Last weekend, we heard from the Gospel according to John and the call narratives for some of the disciples. In particular, we heard the story about Philip and Nathaniel as they are called into Jesus’s mission and ministry, and while Philip and Nathaniel are connected to one another (as my mother sometimes says, “They are related by blood!”), we can still sense that there is some difference between the two of them. Anyone who has a sibling or has children of their own can tell you stories of how different two individuals can be even when they come from the same family. The gifts of God’s grace are shared randomly within humanity, and we see people develop into differently gifted persons within a single household. And yet…those people remain connected to each other as family members.
The call narrative within the Gospel according to John is creating a new community of followers who will, for all intents and purposes, become a new family knit together through their commitment to Christ and through Christ to one another. They join up with what Jesus is doing in their walks in the gospel narratives, and they continue that walk after crucifixion and resurrection to build the church. The family bonds between the disciples continue beyond the story of crucifixion. The resurrection of Christ leads them into a new way of leading and building community, and they also begin to create new families as new church communities are formed through their efforts.
The apostles become the ones who continue the community building work started by Christ, and they do that through one invitation at a time to one family at a time. The apostles grow the church through a steady commitment of growing the family of the church, which is always grown through the adoption of Holy Baptism. The bonds that are knit together are family bonds; they are bonds of kinship that draw us closer and closer together through our individual commitments to practicing the gospel in our own lives. They are bonds that begin to strip away the differences within a parish community precisely because we are in relationship with one another. We become family to each other through our baptism, and we are here to help and support each other in our own journeys of discipleship.
Our own little community of difference (a term I used on Sunday in my sermon) is one that becomes a family out of our commitment to being in relationship with one another. Hopefully, our commitment to one another is one that we see as part of our Baptismal Covenant and an extension of how we serve God and neighbor. When we understand each other as family (whether another person is a baptized Christian or not), it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss the concerns of our neighbor. When we see each other as part of a single human family that is, within its wholeness, the image of God, we are striving to seek and serve the good for each other – a common good that provides for life, for the abundant life.
Jesus says in the Gospel according to John, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” We, as followers of Jesus, are called into a common union with one another, and we find ourselves knit into a new family – the family of God’s household. We find that the abundant life is present in and through the relationships we have with one another, and we will find the love of one another is how we will share in the abundance of God’s kingdom.