Family reunions are interesting events. I have attended a number of them over the years and have found that these gatherings create a range of emotions and responses.
Some years ago, I attended a family reunion and discovered, much to my surprise, that many of my cousins were unfamiliar with the Psalter Hymnal and had not been in the CRC for years. I had recently been ordained and was asked to bring a message at the family worship time. I don’t recall the text or the message but I do vividly remember wondering what my grandparents would have thought about the diversity in that room.
As the reunion continued, I came to realize that not only was there significant denominational diversity but that some of these cousins were Democrats, some were Republicans, and there were a few Independents thrown in for good measure. There were conservatives and liberals. Some were social workers; others were entrepreneurs. We were a pretty eclectic gathering.
Yet in spite of the differences, we had a common bond. We shared the same parentage. We shared stories of growing up together. We saw family traits and in some cases saw ourselves reflected back from across the table. These folks, despite all their differences, were and still are family.
It was obvious from the conversations that we did not all share the same social and political views. We did not all understand the Bible in the same way. Yet we all loved each other. And, deep down inside, we all knew that no matter how different we had become, we were still one family. And that would have made our grandparents proud.
Recently I was invited to another reunion. It was very different from the one described above. When I arrived, I didn’t recognize more than a few people. Many had names I couldn’t even pronounce. Some were dressed in unfamiliar clothing. It was a very different setting, and yet I soon felt quite at home.
This reunion was a gathering of Christian Churches Together. Everyone in the room shared the same Father. We all were children of God, redeemed in Jesus Christ and filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We came from a multitude of Christian faith communities across North America. Each of us brought our own traditions, practices, and biblical understandings. As we worshiped together some differences became evident. When we sang, no one used the Psalter Hymnal. And yet, with few exceptions, I knew the texts and tunes.
As we shared stories and faith journeys it became evident that God, through his Spirit, was working in the hearts and lives of these “cousins.” I was particularly impressed with the great things that God is doing. In spite of all our differences and potential disagreements, the good news of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed, and the Holy Spirit is at work.
Just as I walked away from my own family reunion with a sense that my grandparents would have been pleased and proud of how their family had grown, I walked away from Christian Churches Together with a sense that our heavenly Father is pleased.
As I continue to grow in my faith and walk with Christ, I am continually surprised and impressed by God’s love of diversity. It is fascinating that God never creates duplicates. Every tree, flower, mountain, and person is unique. Each human being is created in God’s image, but no two are the same.
So it is in the church. We are united in Christ, but we are all unique. I am learning to both accept and embrace God’s unified family. I praise God for family reunions and for a new understanding of the broader body of Christ. n