Pointing to his disciples, he [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
This past Sunday, we did one of our biannual "SundayServe" events, where we spent the morning split up into service teams around the school where we meet. We had eight different projects going on like dusting, painting, weeding, making food treats, praying for the staff and students, packing backpacks of school supplies to give to the kindergarteners, and more.
It was pretty much chaos. But chaos of the best kind. People were all over the place, everyone moving and using their hands and hearts to do good. Our kids were going from one project to another, sometimes joining right in, sometimes playing in the gym to let their energy out.
As I was walking across the lobby between teams, one of our littlest LifePathers emerged from the gym. His mom saw him running across the room. "Hunter, where are your shoes?!?" she asked. But this barefoot 4 year old was too busy being a kid to worry with something as trivial as the whereabouts of shoes.
"We're playing FAMILY!" he exclaimed with a big smile. And off he went.
And there it is. I have no clue what happened next. I was on my way to take out a bin of recycling.
But his declaration stuck with me. A little kid at a church gathering, exclaiming boldly that he is playing family with his other young friends.
Yes you are, Hunter. Yes we are.
God's Church is expressed through beautiful images and metaphors throughout the scriptures. The Church is a body, it's a dwelling, and it's a bride. But over and over again, we also see that it's a family. Jesus helps his disciples move from servants to partners to brothers and sisters. Paul uses familial language throughout his writing to emerging churches, mentioning directly in his letter to the Ephesians that all Gentiles (non-Jews) are now members of God's household in Christ (2:19). It appears that the church is supposed to be a fresh take on that old Olive Garden slogan....
When you're here, you're family.
(But also when you're not here).
So every time the church gathers, and in all the moments that it is scattered, we have this opportunity to "play family." We have an opportunity to take people who come from various stories and backgrounds and life experiences, growing up in all sorts of different households-- and treat them as if they are our siblings...our parents...even our children. We're playing family. And Jesus is our older brother, working in unity with our Father to set the family culture.
The problem is that we sometimes live into Hunter's words just a little too well. We simply play family, pretending that we are brothers and sisters, when Jesus actually wants us to stop pretending. He wants us to embrace the crazy and wonderful and difficult world of family-making, teaching us to really love each other in all of our unique and maddening complexities. God's Church isn't a bunch of people pretending that we love each other.
It's a family. Who does.
It's a holy, bold witness to the world that another way is possible in Christ, and that selfless love for others is what defines us as God's family (and, in turn, what defines God's kingdom that Jesus ushered in). It's a family that is excited to adopt new family members all the time, and tell new friends that there's a seat waiting for them at the Thanksgiving table. It's a bunch of people creating a completely new community for the world to take notice of, with wonder and curiosity.
And yeah, sometimes family gets chaotic. And sometimes kids are running all over the place. And sometimes we even forget where our shoes are because we were so caught up in the moment. But no worries. We have a bunch of sisters and brothers around to help us find them.
Jesus, we both know this is much harder to live out than to read about. Give us family love as we constantly look to you as our center.