The Family of God | UMC YoungPeople
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March 2017

The Family of God

By Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

Spring and summer are by far my favorite seasons of the year. Growing up in DC, spring and summer signaled family time. My dad is the oldest of nine children while mom is the second of six children. It was not uncommon for us to share meals, activities and the normal things of life.

But spring and summer, we would gather for large extended family cookouts. Saturdays were filled with excursions to the Smithsonian, The National Mall and it was a joy to experience the cherry blossoms.

It wasn't like I didn’t see my extended family throughout the year, but for some reason, spring and summer we were together with a greater frequency. This was a special time because it provided an opportunity for me to remember that I belong to a large family, and it was a thrill to be with my everyone.

I get this same burst of excitement when I go to annual conference, Global Young People’s Convocation or some other United Methodist gathering. I felt that way recently when I attended an event organized by the General Board of Global Ministries targeting young adults, young adults, addressing justice related issues. Again, I felt I was with my extended family when I gathered with more than 400 people in Cincinnati for the 50th anniversary for Black Methodists for Church Renewal.

And the great thing about being with family, you see and experience the commonalities although there are many differences. At the GBGM Event and BMCR, it was striking that two people – one a young white male graduate student and the other a seasoned African American bishop, shared the same poem as a launching pad for a conversation. How could this be? It is a great piece of poetry penned by Harlem renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

What was it about this poetry that captured these two men?

Perhaps, they heard the words from United Methodist Baptismal Liturgy anew. These words:

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Through the Sacrament of Baptism

we are initiated into Christ's holy Church.

We are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation

and given new birth through water and the spirit.

All this is God's gift, offered to us without price.

A reminder that we are a part of the family of God. We belong.

The image of the river water and baptismal water struck a chord with me. After all, a river by mere definition “is a large natural flow of water that crosses an area of land and goes into an ocean, a lake.” A river with its distinctive rhythm and flow is always moving into a larger body. It understands by nature it belongs to something bigger, broader, but nonetheless it does not shrink.

Isn’t that how we are as Christians? We are members of distinctive churches with identities, yet we are a part of the larger family of God. I think our baptismal ritual sums it up best:

Through baptism

you are incorporated by the Holy Spirit

into God's new creation

and made to share in Christ's royal priesthood.

We are all one in Christ Jesus.

With joy and thanksgiving, we welcome you

as members of the family of Christ.

Yes, you and I belong to the family of God!