Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19
Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2
“Families are hard.”
My sister Linda said that, back in the late 1980s, when we siblings were struggling to help our aging parents cope with one of our brothers during a rough patch in his life. I have pondered that phrase, through the years since then, and I’ve shared it with many people who told me that it rings true to their experience in their families, too.
In several of my classes at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, we struggled to make sense of our own families, as a way of preparing to help our church-folk understand theirs. One tool that we used is called a “genogram,” meaning a picture of a family. It uses shapes and symbols to illustrate relationships within a family unit. It can be as simple or elaborate as you wish.
Here is a simple genogram of my family of origin:
Once you have laid out the basics on your paper, you can use additional symbols to show the qualities of different relationships. For instance, a double line connecting two people marks an especially strong bond between them, while wavy lines between two people stand for a troubled relationship:
There are many other symbols and rules one can learn for making genograms. You can extend them into the past as far as you like. Many of us find that they help us to visualize where we come from, and how our families function (or dys-function !) the way that they do. I have a book in the church office that you can consult, if you’re interested in pursuing your own genograms.
Often, when I have an opportunity to pray with you, you will hear me thanking God for placing us
in families. I mean it.
And yet, families are hard.
Look what John says about Jesus and Jesus’ brothers! (John 7:1-10) Or, what the elderly prophet Simeon said to Mary about her future with her then-infant son (Luke 2:35).
Jesus had a tough time with his own earthly family!
So, when you read this week’s gospel lesson, think of your own family. Speaking of his mission, which was, in part, to offer each individual a choice about whether to join the Kingdom of God, Jesus said,
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12)
Is God wrong, to place us in families?
If not, what is it that goes wrong with our families?
Here’s a thought: Can we work with the Holy Spirit to turn our earthly families into spiritual families?
[this article is recycled from 2010]