Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35 Mssg.).
I remember the morning my brother was born, certain details of it at least. I was 9 years old. It was a Sunday morning. My sister and I were awakened by the matter of fact voice and portly presence of Mrs. Alma Higgins, a member of our church. “You kids get ready for church. Your Mother’s gone to the hospital.” In the very early hours of morning my parents had called Mrs. Higgins to come over and be with us.
Later that day Michael was born. I had a brother. A younger brother, which made me the older brother – the oldest of three, and I thought that was fairly cool. I couldn’t wait for him to move in to the house and become a member of the family.
Something very much like that happened last night. For the past few days our family has been at the Christian Life Conference at Montreat. Marnie and I had teaching duties during the day. At the evening plenary sessions we heard great teaching from Pastor Scott Dudley. Typically during the evening sessions our kids were in a program for children. Last night my son decided he wanted to come with us. I had misgivings about that . . . but why not. We let him come.
The evening services ended with an opportunity for people to go to different parts of the auditorium and have someone pray with them. Signs were posted around the perimeter of the room indicating various kinds of prayer needs: family needs, health and healing needs, concerns for our nation, etc. Down front a sign said “Salvation: Receive Christ.”
“I want to go do that,” my son said.
There had been no heavy-handed evangelistic appeal. Just a good solid message about following Jesus with all that you are. I wasn’t even sure how well John was listening. I don’t know what it was that moved him or gave him courage to walk down to the front. I say I don’t know, but it’s the Spirit that does this kind of thing. Without consulting me, God was working in John’s life in ways that I didn’t perceive. We questioned him, making sure that he really wanted to do what he said he wanted to do. And then we walked with him and a pastor stooped low to talk with him and then prayed with him.
That moment alone would have been enough. God surprising us again. But there was more. After the pastor had prayed with John people began to come up and embrace him and welcome him into the family. Some of these people I didn’t even know – but it didn’t matter. They were welcoming a new family member. I was self-conscious about my tears, furtively wiping my face and trying to hold it together. Others were less guarded. They wept as they welcomed my son to the family.
And so I experienced last night what I’ve known in my head for a long time. Jesus makes us family. We are brothers and sisters not because we have much in common or because we sense a natural affinity for each other and really enjoy each other’s company. We are brothers and sisters because of what Jesus did to bring us into the family. When Jesus’ own mother and brothers sought him out, Jesus re-defined family. Hearing God’s word and doing God’s will defines the family.
I can’t help but wonder if someone reading this today has sensed the Spirit’s work bringing them into the family of faith. Perhaps, as with my son, the Spirit has been at work in you for a while. With a simple response of faith, a yes that comes from your deepest self, you can enter this family. Many brothers and sisters wait to receive you.
By the work of your Spirit, gracious God, you bring us into your family. Work in our hearts so that we might truly be brothers and sisters to each other, desiring only what you will, ever attentive to your word. Amen.