“We Are Family” is a very important song. It was first performed by a group called Sister Sledge in 1979. The song was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates that year as their theme song. It inspired them to win the World Series that year. But the effect of the song has gone far beyond a baseball season. It has also been the inspiration of an educational video for children, teaching love and respect for each other. I would like to suggest it could be a theme song of the church. Its’ message is We Are Family means we are family with all other human beings, as well as all creation.
Every human being on this planet is related to us, rich or poor, young or old, straight or gay; they are all our siblings. Like it or not, Putin is a brother of mine. What he does affects me, and what I do affects him. Our relationship is but an example of brokenness that also exists in this world, not only between nations but sometimes nuclear families. We all know of families where this has happened. Sin is a very real force in this world that has been the source of much tragedy.
So why should this song be considered as a theme song of the church? I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism we have been brought into God’s family. For me that means many things. One is that we look out for each other. You know my wife has been sick and that I am drained from last weekend’s events. Many of you have reached out to us and we are grateful.
Another is we are called by God himself to love each other so much that the church is not about “me”. It is about “we”. This is not our house of worship. This is God’s house. It is not about what “I want”, it is about what does Christ want us to do.
Each congregation is a work in progress led by God. When I feel led to do something, I need to check it out with the community. How does that affect us all, and how can we figure out a way to walk together is one of the greatest challenges a human being can ever face, being a family led by Christ and looking out for each other, but it is worth the effort. It makes us the family of God who together can be Christ’s presence in the world today.
Last week we were blessed and inspired by Mandy and Caleb Crotts who are living that reality in a very dangerous place to bring mothers, infants, and children healthcare, and the hope of Christ in a divided land. I was deeply moved by them and their presentation. They are bringing Christ’s healing power to all people, whatever their need or faith, and they are trusted by members of all groups. They are a beacon of hope in Nigeria where Christians and Moslems regularly engage in armed conflict.
What might be our calling in our community?
I believe Jesus’ parable for today might give us some clues. Jesus spoke in parables to make people think and wrestle with their meaning. They continue to challenge us today.
In Jesus’ day the rich would give a pittance to the poor and tell themselves they had done their duty to God. But the rich man in this parable did not even do that. He sumptuously feasted every day while Lazarus lay at his gate covered with sores that were licked by dogs.
Both men died. The rich man went to Hades. And Lazarus rested in the arms of Abraham. The rich man saw Father Abraham from his place of torture and asked for him to send Lazarus to bring him a drink of water. When Abraham said there is a chasm between us that no one can cross, he then pleaded for Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers.
The chasm that no one can cross was his attitude. In his mind Lazarus was still, at best, someone who could do his bidding. But in eternity their positions are totally reversed.
He missed that Lazarus was a member of his family who needed all the help he could possibly give him while both lived on this earth because he was also his brother even though he was not one of his immediate family.
The Jesus who tells this awesome story lived among us, suffered, died, but also rose from the dead, bringing this reality home. He lived what he preached. “We are Family.”
Let’s be honest, it is a faith struggle as we decide what help is really help and how best to give it, knowing it is hard to tell the difference between a con and the real thing. But the same is true when we struggle with how best to assist members of our biological family when they are hurting.
But never forget we are family with all human beings no matter how difficult it is to discern how best to help them. Thank God, we have the Holy Spirit, each other and Christian Social Agencies that can help us discern what God would want us to do in each circumstance we face.
And why would we go through all this aggravation? Because we know we are family because God says so. We are family, and that reality never goes away.
Help us Jesus. Amen.