A couple days ago on Thanksgiving, my sister and her family came down to break bread with us and share a meal. My parents were also in from Oregon, my oldest daughter was back from college, and for a time, the whole family was back under one roof. Now…I am sure that this scenario also played out in many of your homes as well. The anticipation of the family gathering can be filled with ‘remembrances’. Notice I said the anticipation of, and not the actual event. What I mean is this, “Remember that your sisters family are vegans and don’t eat any meat or animal products.” (The majority of you reading this know me and are already probably smiling, well here is another.) “Remember boys, Grandma doesn’t like hunting or trapping and doesn’t want to hear any stories about it.” (OK…this is getting fun, maybe a few more.) “Remember, Grandma and Grandpa are conservative democrats, so lets steer clear of any conversations about ObamaCare.” (And my favorite…) “Remember, your sisters family are universalists.”
With all of these ‘remembrances’, prior to their arrival, I spent some time thinking about what we could actually talk about. Family’s can be funny that way. Sometimes the only thing we have in common is the fact that we are family. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:14-15, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”. I must remember that my family name, my sister’s family name, my parents family name, all derive from God’s family name. Even though we have different likes and dislikes, even though we hold some things as important and some things as unimportant, and even though we can have the audacity to bring a fake turkey into the house of a hunter…we are all family, and we are bound by this common cord.
OK…I had to ask.
“Where do you get a tofurkey?”
My brother-n-law responded, “Well, the tags for these things are hard to get. I had to stand in line for a long time and there is a limited number. I was worried I would not be able to secure one.”
Enjoying the sarcasm I responded, “How long of a season is it for tofurkey’s?”
“A very short season, in fact, usually just a couple days and then all of the tofurkey’s are gone.”
“What do you hunt them with? Do you use a bow or shotgun and do you have to get dressed in camouflage?”
“Yes…your attire is very important and your weapon must be precise. Most of us wear our best set of beads and personally I like to wear an old Janis Joplin shirt over my tie-dye under armor. Sandals aren’t a must but usually preferred. My weapon of choice is the hard cold reality of cash in hand, over the deferred methods of sharpened plastic.”
At this, my brother-n-law and I laughed long and hard while my sister looked on with a disapproving smile. What she didn’t realize at the moment was that a bond was formed. We just…connected. We just…became family. Again, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words from Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” He and I had the opportunity to do good to each other, and we did. It was fun, it was light, it was exactly what we needed. Maybe the next time we meet, I can feel him out on all of this ‘universalism’ stuff and see where he derives hope – faith – and life from. The boundary between us is broken, the walls have fallen, the stage is set for a ‘relationship’ to build.
All of this has me thinking about the hatred that is spawned from one church to another. Protestants teaching that Catholics are unsaved. Catholics teaching that Protestants are unsaved. The Orthodox teaching that everybody else is wrong and they alone…are saved. I could narrow this down a bit and mention individual Protestant denominations and their views on other Protestant denominations and whether are not they are saved, but I won’t. The whole conversation makes me tired and causes me to feel sad. In John 17, Jesus prays for mankind. He prays that we would all be ONE as He and His Father are ONE. In verse 24 Jesus prays something very interesting, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Where is Jesus that He prays for us to join Him there?
I don’t think this prayerful request has anything to do with geographical places or celestial places but with spiritual places. Where is Jesus spiritually as He prays to His Father for us all to be ONE? Jesus is caught up and wrapped up in the love of His Father. Jesus sees all mankind as deriving their name from God. Jesus is LOVE so complete that He is preparing Himself to be crucified for the entire world…which includes those people He didn’t especially like. (If you think Jesus liked everybody He came in contact with, I suggest you go read the gospel accounts of His life again.) Jesus prays that we would join Him in loving the world so completely, that we can set aside our theological differences, our cultural differences, our skin color differences, our bank account differences, and whether or not we eat meat. Jesus prays that we stop trying to put ourselves on the throne and pass judgement on other people’s salvation and just…be a family. God will judge, and He doesn’t need our help. God will answer Jesus’ prayer, or maybe I should say it this way, God is trying to answer Jesus’ prayer but we need to submit to Him and let the love of family shine through.
After the family ate the pumpkin pie, I started collecting the turkey bones and ham bones and put them into a container. My sister asked me what I was going to do with them. I responded by nodding out the window toward the woods. She looked out the window for a second an asked if I was going to use them to lure in animals. I said, “Yes…the coyotes will love them.” She gave me a hard look and said, “What did the coyotes ever do to you?”
I love the diversity and the insanity of my family…God’s family. I love them all, even when they bring tofurkey into my house.