My mother and father are from in Baltimore. My mother likes to say that she grew up on the right side of the wrong side of town and my father grew up on the wrong side of the wrong side of town. This is another way to say they both grew up poor my mother just grew up a little less poor than my father. My mother never talks about there not being enough food, just life was hard and money was tight. On the other hand my father used to tell a story about his mother going to the store, counting out the money and coming to the conclusion that she did not have enough money for both milk and flour. She always bought flour because flour can be made into bread if mixed with yeast and water and baked or made into gravy if you put it in a pan with just water. (when I was growing up we made paste with water and flour – so I can only imagine how paste like this gravy must have tasted).
As I am sure you can imagine, were not many options for a young man from a poor family growing up in on the wrong side of the city, several of my older uncles became construction workers, they helped build several of the noticeable buildings and one of them helped build the tunnel that takes you under the harbor if you are traveling through the city on I-95. My father joined the military, not like there was much choice for a young man his age at that time with the draft and all, but he decided at some point to make a career of it. They would give him steady pay, an education and they would get him out of the slums of Baltimore.
While my father had grown up in Baltimore, my grandfather was from Kentucky. When the coal dried up he left Kentucky to make a better life for himself and his family. When I was 16 my family traveled to Gooserock, Kentucky. We saw the little post office, and the bar that make up that town. We traveled down a small road and turned up the gravel path that now runs alongside of Rockybranch creek. I met some of the children and grandchildren of my grandfather’s siblings. Their lives are VERY different than mine. Just as my father had gotten out of Baltimore, my grandfather before him had gotten out of Kentucky.
Because of these two migrations from one place to another, the lives of myself and my sisters were unimaginably altered. This is because, where we live matters.
In this passage Jesus calls for us to live in him. Well he uses the word, “abide.” But abide means to dwell, to live. This is about setting down roots, about building a house, taking up residence, allowing the place to shape and change your life. My grandfather’s life was shaped and changed by his choice to leave Kentucky and move to Baltimore. My father’s (and subsequently my) life was shaped and changed by the fact that my father decided to leave Baltimore and allow the military to decide where he would live. Our lives are shaped and changed by where we live. Jesus wants our lives to be shaped and changed by him. We are to find our dwelling place in him, to dwell, to live in him.
It is easy to think that we live in Cambridge, or in the Boston Metropolitan Area. And we do. It is easy to think that we live in Massachusetts or the United States. And of course we do. And our lives are shaped and changed because we live in these places. Anyone who has lived or spent any time in a place different than where they grew up, has a glimpse into how where they lived shaped them.
There are the obvious things, like accent. I remember when I first moved to Kansas, as soon as I opened my mouth, people would ask me where I was from, and since I was most recently from
ENC, I would tell them I was from Boston and they
would say, “Yeah, I can tell by the way you talk.”
But there are other things as well. I when I was in Romania, I became profoundly aware of how time conscious we Americans are. When we say we are going to meet you at 3:00 we try to be there between 2:55 and 3:10. But we would never think of showing up at 3:30 without apologizing or calling to let the person know we are running late, but in Romania it is almost as if you are arriving at 3:00 as long as 3 is the first number so you are “on time,” if you arrive at 3:00 or if you arrive at 3:59. The way I view “on time.” Is shaped by where I live.
When I lived in KS, I was always kind of annoyed at how my friends and my husband acted as if they were taking their life into their hands, when they let me behind the wheel. It really kind of annoyed me. After we lived here for several months, Mike turned to me one day and said, “Living here, suddenly the way you drive makes sense.” I did not even know it but living in Boston shaped the way I drive.
But where we live physically is not what Jesus is talking about in this passage. Jesus is talking about in whom we live. As Christ’s disciples we live in Christ. We allow Christ to shape and change us in much the same way the environment of where we live shapes and changes us.
We want Christ to shape us more than our country does, we want Christ to have more bearing on our lives than living in the US affects how we view the meaning of “on time.” We want Christ to transform our whole view of time and how we use it. We want Christ to change us more than our state does; we want Christ to affect us more than just than just our accent or the way we talk. We want Christ to shape how we use our words, what we say and to whom we say those things. We want Christ to affect us more than our city does; we want Christ to affect more than just the way we drive. We want Christ to form the way we move in all aspects of our lives, where we allow our feet to takes us, what we do with our hands and how we reach out to those around us, touching them with the love of Jesus Christ physically and spiritually. All aspects of our lives in some way are shaped or formed and are affected by where we live. We want Christ to have that kind of all encompassing affect on every aspect of our lives. Our actions, our thoughts, our words, with whom we interact and why, as well as how we interact with each and every person we encounter during the course of our day.
Today we are making a covenant, a covenant in which we are vowing, committing to abide in Christ, to allow all of who we are, everything we do and everything we say to be shaped, molded, formed, changed by Jesus Christ. Together we are covenanting to abide in Christ; to allow Christ to be the vine, and for us to be the branches of that vine, taking our nourishment, our growth, our very existence, our life and death from Jesus Christ. We are to live in Christ, to abide in Christ. Let us come together this morning and covenant together to abide in Christ, to allow Christ to shape and form us more than our country does, more than our state or city does, let us let Christ be the most formative and shaping force in our lives.