F is for Family, J is for Judgement Romans 15. 4-13 Luke 21.25-33
I’ve been watching on Netflix a show called ‘F is for Family.’ It’s a cartoon comedy set in the early 1970’s and revolves around the lives of Frank and Sue Murphy and their three children Kevin, Bill and Maureen.
Of all the characters Bill, he’s 11 years old, quite shy, physically weak and is characterised as being a bit of a ‘wet blanket’, I won’t use the word they use to describe him in church, but it’s another word for a cat.
Bill is by the standards of the early 1970’s not a proper boy, he doesn’t stand up to people, he’s no good in a fight. He gets picked on by a much bigger boy.
Due to a series of unfortunate events, and Bill’s innocence and lack of support he’s lead to a point where he thinks why bother being good? What’s the point, all of the bad things happened to him despite being good.
Because of this lack of support, it leads him down a deeper and worse path, he starts to steal things, and ends up in a mess all of his own doing.
All because he was told constantly that he was week.
Actually Bill’s not a weak character at all, and although he makes mistakes none of his family seem to recognise how strong he is.
There are a lot of broken relationships in this fictional family. Frank doesn’t support Sue very well and their oldest child Kevin has the dream of being a Rockstar, one that Frank tries to violently crush.
The only thing that binds them together, is the love that they have for eachother, though they have a funny way of showing it.
I think this is a little bit like the Church of England. We’re a funny old bunch aren’t we? A group of Church militants perhaps?
A family of wide and differing views from things like sexuality, to how many candles should there be on an altar? Or should there even be one?
It’s a shame that the BCP lectionary starts at verse 4, because verses 1-3 are really important in this chapter, it goes like this;
“We who are strong ought to carry the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ (Romans 15.1-3)
Unlike the Murphy family we are supposed to carry the weak, and help them on their way. We shouldn’t be stigmatising the people who are different from us, the people like Bill who don’t really fit into a neat box, or don’t act in the way that society expects them to.
The church is a place where broken people should come. It’s a hospital for the broken, not a place where everyone is already well and knows what they’re doing.
As St Paul explained in our reading, we are to try and live in harmony with one another, if we possibly can. Jesus died for everyone, even the people that don’t fit in, even the weak.
We shouldn’t carry the weak just because we have to, but because the people who are different from us, have different gifts, they have something to teach each of us.
Many people are put off the church because they see it as a club for the self-righteous, it’s our job to convince people otherwise. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
It is up to God to judge those we find a bit unsavoury, not us.
“Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
It’s self evident what happens when we support each other, when we treat the stranger like family. When we don’t judge but simply approach people with open arms.
The roots and branches of the tree sprout into new growth, into new life, into a new vibrancy.
The Church of England is a family too, and sometimes we treat people from outside our own church better than others within it. I know we have deeply held convictions, and I am guilty of being bitter about the people I disagree with, but sometimes true strength is being in the same room, and saying I disagree but I’m going to love you anyway.
Only then can we heal the divisions we feel, only then can we leave the judgement up to God. Only then can we be truly strong, and build ourselves up. Because we don’t want to be like the Murhpy’s, a family that finds it difficult to support one another.
Christ has welcomed us in, but the question is, are you welcoming him in? Or are we guilty of the judgement that only God is allowed to have?