Families of origin – reaching through time

We recorded this week’s message as an mp3
Here it is, if you prefer to listen to it rather than read it 


Or here is the text – they are probably almost the same …

A couple of years back I was invited to be the guest speaker
at the church camp for another UCA congregation.

The theme was about working in a missional way with the local community.
The congregation was very warm and encouraging during the weekend
and they kept saying all very positive things about what was going on.
But there was someone who was clearly a little bit out of sorts.
It was the congregation’s Minister

I sat with him at one meal time and he sighed with a sense of frustration
saying “I’ve been saying these things for the past couple of years,
but you come and they react as if they’ve never heard it before”

It’s called visiting speaker syndrome.

I’ve noticed it sometimes here –
we arrange guest a speaker and I think they say what I’ve been saying –
and people react as if it is brand new and wonderful.

More than once I have had people comment to me
as they leave Kippax after a guest speaker
“Gordon – thanks for inviting NNNN here.
That’s the best sermon I’ve heard in ages’

In reality, I must admit I’m rather relaxed about it – I’ve learnt it happens.
And in passing, I must admit that I also note that after guest speakers
I will get an email or a conversation that says
“Why was NN here – I thought that’s what we pay you for, Gordon”.
Ah, such is life.

There also a similar thing that goes on when either Hannah or I
are working with a couple who are preparing to be married.
We spend some time talking about their background
and how that has helped shape the way that they think about things.
It’s called exploring your “family of origin”

The passage today suggests that,
rather than the nice picture we get around the Easter and post Easter stories
when Jesus’ mother was there at the cross,
and Jesus’ brother become one of the key leaders of the early church,
Jesus had some issues around his family of origin.
And it seems as if there were people who struggled with him
because of his background.

But over the past few weeks, I’ve been hoping that we can see in Mark’s gospel
Jesus as a model for our own living, rather than someone hugely special & different.
There is a real sense that Jesus deliberately – even though it was painful –
established himself rather than allowed himself to be constrained by expectations.

Sometimes those expectations are put upon us by others –
by our family, or by people who knew us in our original family settings.
I can remember when …
And one of the acts of maturity is to be able to take steps
to create our own space and our own identity.
To make decisions about our own lives.

Sometimes, however, those expectations are put upon us by ourselves.
We get formed in our ways of thinking and viewing the world often quite early
And we come back again and again to those deeply instilled things.

My experience is that when we are asked to do creative thinking and planning
the most likely thing we will do
is be creative by going back to something that worked long ago for us –
or at least something we might think worked for us.

When we try to imagine what the church of the present or future could be
we tend to find ourselves captured by our family of origin, or early formation.

I remember early on in my time at Kippax – after around 12 months –
one of the leaders of the congregation came to me
and pointed out some troubles she was having with my themes in worship.
Her comment was  – “You preach too much grace, Gordon.”

(To be honest, I would be very happy with the epitaph on my tombstone:
“He preached too much grace”)

A little scratch below the surface
revealed that her ‘family or origin’ was pretty rule bound and pretty performance driven
and that there was a sense of drivenness to achieve.

That’s where their family often found or expressed personal worth.
The constant theme of grace – or acceptance without prerequisite – was difficult

When we plan children’s ministry –
how much do we hearken back to a Sunday School
(with huge Sunday School anniversaries)
because we think that that was something that worked in the past.

When we think about planning youth ministry –
how many times do we hear the request to establish a big regional Easter camp
And gather all our teens and young adults together.
Because that was something that was important to a particular cohort in the church today
when they were of that age.

Rocking Bambi was formed at a time there was some not so subtle pressure
for us to get a dancing group going here – why?
Because Kippax had been famous for its Sonseekers dance group.
that was our origin.

The stories of our family or community of origin
can reach through time and grab us and hold us
and draw us back to some world that is no longer.

The spirit of God leads us in our identity not to create what has been, but what can be.
Too often in the church we ask questions about what people would like.
And when we do, we encourage people to create the pain of the first part of Mark 6.

William Willimon once said
our primary metaphor ought to be formation.
We ought to spend our energy worrying about how the church
could form its community and its members as
“concrete embodiments of the gospel such that it,
and they continue to offer a profound, perhaps even radical,
alternative to the dominate structures and institutions of the day”

We are to be encouraged to break free from the dominance of our family of origin
To have the strength to step free of that which others put upon us
and to be more aware of the weights and expectations
that we are putting on ourselves and others.

We are not defined by where we have come from.
We can not define others by where they have come from.

We are to be mature adults.
Stepping free into what lies next.   Not what lay before.

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