Do you remember the song We Are Family?  It was sung by four sisters, who named their singing group Sister Sledge. It was a song about families.  It featured a catchy tune that was popular in 1979 and continues to be used in commercials and is heard often at weddings.

Sledge family rule spelled out in the last verse:

Here’s what we call our Golden Rule,

Have faith in you and the things you do,

you won’t go wrong.

In those lines, the sisters told us one of the rules expected to be followed by those living in their family.  It is a rule that must have worked for them, as the family stuck together.  Three of the sisters were still performing until early this year, when sister Joni, died in March.   The written rule must have guided them well over the years.

Does your family have rules?  Do all families have rules?  Are they as public as the Sledge’s was, or are they unwritten and known only to those in the family?  Do Christians have family rules?  Does our Faith Presbyterian family?  Are they all written or do we have unwritten guidelines that family members understand, but are unknown to others?  Are there family stories and family secrets that we either consciously or unconsciously keep to ourselves?  If we do, do they hinder others from feeling welcome?  How do we share them in welcoming others?

Suppose I asked you “where are the Apostle Doors?” How would you answer that question?  What would you say?  Would you look around and wonder if you missed seeing them when you came in or if they were somewhere else in the building that you hadn’t noticed?  In fact, would the term “Apostle Doors” even mean anything to you?

If you had been in the Faith Presbyterian Family way back in 1986 when we joined, the front of the church facing 82nd street was a series of doors depicting Jesus’ disciples.   Most people walked through these doors on the way to worship.  In fact, for years, we were known as the church in Castleton with the Apostle Doors.  When we added the new sanctuary in 1999 we talked about various ways they could be used in the new building but realized that they were just too far gone to repair.  Now, they are only a memory.

That’s a family story of Faith; in fact, it is a family story that may be told differently depending on who is telling it.  So, now you know a bit about them, and if you hear any of us old members talking about the Apostle Doors, you can feel part of the family – you can feel like an insider, you know one of the family stories.

The more you know about the family secrets and family stories, and are let in on the unwritten ways things work, the more you feel welcome in the family.  And, since we want everyone to feel welcome here at Faith, just ask anyone of us wearing a name tag, and we will either answer your question or find an answer for you.

Just ask if you don’t understand.

Some family stories are told again and again with different twists.  I have heard this one told about cutting the end of a roast because that’s what Mom always did before placing it in the pan.

Here is another version I found online:

I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my friend who comes from a long line of Southern cooks! We were going to cook like 10 different desserts and take them to Grandma’s house for the big day!

Well, with every cake that went into the oven, a pan of water went in too… I didn’t ask him why, while cooking, figuring that surely it was some secret for making the cakes moist.

He made sure to point this out to his mother when we arrived. She complimented him on his remembering. I am brave enough to ask, in this crowded kitchen, with food laid out for at least 50 people. His grandmother pipes in…

“I used to put a pan of water in there because my racks were uneven.”

If you don’t understand something, you can look at it again and again, and it won’t mean very much.

That’s the way it as when Phillip met the Ethiopian who was returning from worship in Jerusalem to his hometown of Gaza.  As he was riding along in his chariot, he was reading the scriptures that he had heard in worship but was having trouble understand what he was reading.  He could have asked while he was in the Temple, but probably felt uncomfortable asking.  I think we all have had times when you wondered about something, but failed to ask because you felt that everybody else knew. So he was reading, but they were just words.

I’m sure he was surprised when this Phillip expectedly appeared running alongside his chariot and asked him if he understood what he was reading.  He gave Phillip an honest answer:  “It is all Greek to me!  How can I understand it unless someone explains it to me?”  And Phillip does; he interprets the Old Testament story in light of the resurrection of Jesus.  Knowing this, instead of feeling like an outsider, the man feels more like part of the family….so much so, that he asks to be baptized!

Of course, we are all members of God’s family as well, and the more we know the family stories, the stronger our bond

Our family stories are found in the Bible where the Old Testament gives us the history of our family beginning at creation and continuing to the time of Jesus, and the New Testament gives us more recent family stories.  These stories introduce us to our ancestors, tell us some of the family history, both good and bad, and give us family rules and guidelines that guide us in living together.

We still use these ancient stories as we continue to learn about who we are, how we should live, and to understand what God expects of us.  You would think that by now we would understand everything, particularly those of us who have called ourselves Christians almost from birth.  But, we don’t.  We continue to learn what these stories are telling us.

Here at Faith, for the past few weeks, we have been hearing part of our family story from Luke, the writer of two books in our Bible, as we continue to explore our faith and our family.  The first of Luke’s two books, tells us the story of Jesus and how he impacted and continues to impact our lives; the second tells us about the beginning of the church in the days and months following Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Both of his books tell wonderful stories that give us hope and promise for the future.

In the family stories we find in our Bible, like with most family stories, there are slight differences depending who is telling the story.  All the details are not exactly the same, but the basic idea is.  Think of some story from your family and how Aunt Lill’s version is not quite the same as Aunt Virginia’s, but they are basically the same.

These stories that have been passed down from one generation to another, eventually reaching us, help us understand our place in the family, give us some guidelines for living as family members, and let us know about God’s grace, and even reveal some of the family secrets.

When Phillip shared our family story with the man from Ethiopia, he was making him feel welcome in God’s family.  When we share our stories here at Faith, we are continuing to welcome each other into God’s family and confirming our place in the family of Faith Presbyterian.

Last Sunday after worship we had our “Essentials of Faith” class to meet and greet those who wanted to join the church family.  During that class, all of us, current members and future members alike, had the opportunity to share our family stories and our faith journeys.  As we did, we learned that although we came from different backgrounds, and our faith journeys took different paths, we arrived at the same destination knowing we are members of God’s family and welcomed in the Faith Presbyterian fellowship.

At Faith we have various ways of sharing out family stories designed to help us understand our place in this great big family of God; God’s family is big, and God’s family has a place for everybody.

  • During worship, we share the scriptures that tell the story in the words of the Bible writers.
  • Then we have the sermon which helps interpret the scriptures and show their relevance to our lives today.
  • For our young people, we have a children’s sermon and Godly Play where the stories are acted out and the children experience the story as it happened.
  • When we gather at the Communion table we demonstrate our love for each other and God’s love for us. We all fit in, we all are welcome; we all are part of God’s family.

And as our faith journey continues, we recognize that being a Christian is not a static experience.  We continue to learn as we hear the stories over and over again; each time we may hear the same story a bit differently as it speaks to us of God’s love and grace.

No matter who you are, you are welcome in God’s family and welcome here at Faith Presbyterian.  And, if you have any questions, please ask