"Seeing God In The Ordinary: Family"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Frank had his own very successful company. He employed about 20 people who were all paid well and happy. One day at work one of the critical pieces of equipment broke down and Frank was right in the middle of helping make repairs. After just a short time, they got it back up and running but he was all hot and sweaty. On top of that, on the way home, he had a flat tire. So when he got home he decided to jump in the shower.
He was just stepping out of the shower one when his wife called and asked him to run down to the basement and turn off the iron she had accidentally left on. Without bothering to grab a towel or robe, Frank headed down to the basement. Just as he reached the bottom stair, the lights came on and about two dozen friends, family and colleagues jumped out and shouted, "Surprise!" His wife had planned a surprise party for his 40th birthday. (1)
As much as we love one another, family can cause more surprises in our life than anything else. They always seem to be the ones who embarrass us in public. They see us at our worst and they don't let us forget it. They know all the secrets and where the bodies are buried.
That's the kind of response Jesus got in his hometown of Nazareth when he surprised everyone by announcing His ministry in the synagogue one morning. That's found in
Luke 4:16-30 (NRSV)
 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
 Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"
 He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'"
 And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.
 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;
 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.
 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
It's kind of nice to see that the people in Jesus' hometown and in his family didn't treat Him any different than our families treat us. It's also a little disconcerting. This was Jesus. But let me see if I can shed a little light.
Our son Joshua was identified as gifted at an early age. He graduated from Martin High School in Arlington when he was 15 and from Texas A&M when he was 18. He's now at Emory University working on his PHD in Political Science. People are always amazed when I tell them that. It is sort of parental bragging rights but they always ask "How did you do it?" And "Wasn't it hard?" And I guess the best answer is, "He was just Josh." He started that way and was always that way. He didn't turn four and all of a sudden all the smarts turned on. He was just Josh. We adapted to him and his needs just as if he were a gifted athlete or artist. He was just Josh.
That's the way it was in Nazareth. Jesus had grown up there. It's not that they didn't want him to succeed, they did. But they didn't expect Him to be the Messiah. I mean really, this is Joseph the carpenters son. This is just Jesus.
However, while it was hard for Jesus to be a prophet in his own home town, I'm sure his family had those God moments when God's love and presence was revealed in special ways. It's usually very hard for family to see God in us because of the "it's just Billy or Bob or Jane" syndrome but we can see God In The Ordinary in and through our families.
I. FAMILY HELPS US "KEEP IT REAL:
You see FAMILY HELPS US "KEEP IT REAL". You can be the greatest rocket scientist in the world, the greatest surgeon, the highest paid actor or athlete, the most famous author there ever was but at the end of the day, family is still family and they will remind you of everyone of your faults. And that's not all that bad. Families help keep us humble.
A third-grade Sunday school teacher was giving a lesson on the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." To get the class involved a little more, she asked "Does anyone know a commandment for brothers and sisters?" One sharp girl raised her hand and said, "Yes! Thou salt not kill." (2)
Then there is the story of the little boy who all the way home from church, sat in the back seat of the car and was very quiet. Dad, sensing something was troubling him asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the little boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I want to stay with you guys!" (3)
That will make you stop and think about your lifestyle won't it? Family keeps us humble. We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US "KEEP IT REAL.
II. FAMILY HELPS US HOLD IT TOGETHER:
We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US HOLD IT TOGETHER.
Gracie Allen [the wife and comic partner of comedian George Burns] was a brilliant comedienne. Not only that but she was a very perceptive woman, she knew George. She knew George would grieve when she died. And she knew he would go through everything, all of papers, everything. So, she left a message buried in her papers for George to discover after her death. She wrote, "Never put a period where God has placed a comma."
Gracie was encouraging George to remember that life has many chapters. George was 68 when Gracie died. But rather than place a period after his career, George Burns went on to star in a number of movies, including playing God, twice. He even headlined at University of Florida Gator Growl in the 1970s. He died at age of 100. He definitely lived the life of the comma and not the period. (4)
It would have been easy for George Burns to just quit. His partner and love of his life was no longer with him. He was 68. Everyone would have understood. But Gracie's encouragement from beyond the grave helped him Hold It Together and continue in the career he so loved.
We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US HOLD IT TOGETHER.
III. FAMILY HELPS US BY INSPIRING:
We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US BY INSPIRING. Believe me, I know that not all families are what you would call perfect or near perfect, let alone inspiring. The only role model my family could have been used for was that of a "dysfunctional family." But we put the word fun in dysfunctional.
A lot of you grew up in similar situations. And yet in the midst of those difficult situations, some of us found a sense of inspiration. We saw God working in and through the life of another member of the family and it inspired us. We may not have recognized God at the moment but the inspiration of the moment continues to live on.
Thank you for sharing your stories about how you have seen God In The Ordinary. One of those stories tells about a 10 year old girl whose mother and step father decided that the responsibility for raising the rest of the children in the family was hers. This 10 year old was horrified, she knew that if anything went wrong she would be punished. It was unfair but she took the task very seriously.
About 5 years later, while she was suffering from "Whooping Cough" her baby sister got sick and developed pneumonia. She was burning up with fever and was barely conscious. For more than two days she'd been unable to keep any food down. This 15 year old caregiver became very concerned, especially when Mom and Dad didn't seem to have any plans to take her to a doctor.
Convinced her baby sister was dying. wrapped her up in a blanket, and headed out the door. He step-dad looked up from paper and said: "Where do you think you're going?" Despite begin afraid of him, she replied: "I'm taking the baby to the doctor if I have to walk all 15 miles to get there!!" The stepfather then hatefully instructed her Mom to drive.
However, this 15 year old, handed the baby to Mom and drove. After leaving them at the hospital, she returned home. Before going to sleep, she opened her heart to God and prayed: "Dear Heavenly Father, if you must have a life tonight, please take mine and let my baby sister live." She went to sleep weeping. About two am, she had a "dream" that Christ was moving toward her clothed in robes of light. She fell to her knees as He reached out to her and said: "You baby sister will not die tonight."
The dream had been so vivid, she woke immediately. She looked at the clock and it was 1:30 am.
About 4:00 am, her mother called and said that when they got to the hospital, the baby's left lung was completely filled with fluid and the right one was half full. By midnight the doctors had tried everything they knew to get her lungs to drain and finally had given up. Suddenly about 1:30 am, her lungs started draining and it looked like the baby was going to be all right.
God had answered her prayer! She walked around in a daze for about two weeks expecting any moment to drop dead! It took a lot of years but she eventually came to realize the God had taken her life that night. Just in a very different way than she expected.
We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US BY INSPIRING.
IV. FAMILY HELPS US TO BE CARING:
We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. You see, that's how God lives us, unconditionally. That's the model God created for families. We know that families don't always follow the model but when they do, when Families Help Us Love Unconditionally, We're able to see God in the Ordinary.
A new mother stayed with her parents for several days after the birth of her first child. One afternoon she told her mother that it was surprising the baby had dark hair, since both her husband and she were fair. The grandmother said, "Well, your daddy has black hair."
To which the daughter replied, "But, Mama, that doesn't matter, because I'm adopted." With an embarrassed smile, mom said the most wonderful words her daughter had ever heard: "I always forget."
All Christians are the adopted children of God who are accepted by God with the same unconditional love that this mother had for her daughter. (5) God's unconditional love for us is summed up in Paul's words in Romans, "we are children of God and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" kingdom." Joint heirs means we have been elevated to the status of Sons and Daughters of God.
We learn Unconditional Love from God and We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY.
The evidence of God is all around us, you can see it in every kind of family. Back in 2001 there was a story in the news about a family of ducklings that fell down a sewer grate in Vancouver. Their mother did what any parent would do. She got help from a passing police officer.
The mother duck grabbed the police officer by the pant leg while he was on foot patrol. The officer shoved, what he thought was just a goofy duck, out of the way. But the mother duck persisted. She grabbed his pant leg again when he tried to leave, and then waddled to a nearby sewer grate where she sat down and waited for him to follow and investigate.
The officer finally came to where Mama duck was sitting and saw eight little baby ducklings in the water below. He then called for backup. While the mama duck sat on the curb and watched, four officers removed the heavy metal grate with the help of a tow truck and used a vegetable strainer to lift the ducklings to safety. Safe, Mother and offspring waddled to the nearby Falls Creek, where they jumped in the water. (6)
The evidence of God is all around us if we'll open our eyes and look. It may be hard to see God in your family. Your may have to work at it but if you look close enough, you will be able to see God in the Ordinary of Your Family. We can see God in the ordinary when FAMILY HELPS US "KEEP IT REAL;" when FAMILY HELPS US HOLD IT TOGETHER; when FAMILY HELPS US LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY; and when FAMILY HELPS US LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. Look for God in Your Family. You might be surprised where and in whom You see God.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Life in These United States," Readers Digest, Mar. 1997, p. 84.
2. Jack Sedberry (Family, Ten Commandments) Leadership Vol.19,#4
4. Submitted by C. Richard Stone, Bremerton, Washington
6. Nicholas Read, www.vancoueversun.com,
Other References Consulted