This week in preparation for this service, I meditated on the word Heritage. This led me to go into the notebooks I have that once belonged to my Grandparents Marshall. My grandfather was a lay speaker and often would fill in for pastors on vacation, or away on retreat. In the notebooks I have I find sermons, quotes, notes about upcoming meetings, and even the meaning of words. For example:
One Book and only one,
The Book my Father gave;
One Book, with power to serve.
One Book and only one,
that points the pilgrim’s way;
One Book, and only one,
To keep me, lest I stray
Or this one
“God will not change; the restless years may bring
Sunlight and shade; the glories of the spring.
And silent gloom of sunless winter hours,
Joy mixed with grief-sharp thorns with fragrant flowers;
Earth lights may shine awhile, and they grow dim,
But God is true; there is no change in Him. -unknown
My grandfather died when I was too young to appreciate his passion to serve the church, and to serve God. But I had a sense ever since that He and I would have a lot to talk about and so I pray to him from time to time, to connect me to him, and his eternal spirit. Reading these words in the notebooks connects me to him and to my heritage. More than that as I read the words he preached, it helps me to see what he believed, and helps me connect to God.
Why Did God create only one man? So that thereafter no one could say, “My ancestors were nobler than yours,” or that virtue and vice are inherited, or that some races are better than others.. And to teach us that whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and that whoever saves one life earns as much merit as if he had saved the whole world.
I find throughout his writings, my grandfather’s perspective to see our ancestry, not just with those we can trace on our family tree, but to Adam, to Moses, and Jacob, to Jeremiah, and Isaiah. This theme has also been a part of my understanding of our place in the universe. Our ancestry extends to the beginning of time, before what we can remember or understand.
In a sermon he preached in 1930 to Orange Methodist and Athol Methodist
on the subject of government he advocates that we become christian nationalists: this nationalism is a “nationalism for peace, for disarmament, and devotion to the common welfare, and the common good of all people. Let us sing America the Beautiful, and the Star Spangled Banner, and my country ‘tis of thee, but first of all give God a chance, a share, a place”.
There are two key words in the scriptures today that I would like to highlight that bring this ancestry into clearer focus: offspring and orphans.
There has been much written about orphans, movies and plays, little orphan Annie, being one of those enduring tales that seems to get remade every generation. But the issue of having a family, a place to belong is an important theme throughout all of history. Long before Orphan Annie, children have struggled with growing up without parents. And this issue is more than just an emotional one, when I visited South Africa one of the activities I participated in was to give food and school supplies to children who had become orphans because both their parents had died due to HIV/AIDS. The children had very little, and deepened on the kindness of others just to get through another day. The worker who was responsible for the orphans in an area the roughly equivalent to the state of Texas, told us that many children simple die because their is not enough food, or water to sustain them. It was only the churches who could provide hope through donations they had collected from those who did not have much themselves. Yet even in these most trying of circumstances the Methodist church of South Africa is making a difference in the lives of those orphans, in cooperation with Catholic Relief services so fewer children die, and have a second chance at life.
Our heritage is much more than those we are related to, we are made with the same stuff of all of God’s creation which means all have the same spiritual parent, we are made with the same vision for the world.
John records Jesus’ promised that we will not be left orphaned, that the Holy Spirit will live in us and us in the spirit. We belong to God and with God, and on that promise we can rely throughout our whole life, even when we lose those closest to us. Our ancestry reveals that at the roots of our heritage God is there.
These days we have many resources at our disposal to trace our family roots, there are numerous websites you can go to, research that in days past took years, can be accomplished sooner. Recently, Linda’s aunt Lil who does some of this research on line discovered a whole line of relatives that were assumed lost. Now it turns out that my daughters are decedents of the daughters of the American Revolution! Which is an organization that has its headquarters in Washington D.C.
As one of the most inclusive genealogical societies in the country, DAR boasts 165,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the United States and internationally. Any woman 18 years or older-regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background-who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible for membership.
today we know the source of our Christian family tree: the bible is our source that connects us to our ancestors, those from whom we descend, the membership is open to all races, genders, and national origin, I know you have that same conversation that I have had, what are you? My ancestors come from England, but Linda’s are polish, french with a bit of cherokee Indian. In God’s eyes we are full blooded sons and daughters in the Kingdom of heaven. This will never change, God is always there, no matter where life takes us, God is there and will always be there because as Jesus told us that God is in us, and we in God.
Once we accept this ancestry, once we fully embody the notion that we are God’s, there is a desire to love God with all our heart and mind and strength, once we find out who we are, and whose we are, we want feel a desire to bring others into the family and experience the same joy we have.
To really be a part of the kingdom is never to stop inviting others to be a part of the goodness of God. Jesus wanted his disciples and followers to know they would not be alone because they were the ones who would now do the work of building the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, they were the ones who would put their lives on the line to preach the gospel, to teach others about Jesus. Our Lord knew this would not always be easy work, but he also knew it would be the best work his followers would ever do.
Today, we are called to find more of our brothers and sisters who are in the world but have forgotten who they are and whose they are. There are many who feel orphaned, alone, without love, without hope wanting so desperately to belong. They are people who want to connect to others in a meaningful way.
But it is hard in our society to find that connection, life can be frantic at times and when you are alone it seems like all you can think about is what you do not have, not what you do have. And you feel disconnected, and do not know how to plug in, to reach out.They are waiting for the invitation that will make the difference in their lives, to find a family, to connect to their heritage, to find they are a beloved child of God.
So what can we do?
First, take the time to connect to God! Deepen your connection to your spiritual heritage
2. Connect to family and friends. Loved ones provide support and encouragement. Talk to them when you need guidance, and be prepared to help them in their times of need.
3. Connect to coworkers. Given the amount of time we dedicate to work, it's important to foster healthy relationships there. Spend lunch with your coworkers or take a walk with a colleague you haven't talked with in awhile.
4.Connect to community. Shifting from our own issues to others' concerns can be healthy. In church we work to serve others, and often it is the passion of one person that turns into a project the whole church can get around.
5. Connect to yourself. Take time out for a hobby, a book, meditation, or exercise. This is your time, so choose something you enjoy.
Connect to professional help. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope, reach out to a mental health professional.
When we take the time to connect, we will find ourselves busy being the family of God,we will be doing the good work of listening for the concerns and celebrations of those in our communities and we will find ourselves drawn to help.
Connection to God connects us to the world in a whole new way, and we take our place in the family. Who knows some day, your grandchildren or someone’s grandchildren might be reading something you wrote or did and finding inspiration for their lives!