June 14, 2011
Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Matthew 28:16-20
One of our church members, Sally, is serving a sentence in a regional jail. She joined our church on Pentecost last year, and though she had been baptized as a child, had never been brought up in church. She’s had very little Christian formation, so she set out to use her incarceration to engage in an intense study of the Bible. The growth that she is experiencing during this time is phenomenal. As they say in my neck of the woods, “The Holy Spirit has really gotten hold of her.”
When I visited her this week, in a very excited voice she said to me right off the bat, “I finally understand what family is all about!” She went on to tell me that a woman in her family, Kelly, just discovered that man she had always known as her father was not indeed her biological father. This discovery completely rocked Kelly’s world. In despair, Kelly asked Shawn in one of their visits, “Will you still be my family member?”
Sally told Kelly that family is not defined biologically and of course she would still love her and claim her as family.
Our church has engaged in a letter-writing campaign of sorts to Sally throughout her stay in jail. In the seven weeks since she has been in jail, she has received a stack of cards and letters 12 inches high. They have come from our church members, members of the church her husband grew up in, and friends of the members of both churches. In addition to letters, people have been sending little inspirational snippets or a prayer or scripture. She has been astonished that Christians she did not even know would care enough to write to her.
Sally told me that her new understanding of family came from the way our congregation had supported her through her jail time. She said that she always had thought of family as her husband and son. When she heard the term “church family” she dismissed it as sentimental. Now, she explained, she knows that she has true brothers and sisters in the church.
Ever since seminary, the thing in the creation story which has jumped out at me is the fact that God said, “Let us create humankind in our image.” When this verse comes after five days of God’s joy-filled activity of speaking things into existence, we realize that we are God’s creative endeavor. And we are made in the image of a God who is Three and yet One. We are created by the God whose very being is community, thus being created for communion with God and with others.
We are spoken into existence through the Word, and find our place in the family through the grace of God extended to us in baptism, learning, and obedience.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity.