Submitted By Pastor David Klappenbach, First Lutheran Church, Rock Port.

The New Year is kind of like a measuring stick for me. Let’s see, I’ve been a father 16 years, a husband for 26, a brother for 56 and a son for 58. Family is a wonderful gift. We all know family ties can run deep. In family we can experience wonderful blessings: love, support and encouragement. Then there are the memories, the trips, seasonal traditions-Thanksgiving and Christmas and the stories from the past that shape, us give us a sense of belonging, and the confidence to journey forward.
But we all know too well that family can be a place where much harm and pain is inflicted on each other. I hope I have not inflicted harm on those I have promised to love. Good heavens, the mistakes I have made along the way. Words spoken that I wish I could take back, the tone of voice, promises made in one breath and broken in the next, silly spats, usually other nothing that significant. A father for 16, a husband for 26,…a lot can happen over time.
After returning from vacation several years ago I vowed (New Year’s resolution?) I would take better care of myself this New Year. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny for January. So I went running. I saw no one for the thirty minutes out on the road. I only felt a stiff breeze blowing in my face a occasionally heard a gale. I looked across the expansive farmland, then recited words Form St. John, chapter 1, verse 3, “All things came into being through Him, and without Him, not one thing came into being.”
Moving along I thought about the amazing gift of life and the miracle of breathing. Then noticing the sky stretching beyond the horizon, and how the heavens hold the stars, and the years and hours stretching backwards and forwards, I realized my tiny life, a speck in this part of the world, in this moment, in God’s grand plan. Then it came to mind how God noticed me and you, the choices we make, the words we speak, the kindness we show and share really do matter and make a difference. A father 16 years, a husband for 26…What a gift to belong.
Isaiah 43 talks about what it means to belong to God. It talks about God’s fearless and tireless and even reckless love for His family. “I have called you by name. When you pass through the water, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and flame shall not consume you” (vs. 1b-2). Because of this relationship, God says that we are to pass through the rivers and even walk though fire. It is an amazing promise.
Life with family, even in God’s family has its ups and downs. For Israel, it meant 1,500 years a nation, 40 years of exile, 40 years wandering in the desert. They experienced it all, blessings with manna and quail. Yes they complained even to the point where God called them stiff necked people. But still they belong the God, though a generation perished in the desert and family lived on to take the Promised Land.
Here’s is well kept secret that holds the world together though it should be a secret. It is God’s undeserved mercy for His children. Having experienced God’s mercy, can make us merciful parents, spouses, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and followers of Jesus. In fact, it is the only thing that can make us merciful. It mercy that has been passed down through the many generations.
On the road with pavement passing under foot as time passes us by, 16 years a father, 26 a husband…57 years a Child of God, mistakes too many to count. But mistakes covered by our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ and His death and resurrection. As we pass from 2016 into 2017 may we experience God’s mercy and belonging in our families and in our Church families as we journey in faith.