling and pain that may come your way and not be gobbled up by it.
In the gospel writer Matthew’s church, many were estranged from their families. At that time, it was customary for everybody in the house—spouse, children, and servants, everybody—to take on the faith of the head of the household. Everybody believed as he believed. So, if you became a Christian, it would mean being kicked out of the family for believing in Jesus. For you it would mean associating with new people, and it would mean that your household would come under suspicion by the Roman government for not worshipping the emperor. Commitment to Christ, being a follower of Jesus had personal, social, political and religious consequences. When Matthew wrote about what Jesus said about hating their families, they weren’t scared; they knew what would happen to them.
We live in a different time and world with different consequences for believing in God, but we all have a deep desire for personal relationships. Some find that in their family and some don’t. Some find them in their church family, and others do not.
Jesus makes one demand of us—to love him above all of our loves, and if that means losing the ones we love, he promises us that whatever we lose for him we shall find more alive with him than ever before. He will not abandon us or lose track of us, for we are of great value to him. We are of more value than the birds of the air.
Before I end these lines, I want to ask you a question. You can answer it in your mind. Will you follow Jesus despite the risk of possible disruption in your family? Will you love him despite the cost and despite the pressure to remain silent about your faith?