On Easter Sunday my Florida family gathered for lunch. We were not able to get together last year because of COVID. But, I have a picture of the 25 people who shared the meal this year. All my siblings, my 3 brothers and my sister, were present, along with many of their children. But not everyone was there. My brother David’s 3 daughters were all present. But, not all of my sister, Martha’s, children came to the meal. And while both Stephen and James have daughters who were able to join the family, not all of their daughters were present either. And, of course, my children and grandchildren were all in Alaska. It is difficult to travel from Alaska to Florida for a one meal because of time and finances. Nevertheless, I cherish this family photo.
I also have another group family picture from earlier this year. On January 24 all our children and grandchildren graced our Alaska home to celebrate the birthdays of Joshua and his wife, Erin, and also the birthday of our son Andrew. We have pictures of the 13 of us standing around our living room couch. Kathy and I treasure these times and are thankful for the love we share.
I have other such pictures of our family gathered for a meal, and gathered to share the faith and love we have. I believe that my mom’s favorite times were when all her children and grandchildren would all get together. My mom died January 17, 2011. The last picture we have of a large family gathering before my mom’s death was from July of 2010 as we celebrated her birthday. I also have pictures from the celebration of my dad’s last birthday, his 90th, on September 23, 2017. All his children and many of his grandchildren, including 2 of my children, were able to be present. Kathy and I can only dream that our parents would have met their grandchildren, and that her parents and my parents would have joined a family gathering. These memories, and these pictures, are precious.
But, my question is WHEN will we be together at the same time? When will my Alaska family and my Florida family all be in the same place at the same time? When will all my siblings children and my children, my grandchildren and my nephews and nieces, all spend time together? When will we all be able to share and joke with each other? When will we share food and stories? And, what about my New England family, and Kathy’s Memphis family, and Spokane family?
Last Sunday our family meal was a part of our celebration of Jesus’ Easter resurrection. The son of Mary, and Son of God, lived a perfect life and therefore He did not need to die for any sins he had personally committed. But, Jesus willingly died the death of a criminal on the cross, and then He rose from the dead three days later. Jesus’ Easter victory offers eternal life to the whole world, through faith. But, as I think about all my family pictures, Jesus’ rising from the grave offers something more.
Kathy and I are both faithfully reading Scripture in daily devotions. As Kathy has been reading in Numbers and Deuteronomy she noticed God’s description of death, which He shares with Moses. God tells Moses, “There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:50) For children of God, our Lord Himself describes death as a “gathering to our people.” That sounds like a BIG reunion!
What is even better is that we have another member of our family, or better stated, we are part of HIS family. When we receive the gift of eternal life, when we are in heaven, we are . . . with Jesus! Jesus teaches His disciples in John 14, “2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3) In heaven we are . . . with Jesus! The reunion includes our Lord!
Also, on the night Jesus was betrayed He prayed for His followers, and He prayed for us, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24) Jesus prays that we may be WITH Him, and see His divine glory. When we are in heaven, when we are “gathered to our people,” we are with Jesus.
Finally, in Revelation 21, as John learns about our eternal dwelling, He writes what he saw and heard. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3) When we are in heaven, when we are “gathered to our people,” God is with us, and we are with Him.
I am thankful for the gatherings which bless our earthly family. I do hope for possibly even larger reunions, where all our family can be in the same place at the same time. But, God’s description of heaven teaches of a bigger reunion, where “we are gathered to our people,” and where God is part of that gathering. What a GREAT party that will be!
A Child of God, Thankful for Family Gatherings, Looking Forward to our Heavenly Reunion,
P.S. Here are some family group pictures from 2021.
· Our Florida Easter family celebration. https://photos.app.goo.gl/B4tp4QWXA9nUpfi76
· Our Alaska January birthday celebration. https://photos.app.goo.gl/WbqoVwHZNLmwX1D7A
P.P.S. Here are some family pictures from previous gatherings.
· My Dad’s 90th birthday party, September 23, 2017, https://photos.app.goo.gl/hJ81NqEHMoyfELYt8
· The last time my mom and dad were together with all the kids, July 2010. https://photos.app.goo.gl/pxugZZhUHZwkQY6i8
P.P.P.S. Kathy and I did some yard work last week. We removed bushes from the front of our condo. Here are a couple of pictures. https://photos.app.goo.gl/UYZW1FGKqNkivYBY9
P.P.P.P.S. I did do a little fishing again this week. Surprise!
· On Thursday, April 1, I went fishing with brother-in-law, Mark Reaves. Kathy had told me “no more fish” unless we have a fish fry. Well, on April 25, with Jake and Emma visiting, we are having a family fish fry. Here are fish from April 1. https://photos.app.goo.gl/q2AMxjVrDjgpwYfRA
· I went fishing with brother, Stephen, on Friday, April 1. We started at 7:00 a.m. with the temperature at 44, and the wind blowing strong. We battled the wind ALL DAY, and returned to white caps! 2 bites – NO fish!
· On Tuesday, April 6, Kathy accompanied me as I went fishing. I caught 3 bass, and 2 mud fish (which I threw back), but it took a while (8 hours). We did cause a gator to move, and we saw a manatee. https://photos.app.goo.gl/e8uxME2BMbuF8iDv6
ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I retired at the end of August 2019 from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK. I was writing a weekly devotion previously entitled, "Thoughts from the Pastor." When I retired many asked me to continue writing these devotions. So I have continued writing. However, with life's changes I now call this weekly devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."
Since I am no longer senior pastor at St. John, I felt it right to only send this message to those who asked to receive it. (Though I am now serving again part-time at St. John as assistant to the pastor.) Perhaps you also know that I “killed” my computer on November 7, 2020. In so doing I lost, for a time at least, all my e-mail contacts. So, I was really goofed up. Many who were receiving this devotion each week were no longer receiving it. I tried to rebuild my distribution list, but I am not sure how accurate I have been.
So, if you stopped receiving these devotions and wondered why, now you understand. And, if you are now receiving these devotions and do not wish to receive them, please let me know, and I’ll gladly remove your name from my distribution list. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
My prayer is that these devotions help each of you in your daily walk with our Lord, Jesus.
Child of God
Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather
Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church