Our text speaks of a life that is one with God. Through Jesus Christ we live in unity with God. We rid ourselves of bitterness, anger, slander so not to grieve the Holy Spirit. God wants to fill us with his love in Christ so that we can love one another.
This is all well and fine, but we don't often seem to be taking the apostle's directions. In families children are fighting, arguing over toys, who gets to do this or that. Parents are arguing over money. Things get so bad, even in Christian families, that they are sometimes torn apart. This is not the way it should be.
Parents themselves, husbands and wives, instead of living in peace and love, are centering on the problems, letting animosity build up between them. It's the little things all adding up that never get addressed that wear down a marriage. So often husbands and wives, instead of coming together in love and mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Christ, answer each other with that word of indifference, "Whatever."
Whatever is a dangerous word to speak, because it means though I do not agree with you, you can go your way and I will go mine and whatever happens to our relationship doesn't matter. Whatever means I've lost hope that we can come to an agreement and it doesn't matter to me. Whatever is a common word and it is a symptom of the problem that many face today. We aren't grounded in the love of Christ that brings with it "compassion, love, and faithfulness."
This indifference, if ignored, is what tears families apart. It isn't the lack of money, or healthcare problems, or not having enough time that is what is consuming more marriages and families than ever before. It is indifference to one another.
There is an answer to all this indifference today. The answer is a daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus knows the difficulties of life today. He knows what it is like to raise children, for he was a child himself. He knows the hardships of the family, for his family was poor. He also knows the dynamics of marriage, for he had a father and a mother, and He is the bridegroom of his bride, the Christian Church.
The answer to the problems of the American family and for all people today is in the Bread of Life. Jesus said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world" (John 6:50-51).
We receive the bread of life first of all at the altar of God. Here in our church God comes to us in the preached word of the Bible. He proclaims the name of His Son who our Savior. Jesus comes to us through these words, and the merit of his perfect obedience is applied to us for our forgiveness. Through Baptism God puts his name on us. And at the altar Jesus gives us his body and blood in the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins and as food for our souls. The answer to all our indifference to one another is to come together with Christ, the living bread from heaven.
The bread of life is not a Sunday only meal. Christ would have us feast on it each day of the week wherever we may be. We do that around our family altar. The family altar is the time and place where we meet the Lord each day by reading his word and bringing our prayers to him.
When Noah and his family passed through the flood waters and got out of the ark, the first thing old Noah did was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. His family joined him, wife, three sons and their wives.
When King David sinned against the Lord by counting his soldiers to determine his own strength rather than relying on the promise of God that he would be victorious, he repented and built an altar to the Lord, which later became the holy temple at Jerusalem.
God is ready to bless us all with peace and love in our homes, but he wants us to know where that blessing comes from. So he calls us all to repent of our indifference to one another, receive his forgiveness earned by the death of Christ, and celebrate that forgiveness each day around the family altar.
Building a family altar does not involve stones and mortar. If that were the case, we would all just build an old fashioned barbecue in the back yard and forget it. The family altar is more permanent and useful than this. The family altar is a daily meeting with God, where all the family stops what they are doing and gathers together before their God.
We may meet at the family altar at any time, morning, evening, at night; at mealtimes or before bed. The important thing is that we make it the most important time of the day. Meeting together with God in our homes is not a burden to an already overloaded family schedule. It is a time out, a rest period where we can finally get down to doing what God put us together as a family to do, to be his people together and communicate with Him.
Fathers, God expects you to take leadership at the family altar. There's something wrong with our society when it expects men to be bread winners but not lead their families to the bread of life. Men, we must get back into the role God has created us to play as the spiritual leader of our household.
Women, God bless you, for decades now you have taken this role upon yourselves. You have filled the gap that men have left in spiritual leadership. But that's not the way it is supposed to be.
It's time for us men to step forward and lead the way to the family altar. The Bible calls us to imitators of God. Our children will not remember us after we are gone because we were at the office all the time so we could buy them anything. They will remember us because we showed them love by leading them to imitate God.
One looks out over the congregation on Sunday morning and see many men just sitting there during the singing of the hymns, seeming to be just enduring this musical exercise until it's over and we can get on with what we really want to do on Sunday. Maybe you don't think you have a good voice and can't sing. But what message does this send to the kids? That worship isn't for real men? If you can't sing, then at least move your lips and look at the hymnal like you're interested in what the rest of us are doing here. Do it for the sake of the children, that they learn what worship is like. You may find you like it.
Carry this into your home. Some men tell me they don't know how to lead the family in worship at home. Well, that's fair. Nobody ever taught you. It's really not that difficult. Here's what I do in my home, not because I'm a pastor, but because I'm a father and a husband.
Start with the name of God. Say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Let the children bring the Bible and hymnal and other devotional books you may use. Light a candle to signify God's presence. Children love such rituals as this.
Read a chapter of the Bible. Start in the beginning with Genesis if you want. For small children you might read from Bible story book.
Then say the Apostle's creed together as a symbol of the faith you all believe. You'll be surprised how quickly the children learn to say it with you when it's done every day.
Say a prayer for all the concerns for your family, for your church, and for your relatives and friends. You may pray the prayers from the Lutheran prayer book or make up your own. Give the rest of the family a moment to offer their prayers. Then say the Lord's prayer together.
Close with a hymn. For small children, a hymn from Sunday School is good. The Lutheran hymnal has always been an excellent resource for family worship. Our daughter learned her numbers by calling out hymn numbers she chose, and Mom and I had to sing whatever hymn she chose. That is a real challenge to sing some we weren't familiar with. But we grew also.
Read a section of the catechism or a page from a devotional book. This is a good time to go over the memory assignments of confirmation age kids. You will learn it again also.
Close with a blessing like the one that ends the service here today. Then go your way, to homework, to relax, to get that project done, whatever the rest of the day holds for you. God blessed by God, because you have all met together at the family altar.
You will find this brings your family together. The family altar does that. It breaks down the indifference, heals the bruises, builds family unity, and most of all, teaches the faith that will bless your family all through this life and raise it up to eternal life in heaven.
This isn't just for families, but for single people too. But if you have children, start early, when they are just babies and you'll avoid the restlessness that comes from doing something new.
Expect challenges to the family altar time. The devil will be working hard to keep you away from this. Stand up to him and protect this time together. We don't forget to feed our children. How can we not feed them each day with the bread from heaven? Turn off the television and restore the family altar.
Meeting together at the family altar will bring such benefits to your home. It will cause you to get rid of bitterness, anger, and the attitude of "whatever." It will fill your home with love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. It will teach you to imitate God and live a life of love. Most of all, it will draw you closer to Jesus, the bread of life.
So don't wait. Like Noah, Moses, David, and a thousand before you, build an altar to the Lord God. Build it together as a family, and let nothing tear it down. And in return you will be filled with the spirit of God, peace, and joy. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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