Who is my family?
International Christian Fellowship, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(Some details seriously distorted to protect the more sensitive!)
Our family has family gatherings when we can. Even if my brother or sister, or my mother, or my son or daughter host the occasion in a way that is not my preferred style, I'll still join in most willingly. If they serve chicken when I'd much rather fish, I'm still there. If the background music is contrary to my mood, it doesn't matter. If one or other says stuff that I don't agree with or is personally uncomfortable, nothing will keep me away. And even if one of them brings a pretty unpleasant friend, it is not an issue, I'll stay till the end.
And when that weird uncle/aunt/niece/nephew starts talking too loudly, so what? They probably think I'm weird - so we're even!
If there are dirty plates piled up in the sink or on the floor, cat's fur on the chairs, dead indoor plants, people with body piercing or three piece suits, some who smoke without consideration of others, or vote for all those idiot politicians in that other party, or that freaky cousin who hands out fundamentalist tracts, or that retired health official who insists on wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, or the maiden aunt with a video camera fixation that she uses as a weapon of mass embarrassment, or even if they only serve de-caf, I will still be there.
None of this matters one bit. I'm locked in and even if everyone is a bit strange except me, I'll keep on making sure I get to be with them. I refuse to head off to the family market to buy into another one for a while in the hopes it suits me better for where I'm at right now.
The ties of the Holy Spirit in the family of God as it gathers week-by-week are even stronger than the blood ties that we take so seriously. Church is where I go to be with my family. And like my other family, it has all the stuff of human weirdness! It has all the usual variety of people, culture, different tastes, disappointments, warmth, and joy. I don't go for the music, the conversation, the things I might learn, the pleasure I might experience. I go because they are family -- and that is enough.
God is present in my family. I see His miracle of grace in the face of each one. (which is one of the reasons I hate sitting looking at the back of the neck of the person in front as we sit in rows like machines). I am lifted up by how the ordinariness of human faith and ability is secondary to the extraordinary willingness of God to love such a bunch of people as we are! The more we want church to do different things really well, the more we easily miss out on seeing that God's grace is sufficient in human weakness.
Church as family (not programme or performance or ability) is the best place to see the vision of all that God's love and grace can bring.