Today, I took a trip down memory lane back into my boyhood past. I saw the graves and home places of my ancestors. I visited with older relatives on my father's side. In fact, this preaching appointment has proven a literal family reunion. Shaking hands with people at church services yesterday, people of all ages--most of whom I have never met and the rest of whom I have not seen since I was a pre-schooler--walked past me telling me that we are related and what the connection was. I believe half this congregation of 200 are relatives of mine. It really heartens me to know that so many of my family members here are Christians, faithfully attending a very good congregation.
Today, I heard many stories about family members through the years. Some of them have made me proud to hear while others, honestly, made me a little ashamed of those members of my family. Some of the most encouraging stories were of those who had made some very bad decisions in the past, but whose repentance is both full and obvious. Yet, through it all whether good or bad, these are inescapably, irrevocably my family.
Today, I thought about the congregations where I have attended and have served in my ministry. The latter have usually been many miles (or states) away from my physical family. In many respects, the church has become my family is the truest sense. They have become surrogate parents and siblings. That is exactly how Paul described them in 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Peter did the same in 1 Peter 5:5. We are part of the same "household" (1 Timothy 3:15). Sometimes, this family falls short of our expectations and hopes. Other times, members of this family far exceed them. Still other times, family members make mistakes (don't we all?) but recover from them in exemplary ways. How many of our family members have overcome a shaky, shady past to be shining lights today? But, through thick and thin, happiness and sorrow, our fellow Christians are family! There is a much bigger picture than each of us as individuals or any crisis, issue, trial, or temptation. As that familiar church song puts it, "We're part of the family that's on its way home." Let us not forget that as we live with and love one another. We're part of a family. Inescapably. Irrevocably. Irresistibly!