The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

“When you’re the eldest, you’re an only child until your brother or sister is born.” True enough. I nodded and agreed. I had been having a discussion with my granddaughter about families – her mother and father’s siblings, her cousins, her grandparents – the immediate number in the family-tree calculation was over thirty. My granddaughter then said that while she was an only child for over 2 years of her life, she had no memory of it for she always thought herself to be a sister. “Mummy has known me all of my life but I haven’t known her all of her life.” True enough. I nodded and agreed. I was making her toast at the time of this intergenerational conversation and I said, “I’ve known Mummy all of her life but she hasn’t known me all of my life”. There was a jam on toast smile back at me!

We all want to know where we fit in. We have no control of the family and situation of our birth, our birth order, or our DNA package and things hereditary. They are part of the deck we’re given with which to play the game of life. We have little control in our ‘early years’ about how we are treated and brought up. Yet while these factors will influence and shape us, they do not guarantee the life we live or the person we choose to be. We have many identities but only one life and we are all unique – even within families. And families are usually the first reference point we use in working out where and how we fit into life here on Earth in our time and place.

Of course – and I’m sure you expect me to say this! 😉 – this is where, for me, Christianity comes into its own in the supermarket of religions. The story of Jesus – the historical truth of Jesus – the inability of the world to silence all the words about Jesus by putting him back into the grave – is an account of God declaring who we are in relation to him. The Biblical story tells us where we fit in by telling us who we are before God and then giving us the freedom to live our lives in that relationship with God. I know this is counter intuitive to much of what is said within Christianity and what the world expects of religion (which is a system of do’s and don’ts). Humanity loves rules and being cogs in the machine. But God in Jesus reveals us to be living beings – precious, unique, special – so precious, unique, and special that God went to incredible lengths to restore us to himself and to get us to see that our natural way of living of me-first, domination, and fear is doomed, always doomed and will stifle, ruin, and kill life. Yes, I know that’s gloomy – but sin and death are gloomy – and more!

Only in Christianity do we hear the positive news of God’s love and mercy towards us and the world we have made! Only in Christian Baptism do we hear – and receive – a new life to live – our new life and are daily reminded that we are truly precious, unique, and special. Now we can live because we know where we fit into reality – whose we are in the universe! In worship and our congregational life we discover the ‘family of God’ – and we know it is certainly not perfect and can have lots of problems – as do all families – but around words, water, bread and wine Jesus unites us and teaches us how to live. And now we have the freedom to live our life in this relationship with God – and this discipleship helps us choose who we want to be each day! We still live by faith alone but the Gospel anchors us in where we fit in!