In 1995, my mother married Malcolm, who became my step-father. He and I have had some scraps and arguments in the last twenty years—none in the last eight, far too many in the first three—but I love him and he’s absolutely part of my family, not just the guy married to my mom. He has three children, one of whom is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ named Heather. Heather and I didn’t really know each other when I was younger—she was in college, I was in middle school—but thanks to the weird world of modern technology, we’ve connected on facebook and because the UCC and the Disciples of Christ are really interconnected churches where everyone seems to know each other.
A friend of mine called me and asked if I knew Heather when she was in search and call. “You know everyone,” he told me. “And I see you’re friends on facebook. How do you know her?” “Oh,” I said. “Uh, her dad married my mom?” Thinking about it, I can’t remember the last time we were together in person, but she hears about me from Malcolm, I hear about her from my mom, and it’s not like we know each other—we know each other. She is family.
I’m dwelling a lot on the familiar this week preparing for the third sermon in our New Year’s Resolutions series: Spend Time with Family. There’s a couple really great texts, one from 1 Corinthians and one from the Gospel of John. They deal with spiritual gifts, presence, and relationship, and how God’s work and grace are in everyone.
On Thursday, Kathy and I will be getting together with other North Texas progressive pastors for a lunch and conversation. We like to meet three times a year, and talk shop, compare notes, and brag on our people. (I have a long list! Thank you!) But more to it, too, it’s a chance to confirm the common bonds we have as Methodists and Disciples and UCCers and Lutherans and Baptists—that Jesus is Christ, Son of the Living God, Savior and Sovereign. That the Reign of God is now and not yet. That love wins, and love unites us. And to get to know one another—no, it’s not like that. We know each other. We are family.
See where I’m going on this? One more, and I’ll stop—on Friday and Saturday, I’ll be in Athens, Texas, for a planning retreat with high schoolers and their adults as we map out high school conference. I’ll be working with youth I’ve known for six months or six years, and with ministers and lay leaders who I’ve grown up with. We’ve argued, we’ve hemmed and hawed, we’ve laughed and prayed, we’ve lost our minds on Thursday nights at camp because IT’S ALMOST OVER JUST KEEP BREATHING. They, too, are family. They have different gifts, different goals, different views and opinions—but that’s what makes the church so vital and alive. Being a family of resurrection people.
We’ll talk more about it Sunday. I look forward to seeing you then.