Breaking the Cycle

Disclaimer: If you are watching the Netflix series, Bloodline, or plan to do so, this post contains some spoilers.

The Rayburns are a strangely biblical family.

They carry secrets. They suffer loss. They know violence. They profess loyalty to one another in one breath, only to blame their misfortunes on one another in the next breath. Much like the family of our Christian heritage in Genesis, they are dysfunctional. 

Every few years, when Genesis is in the summer lectionary, I preach a sermon series entitled, "The Dysfunctional Family." From Jacob's marriage to two sisters to the rendezvous of Tamar and Judah to Joseph's testing of his brothers when they don't recognize him, the first book of the Old Testament is a family tree bent in many directions. There is an odd comfort in knowing that all families carry a bit of wackiness--even the family into which God was born in Jesus Christ.

I couldn't help but think about the stories of Genesis as I watched Bloodline. In the show's first episode, the "black sheep" of the family comes home for a big celebration. Danny is the oldest of four adult siblings, and he returns to the family's Floria Keys' inn for a party honoring his father. Conflict brews. Siblings argue. One brother turns against another brother. The third brother tries to make peace. But is the peacemaking brother really desiring peace? Then there are the patriarch and matriarch who seem to have the perfect marriage. Are they everything they claim to be?

I believe one of the reasons Bloodline has become so popular is that beneath the violence and soap-opera elements is the simple tension of family relationships. Most of us can probably recall a time of strained relations, of frustrations, with the people we love. We can also see patterns in behavior from one generation to another --some that are good, and some not so good.

In season 2 of Bloodline, the youngest brother named Kevin finds out that his wife is pregnant. At a family dinner, he announces the good news, and everyone applauds. It's a perfect, candlelit dinner next to the water, complete with toasts and cheers and smiles. Then, someone makes a remark about how poorly the family has treated Danny.  A secret emerges that Danny had a son whom no one acknowledged.  Absent from the table is Danny, who has died. Cheers descend to accusations. The matriarch storms toward the kitchen. Kevin exchanges glances with his siblings, for they all carry the burden of dark secrets about their brother's death.

Later that night, Kevin's wife finds him upset. He tells her how messed up his family is. He tells her that he doesn't know if he can be a father. He tells her that he's afraid he'll end up just like his own father, in all the bad ways. He doesn't want to repeat the family's bad behavior, but he also doesn't know how to break the cycle.

Kevin's angst is understandable. Breaking free of negative patterns is difficult. Overcoming curses of the past is necessary for a hopeful future, but how do we do it? Here is where Genesis parts ways with the Rayburns. From the beginning of Scripture, God reminds us through imperfect people that we can be made perfect. The blood of Jesus Christ brought us into the divine bloodline of Almighty God. Because of his Son's sacrifice, we are able to pray for God to help us overcome the snares of the past, the patterns of our old life. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:21, New King James Version

Evil is a reality both for the Rayburn family and for the body of Christ throughout our world. This past week we especially saw evil manifest in the United States with racially-charged shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas. This morning we grieve with the nation of France after a deadly attack in Nice. We may feel as stuck in the cycle of violence as Kevin does in the roots of his family.

How do we overcome, move forward, and rise above such evil?

We must pray for God's kingdom to come, and God's will to be done.

We must pray that heaven's peace would invade earth's madness.

We must pray ....

Sometimes it's easier to talk than it is to pray. It's easier to act than it is to pray. 

But for right now-- would you stop talking and working to pray with me?

Acknowledge that we are helpless without our Heavenly Father's mercy.

Ask God to overcome evil with good. 

Give thanks for the family into which God adopted us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Invite the Holy Spirit to break the bad cycles of our pasts.

Pause in the silence, and hear God say, "I love you. You are mine. And nothing can ever separate Me from you."

From that place of deep trust, arise to speak and act for the good. Go forth to overcome evil with the goodness of God.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian