SERMON from 1-29-12: “Unstuck in Your Family”

 

Ephesians 1.29-12

 

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

 

Unstuck in Your Family

 

We are talking about families, today.  More specifically, we are looking at how to get unstuck in our families.

 

I wanted to begin with a source of information for the modern American family–television families.  Specifically, I wanted to test your knowledge of television families.  I am going to give you the last name of a television family, and you tell me the name of the show by raising your hand and being called on by me.  Here we go…(in no particular chronological order)

 

  1. The Pritchetts
  2. The Nelsons
  3. The Winslows
  4. The Bunkers
  5. The Connors
  6. The Cartwrights
  7. The Barones
  8. The Huxtables
  9. The Carringtons
  10. The Addams
  11. The Keatons
  12. The Harpers
  13. The Camdens
  14. The Bundys
  15. The Salingers
  16. The Seavers
  17. The Cunninghams
  18. The Griffins
  19. The Banks
  20. The Cleavers

 

Why start with trivia about famous TV families?  I could just have easily used biblical families as examples to teach us how we get unstuck in our families.  Number one: it helps me keep the attention of an audience that is increasingly mired in modern technology.  Number two: the absurdity of the situations that these families get into–and neatly out of, in thirty minutes or less (sometimes an hour)–makes us feel better about our families, right?

 

Think about it.  None of us have to deal with children who have political beliefs radically different than our own–like Alex P. Keaton does with his family.  None of us have to deal with parents being put out of work numerous times–like Dan and Roseanne Connor’s kids did.  None of us have had children consider not going to or dropping out of school, thereby making us explain adult living to them with the use of Monopoly money–like Cliff Huxtable had to do with young Theo.

 

The last one might not have happened to you, but hopefully you can see that I am being a bit sarcastic with these examples.  The truth is that we end up liking these shows and connecting with these families so much because–as dysfunctional as most of them can be–they can really mirror our own.  There are some of us who have hosted a family member longer than we thought we were going to or really wanted to–like the Banks family did with young Will Smith.  Most of us have sat through a family dinner with an older male relative who often made less-than-kosher remarks having to do with racial minorities–like the Bunkers.  And I am sure there are some ladies out here who have dealt with mothers-in-law in whose eyes you could do nothing right–like Debra had to do in Everybody Loves Raymond.

 

If we’re being honest, dysfunction exists within our families from time to time–if not more frequently than that.  I will give you time to look around and point fingers at the people you think are responsible for this.  Then, I will shake my finger at you for not looking at yourself first.  Then, I will turn that finger on myself–because I can be just as bad.

 

That’s the fun part, right?  We can all look back at the times where we have had problems with others and the times we were the problem, and we can laugh–and that’s healthy.  Unfortunately, the laughable dysfunction isn’t always laughable.  Sometimes, the problems we have within our families can be pretty frustrating.  I would even go so far as to say they can be difficult–and maybe even feel impossible. I had a chat with a young mother on the phone not to long ago.  She was venting some frustration to me that she was having with her child.  I offered sympathy and the frustration I can have with my kids in an attempt to try to help.

 

But sometimes, no matter what we do, how hard we try or whose advice we try to follow, we can just feel stuck–S-T-U-K.  Feeling stuck can be and feel bad for all sorts of reasons, but feeling stuck in your family can–if you’ll pardon me–hit close to home.  It’s right there.  Feeling stuck in your family is unlike any of the other things we’ve talked about being stuck in, because it is right there.  You live in it.  You stew in it.  The problems and frustrations of feeling stuck in your family can feel like the broth you are boiling in–until it suddenly boils over on you.

 

That’s why getting Unstuck is so important.

 

Now, I am not going to tease you along with the bait this week.  I am going to go all the way on the first try.  Getting unstuck in your family requires that you do this thing first: put God first.  We trust God with our families and we trust our family to God.  “Wow!  That’s it, pastor?” you might be saying to yourself.  “What would I ever do without your sage advice?”  I would have to agree with your sarcastic questions and admit to you that the “getting unstuck” portion of this advice are nothing new.  In fact, you might be doing one or all of them within your families right now.  However, whether you are a family of six with 4 dogs and a parakeet or it’s just you and your spouse left in the “nest,” I guarantee being reminded of these things–especially within the context of someone who is currently learning and begin trained to give proper, pastoral advice–won’t hurt you.  Hey, it could even help.

 

So, trusting your family with God.  Do you pray for your family?  Daily?  Do you pray with your family?  Does your family study the Bible together?  Let me tell you, this is something that all of us could work on.  And when I say all of us, I mean me, as well.  When I talk about this stuff, I have to include myself.  Anybody–and I mean anybody–can get stuck in their family.  Prayer and family bible study is a good start.  Offer up a prayer in the morning.  Pray together before bed.  What this does is create two lines of communication: between your family and God and between you and your family.

 

Now, this step is not a magic elixir.  It’s not gonna solve all your problems or cure all minor scrapes and meltdowns.  The fact that you invite and involve God in the life of your family isn’t going to magically change things–just like it didn’t magically change things when you involved him in your personal life.  What it does ensure is that you and your spouse and kids will be better equipped on how to survive the rough times, and come out on the other side alive and loving each other.

 

I saw some interesting statistics this week.  Everyone has an idea about what children’s church is about.  The kids do their thing, and the adults do theirs.  In some places–and it’s been this way in many other places–kids from babies to college students have gone to another part of the church for worship.  However, these studies showed that children who sit in worship with their parents from 5th grade on were 250% more likely to still be attending church in their 20’s.  As it stands, only 25% of 20-somethings attend church.  What does this tell us?  When you put it together with our previous work, we understand that our kids are more likely to still be attending church later in life–and the better we all are at handling stickiness in our family life–the more time we spend with them engaged in a faithful pursuit of God.

 

Do what you can!  Worship together.  Pray together. Read together.  Serve together–one we usually think about for ourselves, but neglect it as a family affair.

 

So…step one: put God first.  Check.

 

The second step to getting unstuck in our families is forgiveness.  Again–like you didn’t already know this–but it bears repeating.  It bears repeating because it is something that needs to be repeated.  Our knowing it and our doing it.  When forgiveness is absent, so is trust, caring and devotion.  Our scripture this morning stated this pretty clearly.  We are to be kind to one another (should be obvious, but here we are) and display a tenderhearted forgiveness to each other (again, duh).

 

I came up with a little alliteration to help us understand the extent to which this forgiveness is to go.  Forgiveness is to be as fast, full and final as possible.  When we drag out our anger, we create fertile ground for resentment.  When we withhold our full forgiveness for whatever reason, we leave the possibility of re-injury and further bitterness–and possible attempts at wrath.  And when forgiveness isn’t final, you are just gonna keep getting stuck.  Forgiveness needs to be fast, full and final–and let’s not forget often.

 

The third step to getting or staying unstuck in your family is pretty easy–and fun.  Have fun!  I cannot remember what it was for, but I once saw a commercial about a family.  Mom was sitting at her computer.  Dad was thumbing his tablet computer–this thing I am holding in my hand.  The son was hard at work at his X-box, talking to his buddies on the headset they use to play games over the internet.  The daughter was listening to her iPod, as she furiously sent text messages to her friends.  Unfortunately, this isn’t out of the ordinary.  This has become common place in homes all over the world.  Everyone is connecting with everyone, except with the people that are sitting right next to them.  This happens all day and continues through until everyone heads off to bed.  These things may be entertaining, but the family isn’t spending time with each other–enjoying each other.  No wonder we can get stuck.  Our lives are pulling us away from the people we are supposed to be sharing our lives with.

 

That’s why we need to take time as families to be with each other.  Our friends in the LDS–or Mormons–practice something called “family home evenings.”  As I found somewhere on a Mormon blog, “Well-planned family home evenings can be a source of long-lasting joy and influence. These evenings are times for group activity, for organizing, for the expressions of love…for family fun and recreation, and of all things, for family unity and solidarity.”  I don’t care about theological differences–that’s pretty good.

 

Fun with your family.  It’s a good way to get unstuck at home.  In fact, you don’t really know what your missing unless you put down your electronic devices and connect with those you love–besides carpel-tunnel syndrome and that crick in your neck you get from doing this (bending neck to look at electronic devices).

 

However, as we close, we can do none of this unless we are willing.  A good definition of our word Unstuck–that we are using in this series–is “moving forward in my life because I am willing to.”  That’s something a got from somewhere.  Even better would be to say that we are moving forward in our lives because we are willing to trust God with it all.  Which brings us back to where it is we began, and what it is we have been talking about since we began.  the key to getting Unstuck is accepting the grace of God he is so lovingly and willingly supplies us.

 

As easy as that sounds, it can be even harder to do.  It takes faith, sometimes, and that in great amounts.  And that’s where we will pick up next week.  Our acceptance of God’s grace and reliance upon his presence to help us get Unstuck in our Faith.

 

AMEN

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