Once there was a family. It started out very small as families usually do. The family was very adventurous. They traveled far every year. (I wonder if you can guess how many people were in that family.)
And there was a certain Spirit about the family, wherever they went. The Spirit was in all their homes, and in their hearts too. The Spirit taught them everything they needed to know.
The Spirit taught them to sing and to dance. The Spirit helped them when they were sick. The Spirit watched over them when they travelled. The Spirit rescued them when they got into trouble. The Spirit helped them grow, and the Spirit was with them when every life began and every life came to an end. No one ever saw the Spirit, but everyone could feel the Spirit and knew that it was with them.
Over time the family grew very large. There were too many people for each home place so they decided to divide up into groups. And each season when they travelled, they would meet up with other members of their family on the way. Look, they would say – there are our sisters and brothers. There are our cousins and nieces and nephews. Everyone they met was part of the family. And they would share meals and dance and sing together. And the Spirit who was with them was full of joy. (I wonder if you would like to sing or dance with the Spirit?)
Many many years passed. People travelled further and further until they had moved so far from their original homes that they no longer knew that the people they met were part of their family. They stopped inviting everyone to their meals to eat and dance and sing saying, “we don’t know them and they might be dangerous.” This made the Spirit very sad. The Spirit tried to convince the people that they were all still one family. Some people listened, but others doubted the Spirit.
Some people wanted the Spirit to settle down and stay just with them, since even if they doubted the Spirit sometimes, they still wanted to know the Spirit was there if they needed help. But the Spirit was too large to just stay in one place. The Spirit needed to move and be free. (I wonder if you can say what that Spirit looks like as it watches over all the people in their houses?)
In the years that followed after that, and over many generations, the family settled down in various places. They no longer travelled to different homes. They each built a house to keep the cold out and the warm in. Some even put locks on their doors to protect all the things that they had put into their houses.
The people still had meals and danced and sang together, but not as often. They argued and disagreed about how to live together. Sometimes they treated each other very badly. And the Spirit sighed, and remembered the times when people were happier and could remember that they really were all family. (I wonder if you can think of at least one good way to treat people.)
The time came when the Spirit decided to take action to help people remember how to be the family they once were. The Spirit chose a few very special people. Brave people, strong people. And the Spirit got right into them and filled them up so full that they just stood up and spoke right out with the Spirit’s words. (I wonder if you have seen a person who is full of the Spirit?)
People were very surprised. Some listened and heard what the Spirit was saying. Remember how you all loved each other once. Remember how you welcomed each other and shared your food. Remember how you lived together and danced, and sang in harmony. And those people who listened and heard were filled up with something called grace. And they were able to remember how to be family to everyone again, filled with kindness, peacefulness, and patience.
I wish I could say that the Spirit only had to speak that powerful way once or twice before everyone was filled with grace and convinced again that they were family. But people are very, very stubborn. And people are very rebellious. Which means that we like to do things our own way, even though that makes it very hard for us to live together as one very big family.
So the Spirit thought and thought and thought about this problem of how to speak to the people. Suddenly the Spirit had an idea! Maybe the people who spoke were so strong that others were afraid to listen to them. So the Spirit decided to come hidden in something tiny, and helpless. (I wonder if you can guess how the Spirit came?)
The Spirit came in a tiny baby. When the baby was grown up he began to bring the family together again – all kinds of people from everywhere. The Spirit was fully in this man and the man was fully in the Spirit. The people who joined the man in his search were filled with grace and knew the Spirit was with them. So when the man asked them to find others who wanted to be part of the family, they said, yes we will go! “Good”, said the man, “the Spirit goes with you.”
“But there is something else that is very important,” said the man. “You must go in weakness, not in strength.” “But how can that work?” they asked. “The Spirit has given you grace. It’s a gift that must be shared,” said the man. “If you come with friendship, they can befriend you in return,” the man said. “If you come with needs, they can help you, and then they may let you help them. If you come to learn their stories, they can listen to your story. And if they welcome you, they will welcome the one who sent you.”
And so they went and found that everything the man said was true. And the Spirit was filled with joy as the very large family began to come together again. The Spirit and the man are still sending people to find lost and missing family members. I wonder if you would like to go and help look for them too.
A one-line Sermon for the adults from the gospel reading today: going where Jesus sends you, always begins with leaving your baggage behind.