Who Is Your Family? – Matthew 12:46-50

Today I want to remind us that the relationships created in baptismal water are thicker than our
family blood relations.  This week in A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader we will be paying attention to "The Ministry of All God’s People" (Chapter 22, pp. 177-183).

While [Jesus] was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."  But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"  And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:46-50, NRSV)

William Barclay suggests that true friendship and true love are founded on certain things without which friendship and love cannot exist in relationships.

(i) Friendship is founded on a common ideal. …

(ii) Friendship is founded on a common experience, and on the memories which come from it. …

(iii) True love is founded on obedience.  "You are my friends," said Jesus, "if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). …

For all these reasons true kinship is not always a matter of a flesh and blood relationship.  … even if a Christian finds that those who should be closest to him are those who are most out of sympathy with him, there remains for him the fellowship of Jesus Christ and the friendship of all who love the
Lord (William Barclay, “True Kinship,” The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 2, Daily Study Bible, 1975).

It is this kind of spiritual connection that Paul speaks of in Romans:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another (Romans 12:4-5, NRSV).

The body of Christ (where two or threeare gathered in his name) with a spirit (the promised Spirit) is
alive.  Paul encounters the Spirit of Jesus on the road to Damascus, but for the experience to be real in needed to be in the company of the believers (see Acts 9).

A spirit without a body is a ghost.
A body without a spirit is a corpse.

Here is what Paul said to the Christian of Ephesus:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  …  we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16, NRSV).

Ministry then is not just tasks to be checked off on the church’s “to do” list.  Ministry is working
so that the whole finds life even in the action of a few.  To not participate in ministry is to miss the best part of the journey … the journey of finding the abundant life.

We have ministry teams here that will allow you space to grow as an individual and as a member of the greater whole.

  • Worship Team

  • Fellowship Team

  • Congregational Care Team
  • Missions and Outreach Team

  • Communications Team

  • Education Team

I want to spend a few moments on this last challenge.  We stand in a community in transition. We were predominantly a retirement community until just very recently. We know in this church that children really showed up when we completed the first phase of this building in June of 2003. And now we face regular challenges about how to support children, youth, and their parents as they care for their families. Hear the following thoughts from the perspective of the baptismal family.

First, a person’s moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach age nine. …

Second, a person’s response to the meaning and personal value of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection is usually determined before a person reaches eighteen. …

Third, Barna showed data indicating that in most cases people’s spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed when they are pre-teens. …

“In essence,” the researcher noted, “what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. Of course, there are many individuals who go through life-changing experiences in which their beliefs are altered, or instances in which a concentrated body of religious teaching changes one or more core beliefs. However, most people’s minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13. Their focus in absorbing religious teaching after that age is to gain reassurance and confirmation of their existing beliefs rather than to glean new insights that will redefine
their foundations.”

Finally, the research revealed that adult church leaders usually have serious involvement in church life and training when they are young.  One implication is that the individuals who will become the church’s leaders two decades from now are probably active in church programs today (see George Barna, “Research Shows the Spiritual Maturity Process Should Start at a Young Age,” Barna Update, November 17, 2003).

A year later, George Barna suggested that while everyone seems to agree with the assessment that more needs to be done to raise our children, “everyone’s waiting for someone else.”  He then invites parents to recommit themselves to preparing their children for life and challenges the rest of us to do more than just talk the talk (see George Barna, “Americans Agree: Kids Are Not Being Prepared for Life,” Barna Update, October 26, 2004).

I am inviting you to consider this challenge: “What are you willing to commit to making it possible for our children to be prepared for life?  We made an exciting step into faith several years ago to start a youth ministry.  Then a children’s choir came along, followed by expanded Sunday School instruction at the 11:00 worship hour.  The excitement grows with the addition of our Duke Interns Todd Ferguson and Stacy Pell committed to help us with our children and youth.

The next step we see is expanded space for children and youth ministry – this building was not built with them in mind.  We need to support our workers with a staff person to coordinate volunteers and provide programming support.  Finally, we need you!