One morning this week as I drove into work, I was listening to a summer playlist and the song, "We are Family," by Sister Sledge came on. Immediately I thought of my family. When this song comes on at our family weddings, my mom and her sisters rush to the dance floor and sing it to one another, laughing and holding hands in a circle. It helps that in the chorus, it says, "I've got all my sisters with me!" which feels highly relatable to a family that has 6 sisters and two sisters-in-law. It is one of my favorite things, as the rest of the family all joins in with them.
As we prepare for my sister's wedding later this year, I know that that song will make it on the playlist. It has to! It is an affirmation of our family tie. It is a way we remind ourselves (even though we couldn't forget) that we are stuck together in this life. I have spoken a lot around here about how large my extended family is. There have been a lot of weddings where we have danced to this song! As I told you when I arrived, my earliest childhood memories are of this joy and love. I could tell you a thousand other stories of how this familial love has shown up in my life, but you would run out of time reading, and I have a sermon to write!
Summertime can be filled with familial activities. Weddings, reunions, vacations, oh my! Some of these family activities are fun and exciting. For some of us, though, family memories can be painful, especially in the face of loss or hardship. Sometimes, our family ties are not strong because of brokenness, and this can be heart wrenching as well. Family is often complicated and painful amidst joy and a unique bond.
This week in worship, we'll be discussing a non-traditional set of familial relationships. As we talk about Ruth and Naomi, we will be reminded that Ruth told Naomi, "I will go where you go." When I read this, I hear, "We are family! You're stuck with me." And while Naomi and Ruth are not related by blood, they are bonded by the unspeakable tragedy of loss. They lean on each other when there is no one else, and they forge a new life for themselves amidst the breakdown of what was traditionally expected of families. While Ruth and Naomi may have experienced the "Dead End" of the loss of sons and husbands, they found another way, recalculating a new route in an unexpected loss.
The other thing we'll remind ourselves of this weekend is the importance of community. When Ruth and Naomi make their way back to the land of Judah, they are met by Boaz, a member of Naomi's extended family. His faithfulness to the law of Israel and care for the stranger among their community meant that Naomi and Ruth would have another person to walk a new road with. The whole community receives them in the midst of their loss of family and affirms a new way of being. This is the community of faith at its best. Ruth and Naomi are ableto make a new life because the faith community in their time rose up to support them. They, too, said, "We are family!" and lived that out in tangible ways.
So while we celebrate our families of origin, we can also celebrate the family of faith. We can work together to be a place where all are loved, welcomed, and affirmed. We can care for one another in mutuality and help each other make new ways when all we can see are our own dead ends.
I know you're already up to that work, and I'm grateful to join you.