It was one of the worst possible family gatherings imaginable. Relatives showed up late. Aunt Mary was supposed to bring the salad but forgot. Uncle Sam was in charge of the meat. It was overdone and tough. Some of the cousins got into a fight with lots of name calling and even a few hard shoves. The dessert…we always have apple pie. This year we had chocolate cake. It just isn’t the same.
I was a bit frustrated, maybe even angry. Everything seemed different. I didn’t like it. Mistakes, change…I don’t like it at all. My first inclination, my knee jerk reaction, was to find another place to go for my next holiday meal. I am having a hard time. I don’t like this a bit.
I heard that a house down the street has nice people, a happy atmosphere, and wonderful food, including apple pie. I think I will go to that house next time.
Eugene Peterson laments: By the time I arrived on the scene as a pastor, the American church had reinterpreted the worship of God as an activity for religious consumers. Entertainment, cheerleading, and manipulation were conspicuous in high places. American worship was conceived as a public-relations campaign for Jesus and the angels. Worship had been cheapened into a commodity marketed by using tried-and-true advertising techniques. If so-called worshippers didn’t “get anything out of it,” there had been no worship worth coming back for. Instead of calling people to worship God, pastors all over the country were inviting people to “have a worship experience.” Worship was evaluated on the “consumer satisfaction scale” of one to ten. The Pastor: A Memoir (p. 254). Harper Collins, Inc.
So easily we get caught up in the consumerist trap. Of course, we would never go to someone else’s home for a holiday meal no matter how much of a disaster. Why? Because we are family. Instead of complaining and leaving, we would volunteer to bring the salad next time. Or help with the meat. Or suggest that maybe next time, as good as the cake was, we could have apple pie. We would work out our differences and our problems, because we are connected to each other–through thick and thin. That is what family is all about.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
In all of our congregations–local places–full of messy people, just like me, we are family. We resist the consumer oriented, individualistic, maybe even selfish tug in our hearts.We are family. We stay. We work things out. We make it better. We are committed–to each other, and to the Lord. We are one body. We keep the unity of the Spirit through a bond of peace. In the end, and always, we are family.
So, pass me another piece of chocolate cake.