Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
There is a piece of scripture from Romans that gets me fired up every time I hear it. It reads, “Let love be genuine…
Hate what is evil
Hold fast to what is good
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in honorable deeds.
Don’t lag in zeal, but be ardent in the Spirit.
Serve the Lord,
Rejoice in hope.
Be patient in the Spirit.
But if I’m totally honest I do struggle with one line every time I read it. Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection…” Well, I don’t think Paul knew my brother and me. If he did he might find another adjective to replace “brotherly.”
My brother has come to define our relationship as best friends and mortal enemies. Growing up as twins, two themes dominate a majority of my memories… competition and conflict. And usually the two were related. Rarely, would I say, were we behaving in ways that anyone might call affectionate… and even if some claimed we were, I’d totally deny it.
This is the first of a four-part series for The Jamestown Gazette that will focus on God’s gift of relationship. We will focus on the different relationships that God has given us… on the relationship we share with our spouse… on our friendships… on our faith… and right now on our family.
As I’ve already begun to allude, when it comes to talking about God’s gift of family I can’t do so without laughing. I just think… Them? That’s one of God’s precious gifts.
But before I go any farther, it’s time to get something out of the way. Do you know how the first family (not the Obamas…Natasha & Malia) turned out? Adam and Eve had a couple of perfect little baby boys… who grew up and one ended up killing the other. Suddenly the Hannons look a little more normal. But that is to say that when we say that family is a gift from God, we aren’t saying it’s perfect. God’s blessings rarely are perfect. Instead, they are usually quite ordinary… imperfect men built the church… muddy Jordan water baptized our Lord… Paul’s harsh and occasionally profane words pointed people to faith… common wheat and wine become Christ’s body.
God uses ordinary things to bless us, and ordinary families… broken, skeleton ridden, conflict loving families are how God not only calls us to live, but how God blesses that life.
On Mount Sinai God ordered the life his newly freed people would enjoy with some guidelines we’ve come to call the 10 commandments. One of them read.
[The Lord God said,] Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
And what may be lost on us without the rest of the commandments wasn’t lost on the Jews who first heard it. This is the only commandment to come with a promise. When we honor our family… our days are long in the land.
When I look around at the world, at our neighborhood, at our church… I cannot help but think how much more we would enjoy life if we could find a way to reclaim this commandment. Martin Luther interpreted this commandment as respecting elders and those in authority.
And that is what we are called to do… and not just so our mothers are happy (although mine would say… isn’t that enough?), but so that the blessing of our families makes our days long and joyful in the land that the Lord our God has given us.
God has blessed us with these units we call families. These broken places we first learn to love, to trust, to forgive, to wrestle. Let us go forth with two charges… let us love one another with brotherly affection… let us honor our elders… (notice I didn’t say let us demand honor from those younger than us… which is how we’d like to interpret the commandment). But let us honor our elders, that our days may be long and our relationships with our families fruitful in the land that the lord our God is giving to us.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.