For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph 3:15).
Jesus Christ….of whom the whole family is named?
Yes, I guess that makes sense. We are named after him. That’s why they call us Christians. The family of Jesus Christ.
And –according to this verse- the family is extended in two directions. It is extended across time (on earth) and into eternity (in heaven).
Fairly extended then.
Somehow, that puts me in mind of Bilbo’s quip at the family party in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” That is to say, in a world where Homer Simpson is voted Father of the Year, dysfunctional families like the family of Jesus Christ, become a subject for jest.
Many of our jokes stem from the ambience of this reality : George Burns used to say “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
But connectiveness is, after all, a reality, no matter how we chafe at the bonds. “Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors and the woman you hardly notice who cleans your office. Happiness is not a noun or verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.” Eric Weiner wrote that in the marvellously named The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.
And it’s no more than the truth. In the end you have to choose whether you regard church as family or as organisation. There simply isn’t a third option. If you go for the organisation option then you settle for hierarchy, managers, bureaucrats, perks, loopholes. But family is categorically different. You carry them in your heart, whether you will or nay. Fred Buechner: “You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
Family is where people put up with you! It’s that place where you are loved the most and where you act the worst.
Of all the titles that I’ve been privileged to have, the title of ‘dad’ has always been the best. Luke, my first, knew me as Ken for a couple of years and then graduated to calling me Dad. I’ve kept the postcard evidence to remember the sudden whoosh of happiness that changed the designation –and my life- forever. Then three little ones followed, wearing out the Dad word as I made the transition from superhero to embarrassment in less than twenty years. I recall with pleasure our foster-children trying it out. I never prompted it, of course, or suggested it, since most of them had “real dads” out there somewhere
I wonder how God feels about us. The instances of Jesus calling God Abba always stir me at a deep level. I do know that we cannot precisely translate what the Aramaic term would have fully meant with semantic precision, but the level of intimacy is something that we are summoned into. Because “God has sent his Spirit into our hearts, crying Abba father” (Galatians 4:6).
I love it. Family, fathering. It’s everything. It joins earth and heaven and creates the vital link between time and eternity. Criss Jami once said: “Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears.”
Time to come home.