Our Family Names

I stand before you today, not as Pastor Joe McGarry, but as Pastor Joe Whitney – because you see on February 4th 1930 my father was born and his birth parents were William Whitney and Betty Winnan, but only after a few days he was adopted into the family of Dr. Thomas F. McGarry and his wife Cecilla.  My father has no memories of his birth parents.  He was told that when he was four years old his birth mother brought him a bike for his birthday, but that was the last contact he ever had with them.

It was about fifteen years ago my parents really started to search for my father’s birth parents or any one connected to the family.  Lo and behold they found George Souls – my fathers brother by birth.  It was a joyous occasion for my father and our family.  Suddenly we were welcomed into another family with open arms.

It reminded me of the prodigal son, as God our father ran down the road to his son who has been away for so long.  He did not ask where were you, he did not ask what have you been doing or where are you coming from .  He welcomed his family member into his home, put his finest clothes on him and threw a party for his return.

As we hear in the Romans text for today.   When we become the children of God, adopted into God’s family, we are welcomed with open arms.  We know that we are not left out there in the openness of the universe alone.  Sometimes that’s what we think.  We are not asked where do we come from, what have we been doing or where we have been.  That does not matter to God.

Knowing that we have a heavenly family is a great and wonderful thing.  We know that we are not alone.  That is the hardest thing for me to overcome when talking with someone who doesn’t have faith.  What happens when you die? I ask them.  Their usual response is “nothing” is their usual response.  I don’t know about you, but I love the idea that I have a family waiting for me with open arms to welcome me in the heavenly kingdom.  I know that because the Spirit of God gets inside of me.  It moves me and makes me alive and convinces me once again that I am a child of God, that I do have a heavenly father and that I can call this heavenly father by name and that I have this inheritance of a future life, and I have hope in that, I have confidence in that and I have that assurance.

That brings peace to my life.  As my father was welcomed into his adoptive family, I too will be welcomed in my heavenly father’s kingdom as a child of God.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, that is one part the Trinity —  God

Lisa Stoferson, a 29 year old single mother of two in Atlanta Georgia has had a rough run of it for the last 2 years.  Her long time boyfriend and father of her two children left her after a 8 year relationship.  She at first moved into a small apartment just outside of the city of Atlanta.  But between day care costs, working at a minimum wage job and all the other surprises life brings you

Lisa made the phone call.

She called her mother and asked, no begged her to take her and her two kids into her mothers home.  Lisa did not know where else to turn.  With her mothers help, Lisa was able to keep her job, start school again and not worry about who her children are with, because her mother is taking care of them full time.

This is not an uncommon example of another type of adoption, grandparents raising their grandchildren.  Sometime we get in over our heads and when that happens we do not know where to turn.  In many examples there are grandparents or other family members baring our burdens, lifting us up when we need it most.

In our texts today from Romans we are told that we will be set free from bondage and decay.

The one who frees us in Jesus Christ.  It is in Christ that we are able to shed our burdens, we are set free from our bondage and we are clean from all decay.  It is in Christ that we are saved.  It is in Christ that we can experience the highs and lows of being a part of a family.  As a community of faith gathered here today we are part of the same family, the family of God in Christ Jesus.  Our identity as a church and as a community is based on our faith in Jesus Christ. Because it is in our faith that we are saved.  It is in our faith that we come here today. It is in our faith that we leave here as a body of Christ ready to proclaim our family identity with the world.  That identity is found in Jesus Christ.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, the second part of the Trinity is  Jesus Christ.

As a first call pastor, we are required to have a mentor.  Someone who is there for us answering questions during our first years in ministry, helping us out when we mess up, celebrating with us when we past certain milestones in our career.  I have had the privileged of having Jim Jerge as my mentor.  By coincidence Jim was supplying here at St. Mark’s during my call sermon last June.  We really hit it off and later he became my mentor.

In general most of mentor/mentee relationships are put together by chance.  Sometimes they work out and other times they do not work out.  We have great mentors here at St. Mark’s  in our youth and Sunday School programs.  I am continually impressed with the high quality of leadership that we have in those areas of ministry and I am very thankful for all the work that they do.

But mentorship adoption doesn’t only happen in the Church.  There are so many organizations that have mentorship programs that we can be involved in.  Mentorship takes time, energy and determination and form of adoption.  It is through the Holy Spirit that these relationships are formed and developed.  And it is with the Holy Spirit that these relationships can develop and take on new meaning for each individual participating.

As these relationships grow, both in the formal and nonformal mentor/mentee relationships the spirit in side of us which leads us becomes alive, and it begins infusing all our decisions.  Like we are lead by our mentors in our lives  – we follow them, listen to them and take their advice.  It is the same with the Holy Spirit.   The holy spirit comes inside of us and it is up to us to listen to the holy spirit to disern God’s call for us in Jesus Christ is coming to us through the holy spirit.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, the third part of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.

Generally the greatest relationships we have are with our family:

Our Birth family

Our adoptive family

Our family of friends

Our extended family which may include guardians who raise us

Our mentor/mentee family

Our family in Christ Jesus

And many other family groups that I might not have mentioned

We are blessed to have our identity as a family of God centered on Jesus Christ, Centered on Water and the Word, Centered on the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  We are blessed to have a supportive body of Christ that can come together even when things might seem difficult, we can over come them and come out the other side stronger than before.  And I am blessed to be a part of that family.

Children of God, that’s what we are- We are a part of Gods family, of a God who loves us and who cares for us as a mother, father, brother, sister, mentor, grandparent  and savior.




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