Have you had one of those days where you were sad … hurting and yet at the same time there was joy and happiness? We had such a day today. Let me explain this to you … This morning was the funeral service for a friend which I had the privilege of taking. It was a sad and solemn occasion because he was just short of 41 years old, leaving a beautiful young daughter and a mother, brother and sister … and the rest of his family. Sure, as a child of God he has been released from the agony he suffered for so long … but his loss to the family is huge. That is what hurts for those who remain.
But on the other side, it was so precious to be with this huge family once again. Some we had seen at the funeral in February this year, others we have not seen in many, many years. Today I recalled how 30 years ago when we arrived in Pretoria, the one friend was here to meet us and get us settled into the house the church bought for us to live in. From then onwards, their entire family welcomed Jenny, myself and our family as family.
Over the 30 years I have taken the funerals of four of them. What has always been a great encouragement to us is that this family has held together … even when members have died. They never bad mouthed each other … I have never seen them fighting with each other. Another outstanding feature of this family is that they are so innovative in job creation and perseverance.
After the funeral, we traveled to a Netball facility where we enjoyed refreshments and fellowship. This is where the joy and happiness came in. They were so friendly. A few of the younger people I chatted to were children when we came to Pretoria. Today they introduced me to their children who are as small and young as they were when we arrived. Those I chatted to went the extra mile to make Jenny and myself welcome. They were in pain. They were hurting. They had lost a son, brother, father, nephew, cousin, friend … yet, true to their family’s character, they made us feel right at home.
As we returned home Jenny said, “I really enjoyed that. The service was good and the fellowship with the family was awesome. I feel so good having been with them.” She was spot on! Although mourning the loss of a loved one, it was a beautiful family reunion. Many of these people are Christian people, belonging to the family of God. That is what makes this family so exciting. Naturally it reminded me of the Christian Church family. Look how the Church family kicked off their existence:
Ac 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Here you see a joyful, happy community who were extremely concerned about each other–especially those who were struggling economically–because of their commitment to Jesus as Lord. They were kicked out of their Jewish families and their Jewish places of employment … yet as Jesus accepted them, they were accepted by all believers. Verse 44 tells us they “were together” and had everything “in common”. What did they have in common and why were they together? The common factor that pulled them together was Jesus. Yes, it includes caring and sharing, but the “common-ism” enjoyed was firstly and foremostly Jesus. He was the source of their joy and encouragement. He was the pivotal point of their caring and sharing. Jesus united them as a family.
Look at the shape of this Church family:
Eph 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
How privileged we are! We ought to use every method and means to increase the family numerically. Consider this extract from a Christianity Today article:
The little boy was playing in the street, kicking the dust, jumping off walls. My wife happened to walk past him with our five children, which caught the lad’s attention. He watched from a distance for a while and then plucked up the courage to jog over and ask: “Are you going to a party?” My wife quickly answered: “Yes, we are! We call it church. If you go and check with your mum, you can come with us.” That little boy ran home and was back in a couple of minutes with a huge smile on his face. That Sunday he stayed for a cup of hot chocolate and left before the service began. But he was back the next week and the week after that. Pretty soon he had brought his mother, his brother, and a couple of his cousins. Eight years later, they are an integral part of our church. One of the most moving moments of those years was when the boy’s mother was baptized. Standing waist-high in water, she explained a little of her traumatic childhood, her years living rough, and something of the struggles of trying to hold her own family together. Her face shone and her voice clearly articulated her love for the God who had found her and welcomed her home.
Dear Loving, Gracious, Heaven Father, we present this family to You for mercy and kindness in their bereavement. We also thank you that by grace You have drawn us into Your heavenly and eternal family. Help us to love, care and enjoy each other for Christ’s sake. Amen.