June 16, 2019
“Families Really Matter”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
Some things really matter. Some don’t. I was having a conversation with one of my professors and I confessed that I had spent much of the previous day watching football on TV. He said that I had wasted my day, that I was not a good steward of my time. He said that what I did was actually sinful.
Now, what does he know about that? He lives in some ivory tower, right? He was an egg head – all brains and no fun. But his word has always stuck with me. He was saying that some things really matter and some things don’t. He questioned my priorities.
Today, Father’s Day, Holy Trinity Sunday, I’m going to tell you that some things matter – especially families. Families really matter. I really don’t need to tell you that, do I? You know that. But there are times when we get things all out of order in life. Many things get a higher priority – work, TV, books, hobbies, golf, football, recreation, but family gets second place, or third, or lower. We don’t have time to help kids, call parents, go on a date with our spouse, or just make time to be at home. It is time to look at where our priorities truly lie. Families matter. They matter to God. They should matter to us.
Psalm 127 begins, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchman stand guard in vain.” (Verse 1)
The best moments in life are times with our family. But the worst times of our life can also be with our family. The saddest moments in life often are these: when families fight, when divorce happens, when parents don’t parent, when kids turn away, when brothers and sisters can’t get along, when silence becomes the noise that has taken over a house. People begin staying away from home. They avoid the others who live in the household. They refuse to have contact with their own flesh and blood.
The advice column “Dear Abby” of our day, I believe is “Dear Amy”, at least in our paper in Denver. What problems does she encounter more than any others? Family issues. When people seek a counselor, or a pastor, what is the burden? The majority that I run into are issues with the family.
Families really matter. They matter to God and they must matter to us. “Unless the Lord build the house…” On Wednesday I was over at Wheat Ridge Lutheran Church preaching for the service of Pauline Groerich. She is the wife of Pastor Jim Groerich, former pastor at Trinity in Denver. I’ve known them for over 40 years. As I was leaving to return to my real job at Ascension I ran into a lady who knew me from 20 years ago, but I didn’t remember her. She said, “You performed the wedding for my daughter and her fiancé.” She told me the names – Laura and Mike, and the place, and it came back to me. With a little bit of cockiness I said, “I can still remember the sermon from that day. I bet you can’t.” But she did. 22 years ago and she remembered. The text was about the wise and foolish builders. One who built on the rock, one who built it on sand.
The place surrounding where Mike and Laura were getting married, in Lafayette, was just beginning rapid change. Beautiful homes were being built. And they would stand for years, even decades because they had a foundation that was strong. I challenged this young couple to make their marriage as beautiful and lasting as all that was being built around them. God and His word had to be the foundation of their marriage and family. God and His word need to be the foundation of your life and marriage and family. Jesus warned, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)
Families really matter. If they do, if they are important to you, there is only one place to start – with a true seeking of those who are most important – God and our families. We call it repentance. We call it desiring to make things right. When we have just forgotten what truly should be important – we seek God and we seek them so we can start over again. Psalm 139 asks for real honesty, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) This is the day to ask forgiveness.
This is also the day to be forgiven and to give forgiveness. A family has to be a place of grace. We offer to others what has not been earned. We receive from others what we have no right to ask. Grace. Forgiveness. What a great gift to give to your own flesh and blood. No more grudges. No more bitterness. Love, forgiveness, kindness are offered instead. We receive forgiveness freely from Jesus and we share it freely with others.
The reason we can give away such a gift of grace is because we have been recipients of it from God. In the Old Testament reading that was chosen for today the gifts of God are described so beautifully – Israel had moved into “a land with large, flourishing cities, you did not build, houses filled with all kind of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11a) Look at your gifts, from God. He has been generous to you. Families really matter, don’t they? You are loved by God, give that love to those closest to you.
Families matter – so I want to issue you a challenge. Now it won’t be easy, but I don’t think you will ever regret it. Recommit yourself to your family. Here are some of the directives that God has put forth in His word:
- Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26)
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they may become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)
- But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
- If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
Families matter, to God, to you, to those living now and those who will follow after us. Though I don’t feel that I should tell you the individual who said, “Pastor, you should talk about the importance of families,” I think it is important that I tell you that it came from one of our teenagers. They wanted to hear about family. Youth want the family to be strong – to be a unit that asks for forgiveness from one another, who know that the grace of God’s Holy Spirit must hold it together, and understands that a new desire to seek each other must be evident.
This great transformation can’t happen by our own doing. It has to come from a great God, a triune God. This psalm, Psalm 127, is ascribed to Solomon, the bringer of great wisdom. With inspired wisdom he tells us that families really do matter. God is the one who must be in the heart of each of our families. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
Lord, build our house. Let me make wise choices in the priorities I must make in life. Give true sacrifice and deep love to husbands and wives. In our walls bring peace. Forgive our hurtful ways and give us a right heart. Lord, families really matter. Help mine. Help ours. Help all. Amen!!