To Whom do you Belong?

Being born into both “German/Polish and Lutheran heritage” I understand when (usually) at a church event outside one’s own congregation, you are asked, “And, what family do you belong to?” The person who may ask this is perhaps trying to connect me to a familiar surname or family member, perhaps in order to create conversation about something or someone in common that we possibly know. I realise this person could ask in interest, or to make one feel welcome in other people’s environments, so there is a sense of belonging. I have found later in my life I am now the one who tends to ask “that” question. It must have rubbed off from my mother!

I found this question was often asked of me when I was employed, many years ago, delivering and collecting census papers in our rural farming community. People often asked where I belonged when I showed them my identity name tag. Consequently, I typed a name tag with “Ann Keller, wife of John Keller, daughter of Mavis Moll and daughter-in-law of (little) Vic Keller”. To differentiate, there was a tall Vic Keller living in our farming area at the time. I reasoned that the name tag should satisfy their curiosity. I knew who I belonged to and the name tag told them too.

Have you experienced something similar? Do you feel you belong, or do you think “you are you” and don’t need to belong to anyone? As you age, do you find this concept is more important in your life?

Belonging has a familiarity that goes with it, a sense of peace that you are accepted in your family, church, or wider community.

However, there are people who sadly feel they don’t belong to anyone. This could be because of no direct family still living or estrangement from family. I had a much loved (adopted) aunt who told me she never felt “her adoptive families’ blood flow through her veins”. To us, she was always special and belonged to our extended family, however that did not change her feelings. One hears of mature adoptive children/adults reconnecting with their “birth” mother or father, only to confront the whole experience as a dismal failure. These people must feel so alone in such a situation with no sense of belonging, with no fault on their part.

Belonging does not mean you are a “possession”, but you are precious and dear to those to whom you are connected. In some radical religions, women are a “possession” (often to be used and abused) of their husbands and are not treated as a wife but rather as a “chattel”. I say this from a human perspective. Whereas if you refer to 2 Corinthians 6:16–18, we belong to God who has redeemed us with his holy and precious blood. In John 10:28, we Christians can  be assured that we belong to God and are held in his hand from which no one can remove us.

God wants us to belong to him but through our sin, we sometimes disown him. I’m sure you know the hymns, JesusLovesMe and WhataFriendwehaveinJesus. Have you ever really thought about the words of these hymns? Who do you go to when you need someone to talk to? Do you have friend you can trust and confide in? Remember Jesus is a Friend we can always trust. Do you g, o  to him in prayer? Jesus knows our every weakness, so be assured he will always listen. Either of these hymns are sources of great comfort and reassurance, even when sung at the funeral of a dear relative or friend. Think about the words of these hymns and if they have had a significant impact on you at some stage of your life.

Belonging doesn’t mean ownership; it means being included in someone else’s life to whom you relate. God wants to be included every day in our lives. We do this through prayer, our actions and our responses to others.

Have you ever felt left out in a crowd because everyone else present knows each other or connects with them at work, socially or at church? Do you make visitors at your church feel welcome? Are you one of the “regulars” who huddles in a cliquey group to the exclusion of any visitors or strangers? Have you ever considered what it would be like if “the shoe was on the other foot”? or won’t you step out of your comfort zone for fear of being rejected or isolated? One hears of people who have visited Lutheran churches elsewhere in Australia, only to be ignored by those who regularly attend  worship at that church. These visitors obviously felt they were not welcome or belonged to the “family of Lutherans” (I have deliberately omitted “Christians” in this instance), so decided not to attend that particular church again.

God will never leave you or forsake you, even when you feel you don’t belong. Because of his infinite love, he guides and protects you because you dobelong to him. Never forget that! What a wonderful blessing and opportunity to give thanks because we belong to him.

You belong to God through the waters of your baptism – such a wonderful, eternal gift. Don’t reject that gift! God sends his baptised children into the world so that we can make, enjoy, and renew relationships with others, through our faith.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the many blessings you bestow on us every day; blessings  of love, forgiveness, grace and belonging. Grant that we may always appreciate these gifts and use them for the benefit of someone we know who needs the reassurance of belonging to God’s family.

Thank you for protecting us in 2020 during the pandemic, and for the medical care provided to those who were infected with COVID 19. Our lives have been given a new direction in so many ways – some good, some not so good. As you are in control of the “big picture” for whatever is ahead, we know we will always be in good care because we belong to you.

In your name we pray.  Amen.

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Ann Keller

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