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You Want Family?
May 9 and 10, 1998

ACTS 11:1-9, JOHN 13:34-35


When the Good Lord was creating Mothers, he was into his sixth day of overtime when the angel appeared and said, "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And the Lord, said, "Have you read the spec on this order? Have 180 movable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel slowly shook her head and said, "Six pairs of way."

"It's not the hands that are causing me problems" said the Lord, "it's the three pairs of eyes that Mothers have to have."

"That's on the standard model?" asked the angel..

The Lord nodded. "One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front so that she can look at a child when he goofs and say, 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

"Lord," said the angel gently, "Go to bed...tomorrow."

"I can't", said the Lord, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a 9-year-old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a Mother very slowly, "It's too soft," she sighed.

"But tough!" said the Lord excitedly. "You cannot imagine what this Mother can do or endure."

"Can it think?"

"Not only think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. "There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told you you were trying to put too much into this model."

"It's not a leak," said the Lord. "It's a tear...a tear for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness and pride."

It's Mother's Day. We really expect a lot from Mother, don't we. Our culture, especially, lays heavy trips on Mother. Unrealistic, impossible expectations, even when there is a two-parent family. How even more difficult it is for a single parent mother, trying to do it all by herself. Look at what we expect from families. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church state, "We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect and fidelity." Learning how to love-- how to receive and how to give love; learning how to be responsible, respectful, loyal and faithful are expectations we lay on the family. Big expectations. How can Mothers, how can families fulfill these expectations? You want family? How can we do it?

First of all, in a Christian home, Jesus is first. When father is first, you have tyranny, despotism, dictatorship, autocracy, and ultimately, either rebellion by the children or submissive compliance in which individuality is denied and personality is squelched. When mother is first, you have hen-pecked husbands and children who are dependent, tied to apron strings, smothered by mother.

When children are first, you have chaos! The children are not respected nor taught responsibility, they are indulged. A mother was in the garden weeding and visiting with a friend when her 12-year-old daughter hollered, "Mother, where is my green blouse?"

"In the utility room, dear."

"Well, I can't find it."

"Look again, dear."

"I found it, but it's all wrinkled."

"Iron it dear."

"I don't want to. You come and do it. You have to come and do it. Now!"

As the daughter neared a tantrum, mother, in exasperation, dropped her weeder, left her visitor standing alone, and went to wait on her daughter. The mother is a slave. She has no rights and no respect. She is at the mercy and call of a spoiled, obnoxious daughter who will cause a great deal of misery in her life, because she has not learned respect or responsibility. How can the daughter learn respect when her mother has no self-respect? How can the mother teach her daughter how to take responsibility for her own ironing, for her own life, when the mother has no respect for herself or for her daughter? When children are first, there is chaos.

In a Christian home, Jesus is first. Remember the song, "Nobody wants to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus; everybody wants to be lead singer in the band?" When Jesus is first, you don't have to be the star. You can play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, find your place, find where you belong. You don't have to prove yourself anymore. Parents don't have to compete with spouses. Children don't have to compete with brothers and sisters. You can relax and accept yourself.

When Jesus is first, children can learn about love, because they are loved, and can express love to others. A four-year-old told his mother he had been visiting the next door neighbor whose wife had died. The old man was crying, reported the four-year-old, so he climbed into the neighbor's lap and sat there. His mother asked him what he said to the grieving neighbor. "Oh, I didn't say anything. I just helped him cry." The four-year-old had learned to love.

Children learn responsibility when they take care of themselves, and do tasks for the sake of the family's well being. Parents, do not do anything for your children which they can do for themselves. That is how they learn responsibility.

Children learn respect when they are respected, when they are expected and allowed to take responsibility, when they are expected to iron their own blouses. Children learn respect when their parents respect themselves, and do not allow children to show disrespect.

Children learn fidelity from parents who are loyal first to Jesus, and secondly to each other. Children learn loyalty and faithfulness when they receive loyalty and faithfulness, when promises made to them are kept.

Families cannot succeed by themselves. Jesus needs to be first; and, secondly, the family needs to be part of the larger family, part of God's family, the church. In and through the church, families are reinforced in their teaching of love, responsibility, respect and faithfulness. We are especially blessed to be part of this congregation because we are so diverse. We are a mixture of ages, cultures, races, incomes, and lifestyles. The point of the Acts lesson read today is that God's family is inclusive. Through Peter's vision, God told him there are no insiders and outsiders. Everyone is welcome. What an enriching experience we and our children have to be part of this church family!

You want family? Sometimes families fail, always what families do is not enough. We need the church family. We received a newsletter from Nungalinya College in Darwin, Australia, a school primarily for Aboriginals, sponsored by the Uniting Church of Australia (a merger of Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational denominations.) Listen to the story of Joseph and how the church, Christian families, helped him.

My father is German and my mother is Aboriginal, Chinese, Malaysian and Irish. I guess you could call me a "bitsa". Bits of this and bits of that. Most of my life has been spent on the grog, getting into fights and taking drugs. I only had to worry about myself and look out for number one (me). That all changed five years ago when I moved with my girlfriend and her two boys to a small country town where we had a Christian family as our neighbor. Two years after moving there I became a Christian. The way that I became a Christian was very slow at first. I believed in God, but I didn't understand, so I started to read the Bible every day and talk with God. I would tell him that I really wanted to follow Him, but I didn't want to lose all the material things that I had.

After I had read the Bible right through, and asked many questions of the Christian family, I hurt my back and was in a lot of pain. I was basically confined to bed. Not long after this happened, my girlfriend told me that she didn't love or need me anymore, and threw me out of the house that we had built. I was so hurt, I not only had a lot of serious back pain, but now I also had a great deal of emotional pain. I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to, I had no hope. I didn't want to go backwards, by doing drugs and getting stuck in the grog again, things that hadn't worked for me before.

I ended up moving in with a Christian family that lived down the road. I liked what I saw in these families, they seemed to have a peace in their lives and were content with the little that they had. I decided to give my life to Jesus. I got on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive me, to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. After I prayed this prayer, I felt like a heavy weight was taken from me and that I was somehow free.

I found that becoming a Christian was the best thing that I had ever done, and would like to encourage you to do the same. Life isn't easy, but I have Jesus in my life now and He makes it all worthwhile. I hope to become an ordained minister.

None of us can make it alone. You want family? Jesus said, (John 13:34) "Just as I have loved you.." The ability and power to love others comes from God's love for you. Center your life, center your family on Jesus. Let Jesus love you, strengthen you, power you. Let the church family love you, support you, sustain you. You want family? Here we are!

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris