The Ties that Bind: Goodnight Everybody!

Snow in October! Oysters at the ready after service. Trick or Trunk on the side parking lot just after noon. It’s enough to make you tired at the start. And that’s before you begin your week, with all the challenges of children and work. And let’s not forget the distraction of our many relationships. No wonder we find ourselves struggling to keep close to God and each other. O for a simpler day, a gentler night. I hardly have words for all this. What would you say? [From pews.] Good night, John Boy. Good night, Erin. Good night, Jim Bob. Good night, Ben. Good night, Elizabeth. Good night, Grandma. Roll over Zeb, your feet are cold! Good night, Momma. Good night, John. Good night everybody!… Ahhh, life gets complicated as soon as you start adding people to it. Love, too. And God knows it. ‘Has since the days of Adam and Eve, as we’ve been saying and showing for weeks. ‘Has since the days from Joseph to Jesus. So what can we learn from the stories of yesterdays-so-long-ago that might help us with our own tomorrows that lie just ahead?

Consider Joseph, Papa Jacob and the boys. You remember. Dad plays favorites, or is thought to. Little Joe gets the Technicolor Dream Coat. And all those dreams. We read today about the one where Joe gets to lord it over all his brothers, even mom and dad. The brothers get lethally jealous of Joe. Even Pop resents the arrogance of it all. And he does not forget it. (More about that in a minute.) There are a couple of useful lessons here. No.1. Not all dreams are holy! And not all dreams are to be shared. It’s good to be honest and forthright. But you don’t have to let out everything you think. ‘Say everything you know. ‘Blurt out every feeling. Some stuff cuts. And Jacob can tell you after hearing Joseph’s dream; some cuts are a long while healing! I suppose wants are a step down from dreams, but I think they’re probably in the same family. Wants and dreams need to be shared thoughtfully. Or they can crush a relationship. And have a long chain of unintended consequences. This Bible family’s tale of woe is not the only one. I think of teens and parents in the college hunt. Disputes are often more than a test of wills; they are a demolition derby where dreams collide. The same when changing jobs moves families. And more. Whenever you reveal your dreams, do whatever you can to get and stay in touch with all the other dreams and dreamers in the room. Oh, here’s dream lesson No. 2. God’s dreams ARE holy, and he invites us to STAR in them. ‘Turns out Joseph will dream the dreams of God (not just his own). He’ll save Israel for God’s saving work on earth. Now, your role might be a bit more modest. But Heaven has a purpose and a dream for you. Just for today. But also for your life! [Right place/time to say/do the right thing: FB tks for start/ Flan…VIM shelter, C Hope; Call M Gor lttr.] The point here: dreaming gets a lot more complicated and a lot more important when there are others in your life to whom to say good night. If you doubt it, ask the Waltons!

The Jesus in the Temple story has some lessons to teach as well. True, Luke writes the story to tell us about Jesus. ‘Who he was. ‘How special from the start. ‘How he got from childhood to Suffering Servanthood. But the story is so human and revealing it speaks to our own daily round. How about a hand full of pithy pointers Mary and Joseph could swear to on a stack of Bibles. 1) Pay attention! It seemed to be a problem on leaving Jerusalem. Maybe Mary was talkin’ women’s talk with the women. Joseph, literally talkin’ shop. Likely, they were traveling with extended family, and all their tales of woe. Does your journey ever include these things? Then when Jesus came up missing, can’t you see each pointing to the other? Here’s the lesson. Pay attention. Don’t let the urgent and the small overwhelm the important and the vital in your family. Count safety and security first. Love like there’s no tomorrow. (After all there are no insurance policies on tomorrow.) And take time with each other. The notion you somehow have to make time is false. God’s already done that. All WE have to do is manage time! Watch your kids and grinds and what they do, home/school/w-friends. They’ll absolutely be looking… to see if you are. Offer your help. If you don’t they’ll find it elsewhere. (Web-worries!) Lesson 2) Give each other space. Kids need room to grow and learn their (Heavenly) Father’s business. Spouses too. It’s tough to share up-time with folks who never get down-time.  No. 3) Give an example, give a direction. When Jesus asks, “What shepherd wouldn’t leave the 99 to find the lost 1, he had more than sheep tenders for an example, he could remember when Mary and Joseph pitched the family to poke about 3 days in search of him. What example have you for your family? When Jesus says, “Come and follow me,” he knows all about direction. Written on his heart is Psalm 32: 8. “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” What’s written on your heart for your loves, and do they know it as a word from God? Lesson No. 4. Fashion good boundaries for you and yours.  Spouses: beware friends at work and play with whom you lodge words and feelings only your partner should hear. Cheating emotionally is as/more damaging as cheating physically. And one can lead to the other. (Teach your kids this.) Kids need borders to grow upright. When anything goes, few values come to stay. (M E Pool). Discipline, don’t just punish. Guide consistently and in advance. Jesus knew the line, “Don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, or be discouraged when he corrects you. For he corrects whom he loves, like a father the child in whom he delights.”  Lesson No 5. Give the young, and yourself, the gift of God’s Word. Don’t forget to get the GOOD outta the Good Book!  (‘Nuff said! how else did Jesus go back to Nazareth and grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and mankind.”

Permit me one last word. ‘Not a lesson, but an insight. Our life needn’t be a circle, an endless Merry-Go-Round. God is drawing a line through it: with a purpose and a destination “made in heaven for you!” Portions of the Bible flirt with a common notion across cultures and times we too have heard. Its not just Disney’s Lion King theme song that sings of the circle of life! Ecclesiastes: 1: 9 exclaims, “What has been is what will be, ‘has been done…will be done; there’s nothing new under the sun.” Yet, elsewhere we are taught, “Behold, the Lord doeth a new thing.” Jesus rejects the circle idea in favor of the line. He is on his way to Jerusalem. ‘Sets his face for the journey. 'Tells us to follow. ‘Insists if we go up the hill, we must come down and heal and feed. He doesn’t come back at the end, having defeated the cross, only to linger and do it all over again. He rises to make a place for us. Another place, that where he is, we can be also. And he will return, but only to take us there. You and yours, believers all, are NOT condemned to a treadmill. You have a ticket on the Glory Train. Life’s not easy, or undistracted. But in Christ it offers saving grace. Goodnight everybody!

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