KINSHIP IN CHRIST
READ: Mark 3:31-35
“While Jesus was teaching inside a home to a large crowd, His family arrived wanting to see Him. A message was passed up through the crowd to inform Jesus that His mother, brothers and sisters had arrived and were asking to see Him. Jesus took that opportunity to ask the people, “And exactly who might be my family?” Looking at those sitting around Him, He said, “You who are here are my family, you are my brothers and sisters. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is a member of my family as if they were my mother, or my brother, or my sister.” – Mark 3:31-35
By tradition, Benedictine monks are called Brothers and Benedictine nuns are called Sisters. And from the beginning, the cloistered life has sought to be a community modeled after the family. In the early years, many of the monks and nuns were first orphans left in the care of the monastery. For these souls, the monastic community was literally their family, and for the others, it became their family.
Yes, within the spirit of the contemplative community is a sought after and cultivated spirit of “kinship”. We truly ARE family … children of God, brothers and sisters of each other. We share an ancestry; we share an inheritance; we share our experiences and the memories those experiences create; we share our dreams; we share our joys; we share our sorrows, we share all these and more in the kindred Spirit that we share in this life of Christ that we live together.
Through my fifty years of Christian discipleship and my forty years of pastoring United Methodist churches, I have oft known this Christian experience of spiritual kinship. In some places I experienced it more than others. But always wherever there was Christ, I have come upon, in some measure, this experience of kinship. Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, the experience of spiritual kinship is rich and deep. So I find myself asking, especially at this point in my Christian pilgrimage … … where and when has that experience of spiritual kinship been most present? What brings this kinship to life? What brings this kinship into full harvest?
Everyday at Greyfriars’ we gather in the chapel for worship … certainly I experience a kinship in hearing our voices in harmony as we share the liturgy together. Everyday, we gather to dine in the refectory, the monastic version of the Fellowship Hall. And, of course, there is kinship experienced as we share our common meal, family-style. Yet – at least, for me – the spiritual kinship is strongest when we are doing our daily chores, our manual labor here at the Abbey. I felt this kinship especially today, when all the Brothers who were physically able took to the fields so that we might paint the white fences that enclose our pastures. Forty Brothers along with some twenty good neighbors from the nearby congregation spent the whole day playing Tom Sawyer. As we painted, we talked. As we painted, we sang. As we painted, we laughed. And, now and then, as we painted we even settled into a quiet contemplation midst a warm sunshine and a kindly breeze. I noticed that as the chore became more and more laborious as the day went on, the spirit of kinship continued to strengthen, not weaken as you might expect. In fact, the spirit of kinship reached it fullness in the walking home at the end of the long day. And I did observe this clue to the mystery … as each Brother and Neighbor walked home, each took a moment or two to look back at all those painted fences.
Jesus defined the spiritual kinship in this way … it is that which is shared by those who ACTUALLY GET AROUND TO DOING … the will of God, the work of God done in the Spirit of God. It is in the doing of the Christian work that we come upon the deeper regions of Christian truth, understanding and wisdom.
And what is the will of God, the work of God done in the Spirit of God? It is the work of loving; it is the work of forgiving; it is the work of guiding; it is the work of healing; it is the work of setting people free; it is the work of sharing with those in need; it is the work of serving; and it is even … the work of painting fences and making them holy.
My Loved Ones, merely attending church services or attending Christian conferences or listening to Christian music or believing certain Christian doctrine …will not lead you into the true, deep joy of spiritual kinship with Christ … that is found only in DOING the will of God and doing it together.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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