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The Family Business

21October2011

A man whom I know took a great personal risk and began a HVAC business venture. He spent his lifetime building a successful business and the business was well-regarded in the community.  When the time came, he was ready to turn the business over to his son with pride and hope for the future. The son bought the business.  As the grandchildren came along, the man had visions of a third generation carrying on the family business.  In his mind there was no reason that the family business would not be a well-regarded fixture in the community for years to come.  But as life would have it, grandchildren had no interest in the family business.  They went to pursue their own dreams and passions.  In the midst of tough economic times and approaching retirement age, the son sold the business to a larger concern. The vision of the legacy of the family business came crashing to an end.  His father was hurt and angry.  Harsh words were exchanged.  The rift became ugly.  Other siblings and family members have chosen sides. Bitterness, disappointment, and a sense of betrayal have spilled out in a way that threatens the unity of four generations of a family.  More than a family business has been compromised here.  A family is at risk.  

Earlier this week one of my colleagues and co-authors of this blog, made a comment that guys do not want to hear that God wants to be in relationship with them true as that may be.  I was stewing over that thought – not because I disagreed with him, but because I was pondering more acceptably manly metaphors.  How does one find a good, concrete, metaphor for what God desires for humankind when God is the by very nature engaged in relationship.  In fact, reading Moltmann, one would say that God is the original community from which the rest of the human community derives its existence.  As I was stewing, it occurred to me that the statement about got wanting to be in relationship with us isn’t exactly true.  The RELATIONSHIP is an already established fact, established with creation and sealed in the waters and promise of baptism.  With a nod to my colleague’s aversion to the concept of relationship, to be theologically correct God established communion with us in the waters and promise of baptism.  Christ abiding in us and we abiding in Christ.  However, all of my theological nit-picking didn’t exactly help me develop a better metaphor for those males and females both whole find themselves stretched by the image a ‘relationship’ with God.

Then I remembered thought about the HVAC family business.  God has a vision of us joining the family business.  In fact, it was for this we were created and for this we were re-born in the waters of baptism.  However, in our case the family business is more than just HVAC concerns.  The family business – God’s mission – is one of love, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation.  Whether we are up for the challenge or not, we have been brought into the family business, and God’s dream is that – like his Son – we will engage in acts of mercy, compassion, times of listening, deeds of generosity, work toward forgiveness and reconciliation, and bring a message of hope.  Word, sacrament, worship, prayer, sacrificial love and acts of humble service are the tools of our trade.

Sadly, all too often we forget to show up for work.  Sometimes we even blow it off intentionally.  We pursue our own dreams and passions.  And if we are being honest with ourselves, we can occasionally be quick to sell off the family business when times get tough.  If the gentleman that I know feels disappointed, hurt, and betrayed, can you imagine how God must feel?  Yet God doesn’t get angry and bitter, hurl accusations, and destroy the family.  Rather God forebears with us; showing gentleness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  God opens arms and gives welcome, provides ample opportunity for us to apprentice, to sharpen the saw, to grow in discipleship.  While we are prone to neglect the family business and tear rifts in the family, God continues with business as usual, holding it all together in Jesus.

So for my friends and colleagues who are sick and tired of hearing that God just wants to be in relationship with us, let me rephrase it in a little more concrete way, hopefully one more helpful.  God has brought us into the family business and would really like it we would show up for work.  All tools will be provided by the Holy Spirit.  There are abundant opportunities for growth and development.  No possibility of lay-off.  Just another day in the kingdom. 

Are you ready for work?  The family business is waiting.

KMS@CCD

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