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Jesus is fond of giving us new definitions of words we think we know.

For instance, we think we know how to define the word “power”. We think power is money, talent, career, or social status. On the other hand, Jesus says the greatest power is forgiveness and love for neighbor. Wow. That is a little different isn’t it?   

Jesus gives a new definition for “happiness”. It would be worth your time looking that one up at Matthew 5:1-12.

Jesus gives us a new definition of “family”.  

How would you define family? Same blood? Same parents? Same background? Or maybe, family is people who have the same passions as you do? Like, Leafs Nation. Now there’s a family! Why? Because we have something in common. We share our love of and our undying devotion to the Leafs.  

Having a common love is a huge part of what makes family for Jesus. And this definition of family lies at the heart of our Thanksgiving. In Matthew chapter 12 there’s a great story where Jesus is teaching in someone’s house, and his mother and brothers knock on the door looking for him. “Jesus, your Mom’s at the door”, someone says. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Jesus says.  Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  

Jesus wasn’t brushing his mother off. He was simply making the point that family goes way beyond blood. What makes family is the common goal of love for neighbor and community. Which is always the ultimate will of God. And this love transcends race, economic class, gender, tradition, and even religion. (remember how Jesus befriended Romans and Samaritans and told them we all are children of the same God.)

I remember when BBC reported that Danish people are among the happiest people in the world. Danish people? Really?  Because they eat cinnamon danishes all the time? No. Because they breed the biggest dogs in the world? Wrong again.

It’s because the majority of Danes are involved in their communities, they spend more time together and do more things together.

The author of the research wrote “In all the work I have done within the field of happiness research, this is the point I am surest about: the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is in our social relationships, in having people around you who say “I am here for you”. And when have that we give thanks for it and celebrate it.

Not too long ago Sheri Bulfon sang “We are Family” by Sister Sledge in church. It’s from 1979 and it’s a great song. Generally speaking, the disco era is not one of the higher points in the history of pop music, but if you watch it on YouTube you’ll love it.  

We are family   I got all my sisters with me  We are family   Get up everybody and sing  

First Pres is a group of people from all over the demographic map. But we belong together through the love of Jesus. We sing ‘We are Family’ to a lot of different tunes. But more to the point, we believe in the words. May our prayer be that we never stop welcoming the people Jesus welcomed. May we live to put into practice the will of God. After all, that love is what brought us together in the first place.

Happy Thanksgiving.