Last week was family week. Dave had a meeting in Denver, which is where three generations of my family live. We spent time with my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, and our youngest son. And after our return on Sunday we spent Father's Day with our oldest son, and his girlfriend's family. So much family in such a short period of time!
While in Denver I went to Sunday worship where the topic of the sermon was suicide. It was at the end of a week where there had been suicide deaths of several prominent people.
Earlier in the service there had a been a baptism, and as a body of Christ we renounced the devil and all the forces that defy God. We renounced the powers of this world that rebel against God. We renounced the ways of sin that draw us from God.
The sermon turned the topic of suicide into an understanding of that devil which we had renounced.
I must have grown up at a time when the concept of the devil was morphed into the general idea of evil. For whatever reason, I've always had problems believing in an actual devil.
But the sermon made the devil very real. It is the voice of the devil filling our heads with lies and half-lies that drives people to such an extreme action. It is the voice of the devil telling us that we are what our family always told us we would be, that we are our medical diagnosis, that we are our paycheck.
It is the voice of the devil drowning out the voice of God, who always “finds what is lost and redeems what is foul.”
It all came back to family. Our culture tells us that we are individuals, that we have to prove our worth and value. Culture leaves people feeling alone and without hope. Culture creates the devil's lies in our head.
But the church provides us with a family, one that does not judge, one that provides support and love. There were multiple prayers that Sunday from congregants who grieved over the suicide death of a loved one. There was also a prayer from one who thanked God for her failed suicide attempt and the chance to start over again. That is an honesty that can only be made in the comfort of a loving and accepting family.
Dottie Davis was clear that St. Stephen’s was her family. Others have joined our St. Stephen’s family because we have shown ourselves to be accepting and loving.
So I spent the week re-exploring family: the family I was born into, the family I helped create, and rediscovering the importance of the family that always surrounds me at church.
- Ann Iona Warner
(If you’re interested in hearing the sermon in full, it can be found at www.houseforall.org)