Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Enjoy today’s sermon! We celebrated World Communion Sunday this morning – a special Sunday, indeed!


Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Well – suffice is to say it has been an interesting couple of weeks for me.

At the beginning of September my father-in-law fell off of a ladder, shattering bones in both of his legs. Bruce and I rearranged our schedules so we could make an emergency trip down to Pennsylvania.

A few weeks later my grandfather passed away. Again, Bruce and I rearranged our schedules for a trip down to Pennsylvania for the memorial service and interment.

In addition to these last-minute trips, I had a wedding on my calendar for this past Friday in Philadelphia. Bruce and I were going to make a mini-getaway out of it, but he got called in to work at the last minute. I was going to go by myself, stay with friends and see some family.

Well, as Murphy’s Law would have it – I was out for a run on Monday night and broke my ankle. My doctor told me that driving long distances without putting my foot up was not a good idea, so Bruce had to drive me to Connecticut so my mom could drive me to Pennsylvania where a friend of mine then picked me up and brought me to the wedding.

I tell you this story not to gain sympathy, but as a way to preface the opening line for today’s sermon. I am going to borrow a note from the best man’s toast at the reception on Friday night. He said – after explaining to the crowd that public speaking really is not his forte – “Keep your spirits high and your expectations low.”

So, given that my life has me a bit frazzled at the moment, I will offer the same sentiment to you all this morning: Please … keep your spirits high and your expectations low.

Life actually has a funny way of working itself out. Today is World Communion Sunday, a day when Christians all around the world make a commitment to come together around a common table, hear the familiar words of institution, break bread and share a cup. In the midst of the craziness of my life, especially over this past week, I have actually taken relief in the preparations for today’s service. Life is unpredictable, constantly changing and tragic at times, but there are familiarities that bring us comfort. This table brings us comfort. No matter who we are, how we were raised or where we are on our journey through life or through faith, we are united by the stories we share from around this table. How many of us have communion stories to share? Funny stories, embarrassing stories, first communion stories, deeply spiritual stories and difficult stories – we all have them. And after this morning we will have another story to share.

The epistle selection for the lectionary this week put us in the Book of Hebrews, a letter to second-generation Christians facing heavy persecution. The point of the letter was to reassure Christians that better times were coming, that the sacrifices they were making were not in vain and that they were united in Christ and in one another. “For this reason,” the author writes, “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying ‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’”

“Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” – Jesus called all of us, generations upon generations, brothers and sisters. We are united in his love to us and in his prayer for us. We come together around this table not as strangers, but as family.

Jesus called us brothers and sisters; he prayed for us to be united. In the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed not only for the disciples who followed him in his lifetime, but also for the generations of disciples to come; the gospel records that Jesus said in prayer, “I ask not only on behalf of these [disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” {John 17:20-21, NRSV) Jesus prayed for unity for his brothers and sisters – not for his children or his students or his followers. Jesus saw us all as brothers and sisters; Jesus saw us all as equal; Jesus saw us all as one. No one was and is better or worse, lesser or more.

Jesus prayed for unity for all of us sitting here; for our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents; for our children, for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Before he died, Jesus prayed that his family would be united.

Families are funny, aren’t they? I have an aunt who always says that family members are like fish; they are wonderful at first, but start to smell if you keep them around for too long. We all have family stories to share, don’t we? Some of them are more comical than others; some of them are downright painful. Every now and then my family will find itself in the middle of a spat about one thing or another – every family does. But I have found that it does not matter what happened or how many sides there are or who was right or who was wrong, in the end we all just want everyone to get along.

It’s funny – I think the same could be said about churches as well. In fact, I think the same could be said about the whole of humanity and the entire world in which we live.

Lately I am more and more convinced that peace on earth is possible, we may just need to transform our expectations a little bit. Peace on earth may not mean that conflicts will cease and that one power will rise above the rest. Unity among our brothers and sisters may not mean that we all either have to find a way to agree on everything or make compromises that bend our belief systems. Uncovering Jesus’ vision for a “whole” family may not mean that we will all look, act and react in similar ways. It may just mean that we find a way to come around this table and share a meal together. It may just mean that we celebrate the differences that make us all a unique piece of the Body of Christ. It may just mean that we love one another as brothers as sisters – just as Jesus loved us, even to his death on the cross.

Because in the end, Jesus was and is just like the rest of us – when his family is fighting, he really does not care about the details. He just wants everyone to get along.

Hear now the end of this passage one more time:

“It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist … should make the pioneer of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: We may not look like one another, we may not act like one another, we may not speak like one another, we may not feel like one another, we may not share the same interests and passions as one another, we may not react like one another, we may not believe like one another, but we are family. Around this table, we are united as one.

Thanks be to God!


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