Friday, September 04, 2009

Aug 30 Sermon: I and Thou, Relationships in the Family

Texts: Hosea 11: 1-4, 1 Thess. 2: 5-12

I and Thou. Martin Buber

Society of Friends referred to everyone they met as Thou. One of the things that people in the culture made fun about…they also called them “Quakers” because of the way they would “quake” when they worshipped, caught up in a holy ecstatic experience.

Our relationship with others is rooted in our relationship with God.

Not everyone has the same experience of God, and we don’t usually have a constant relationship with God because we have different understandings of God. King, Creator, Source of Life.

Most of us probably think of God as a Friend and a helper, so while this isn’t a sufficient understanding of God by itself, let’s dig into that relationship, and how that friendship can influence our relationships with the people in our family.

I think our friendship with God inspires hope, humility, and hospitality.

These three qualities are also modeled by the figure of God in the parable of the Father with two sons, which is perhaps our most striking image of parenthood in the Bible.

The father shows hope in that he honors his son’s request for his inheritance. He gives the prodigal son his inheritance in the hope that it will be put to great use, but when it is not, the Father’s hope isn’t squelched. He hopes for his son’s return, and he hopes for his son’s future.

Relationships, in a way, are all about hope. Building a relationship with someone else is an expression of hope

Fr. 1st Thess. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.

Using beautiful images of wonderful parenting, the Apostle Paul
describes his first visit to Thessalonica. Like a mother “tenderly
caring for her own children,” Paul and his colleagues, Silas and
Timothy, gently shared “our own selves” with those who “have
become very dear to us.” With “pure, upright, and blameless
conduct” they approached the Thessalonians as a father loves his
children individually, “urging and encouraging you and pleading
that you lead a life worthy of God” (2:7-8, 11-12).

A similar image of good parenting emerges in the instructions
that go with the “greatest commandment” to love God: parents
should not only love God in their heart, but also teach and
practice that love daily before their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-

What Jesus pinpoints as the greatest commandment is followed by the injunction to what? Teach them to the children.

Perhaps this is why in Mark 10, when the disciples are complaining because so many people are bringing their children to Jesus to bless, Jesus reprimands not the children, or the parents, but the disciples for having such a negative attitude. He says, “‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

parents do may very well be the best teaching tool of the gospel,”
“If we want our children to possess virtue, then we must be serious students of our own souls…. If we pray that our children mature to dream dreams worthy of the Kingdom, then we must allow a Kingdom vision to guide our lives.”

A consistent practice of godly virtues does not leave parents
unchanged. “To parent with Christian intentionality opens us to
vulnerability, change, and being forever marked by the habits
we practice,” Johns reminds us. “By parenting with Christian
integrity we can be shaped into new creations and advanced in
holiness by our children.”
the Second Vatican
Council offered a high
view of the contribution
of children to the spiritual maturity of their parents: “as living members of
the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents
holy.”3 Instead of assuming women and men must attain a high level of parental
competence or a depth of holiness before welcoming children into
their home, the assumption here is that growth in holiness is, in part, one
of the gifts children give to their parents. Parenting can be a context for
Christian spiritual growth and it presents innumerable opportunities for
women and men to increase in virtue by practicing everything from love to
patience, sacrifice, and courage.

He describes three parenting virtues:

􀀗Hope—grounded in God’s grace and love, rather than in us or
even our children—is foremost among parenting virtues. If
we “hope in the Lord” (Psalm 39:7; cf. 65:5), “our perspective
on our own life and our children’s lives elongates,” Johns
writes. “This present moment does not contain all meaning;
and … we realize it is premature to give up on any child,
because their final chapter has not yet been written and God
continues to build ‘a way in the wilderness’ (Isaiah 43:19).”

􀀗Humility challenges the persistent temptation in our materialist
culture to regard children as “consumer items to acquire”
to display our success, provide ‘meaning’ to our lives, or even
help reunite a couple drifting apart. To be “clothed in humility”
(Colossians 3:12 and 1 Peter 5:5) is to understand “that
meaning, significance, and worth are not attainments awarded
to the most industrious, but that these—like children themselves—
are gifts to us from God.”

􀀗Hospitality, or a willingness to welcome the stranger (Romans
12:13 and Hebrews 13:2), may seem like an odd virtue in
regard to our children. Yet parents welcome one who is not
them, but an other, into their lives. Our children are persons
who are always different from our images of who they are
and should become. Moreover, “notions of blood, kin, and
seed are no longer adequate to account for the many ways
that we are in parental or parental-like relationships with
children. Cultivating hospitality will help us learn to embrace
those who do not share our DNA: adopted children, stepchildren,
nieces, nephews, and cousins.”

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