Sunday was a day of mourning. Did you miss it? I did. Tisha B’ Av– Judaism’s saddest day of the year, observed by a 25 hour fast. Remembering the destruction of both temples, the tragedies suffered by the Jewish people over the course of history, and the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Can we say “our Jewish brothers and sisters” if we do not know and share their sorrow?
We are born into family. Complicated relationships even in the healthiest households. Each unique, but for many Americans, Kacey Musgraves’ description resonates:
Family is family, in church or in prison
You get what you get, and you don’t get to pick ’em
They might smoke like chimneys, but give you their kidneys
Yeah, friends come in handy, but family is family
But we make choices. With what culture, history, struggles and successes will we align ourselves? Reminding us of Ruth, who left her country and family of origin to join with the people of Israel through her promise to Naomi:
“Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16
When Christina from Norway fell in love with my childhood friend Seth, she made this same promise to him at their wedding. Now she is Te’ena- fluent in Hebrew, English, plus her native Norwegian. Jerusalem is her home where she bakes in a kosher kitchen, runs marathons, and raises trilingual teenagers. Back in Norway for the summer, she fasted in solidarity, reminding us not to forget.
Who is our mother, our sister, our brother?
Jesus famously introduced the idea that we choose our family, based not on blood or ideals, but on actions: “whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 12:50) Do we hear that as inclusive or exclusive? Widening or constricting the circle?
Jesus expanded the definition of family beyond blood. Do we feel included- by God, by Jesus, by a church family? Do we recognize our brothers, sisters, and mothers? Do we spend our time judging who we think may or may not be doing God’s will?
Reminding us of what Jesus said earlier in Matthew 7 about judging others, and the logs in our eyes. As individuals. As a culture. As a nation. Where we all must throw ourselves upon the mercy and love of God, as described by the prophet Micah:
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity,
overlooking the sin of the few remaining for his inheritance?
He doesn’t hold on to his anger forever;
he delights in faithful love.
He will once again have compassion on us;
he will tread down our iniquities.
You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will provide faithfulness to Jacob,
faithful love to Abraham,
as you swore to our ancestors a long time ago. Micah 7:18-20 (CEB)
May God continue to enlarge our sense of family, and may we join the disciples in doing the work of our Father in heaven.