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Summary: This is week one of a five week series on Families and we look at Mary and Joseph and the family they provided for Jesus

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1 the Puzzle of Family

It was Tolstoy who said “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Have you ever stopped to think that both the Old Testament and the New Testament start with the story of a family? And the bible itself is a collection of family stories. There are happy families in the bible and there are unhappy families in the bible but there are no perfect families in the bible. Why? Because they are the stories of real families struggling with the same issues that families have always struggled with and will always struggle with. Over the next few weeks we are looking at “Families: finding your place in the Puzzle” Because the secret is not knowing what your husband should do, or what your wife should do or what your kids or parents should do, the secret is to know what your role is.

We all play different roles in the family and even the same role will change as time moves on and the family changes. Spouses have different responsibilities before and after children, parents have different responsibilities as they kids grow up and children have different responsibilities at different times in their lives. And over the next few weeks we are going to look at how those pieces are supposed to fit, and notice I said “Supposed to”.

The secret of a really good puzzle is that there are no identical pieces. In a jigsaw puzzle you might try to force a piece to fit, but that’s not what you are supposed to do. And it’s the same way with crossword puzzles there may be other words that will fit the squares but they don’t fit the clue, or a word that fits the clue but not the square. And you might try to fudge the spelling or the definition but that’s not the way it is supposed to work.

Today I think most of us define family by the media, whether it be the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, Leave it to Beaver or Rob and Laura Petrie. The Huxtables or Dan and Roseanne, the Simpsons or Family Guy we are barraged with what family is and what family isn’t.

But every family is different in its own way but I think Tolstoy was right “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This morning we are going to try to figure out what those happy families have in common.

What is a family? Our definition of Family would probably be different than it was a generation ago. I know I’m old but when I was a kid I knew exactly one child who had a different last name than his mother’s husband. And probably there were more than that out there but within my limited understanding they were the only divorced people that I knew. And the concept of people living together who weren’t married, I knew it happened because the family whispered about one of my father’s uncles and the lady he lived with, but it was a scandal.

Back then a family was a mother and a father, and their 2.3 children. And when the media wanted to blend a family it happened because of death not divorce. So Mike Brady was a widower and they never mentioned what happened to Carol’s husband.

They weren’t sure what to do with the Mary Tyler Moore, the show’s producers originally wanted Mary Richards to be divorced but were afraid of the back lash from the public and that people would think that she had divorced Rob Petrie. Do you remember when the television character Murphy Brown was pregnant and not married? Even the White House stepped in and expressed an opinion. then Vice President Dan Quayle said “It doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown -- a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman -- mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice,’”

But that has changed, at least in popular culture. We are told that marriage can no longer be defined the way it had been defined in the past. So now kids grow up in homes with only one biological parent, maybe. People talk about starter marriages like they used to talk about starter homes. And while you might be able to have 1 mom and no dad or 1 dad and no mom or 2 moms or 2 dads or 2 moms and 2 dads apparently the last taboo is that you can’t have 1 dad and 5 moms. At least for now.

So what is family? The dictionary I keep on my desk, a dictionary is a book with lots of pages that is arranged alphabetically, is the Collins Pocket English Dictionary from 1981 and it defines family this way. fam•i•ly [fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] noun, plural -lies, adjective 1) a) a social unit consisting of parents and their children. b) the children of the same parents. I went on line to dictionary.com and it defined family this way 1. a. a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. b. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.

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