The Gene Pool Is Real
It seems like a classic teenage confrontation:
The child defies the parent, refusing to obey their rules or submit to their judgment
I’ll choose my friends! I’ll decide what I do, where I go, what time I’ll come home!
The psychological term is ‘individuation,’ the process by which a young person differentiates herself
from family and parent, and becomes her own person.
But Jesus is not a teen. He’s 30 years old. This is not a rejection of family or Jesus becoming his own person.
Instead Jesus is creating a new definition of family.
Jesus’ idea is that family is bound by common mission rather than common blood.
Anyone who does the will of God, no matter who they are or where they’re from, is Jesus’ family. It is a valuable distinction, because we often talk about the church as a family. And though we haven’t got the same gene pool, we function like a family:
we support each other, share joys and sorrows, work together for common goals.
Sometimes churches function like families in not so good ways, too:
bullying, keeping secrets, being social clubs no one else can enter. But at our best, we are family the way that Jesus talks about it: as people who are brought together and held together by doing God’s work in the world.
That is what I saw at Synod Assembly, the gathering of Lutherans from around NE this weekend: people brought together doing God’s Work with Our Hands.
It’s Mr. Chaled, who fled Iraq in 2006, lived in Jordan for three years, and then resettled in the US with the help of Ascentria, formerly called Lutheran Social Services of NE.
He was a professional entertainer in Iraq, but here in the US he has started his own middle eastern restaurant business in West Springfield. He now teaches a class to other Ascentria immigrants how to start their own businesses.
It’s Ms. Jeanette Harris, a licensed lay minister, who has a thriving community
in the old St. Paul Lutheran building in Bridgeport. Their ministry centers around sharing a meal and worship on Sunday mornings. It isn’t traditional Lutheran like the congregation that was there and closed. It’s “Luther-Bapti-costal,” with a liberal dose of sacrament, grace filled preaching, Testimony from parishioners, and extemporaneous prayer.
And in this sense, it is very Lutheran, because Luther himself taught that churches should have the freedom to express God’s grace in the local language and traditions of the people.
It was the seven pastors from our synod who were lifted up by the Holy Spirit as candidates for bishop Each giving witness to the gift we as Lutherans have to share:
That in Jesus we are set free and made whole. The world is hungry for this message, and these seven, including our own Pr. Sinibaldo, and two others under the age of 35,
Called our assembly to go out and share the Good News of Jesus in our living and our words.
Our church family is not perfect—it has its share of conflict and short sightedness.
We heard at assembly about the lives of our sister congregations in Palestine, the ELCJHL, Palestinian Christians who live in land occupied by Israel. Their truth of living behind a wall that blocks people from their jobs and ancestral homes was hard to hear.
It sit uncomfortably against the truth of others who live in the land, Jews who also want a safe home. It calls into question some of our own country’s policies.
We listened as openly as we could to the truth that these brothers and sisters were sharing knowing that complexity doesn’t let us off the hook and that our call is to stay engaged in prayer and in presence with our brothers and sisters around the world.
The Holy Land is a vivid example that the gene pool alone is too limiting a definition of family. In a place where blood lines have devolved into a tribe mentality
It is clear that all parties need to envision a greater identity, a wider definition of family.
The same is true for us in our own context of the US, where we have our own prejudices, divisions, and violence. Jesus calls us to that broad definition of family, beyond the gene pool, beyond the comfort of our traditions and social circles.
We have been washed in another pool- the waters of baptism.
In fact today we welcome Sage Perillo to the waters that make her part of this family of faith. This is the place where we are chosen, named and claimed as members of God’s family. No matter what we do, the mark of this family never washes off.
This mark connects to people around the world, some who may have very different experiences, And yet we are the same family, and we need to stand with one another and learn from one another. In this pool we become part of a people with a mission: to follow the example of Jesus, and to work for justice and peace in all the world
And to call humanity our brothers and sisters.