Some church slipped a card under my door inviting me to their Easter events. In bold headlines they proclaimed: Easter for Families! What about all those other folk? When we say the word family most of us think about a husband and a wife and 2.5 children. What about everybody else? What about that teenager who found her way to church on her own. Her parents wouldn’t be caught dead there. Behind her sits John whose wife just left him last month. Family? Hmm. There is a single mother trying desperately to keep it together for her and her two kids. What about Jim and Larry that came by the church, saw the Families welcome sign and were pretty sure their relationship would not fit that church’s word for family? They just kept on going. Mary never married and both her parents are dead. Sally had a baby out of wedlock. Her own family turned their back on her. Or that widow in her eighties eats alone day after day. Does this word family apply to all of these? The old tattered bumper sticker read: “Hate is not a family value.” Yeah to that. But what about exclusion is not a family value? Even unintentional exclusion. Surely that church with its advertisement under every door in my diverse neighborhood just might welcome everyone. I hope so. Jesus stretched the definition of family when he opened his arms and took everybody in. Later, Paul would remember his Lord’s actions when he wrote: “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”(Ephesians 2.19) Look around you next Sunday at who sits on your pews. Reckon that word, also applies to everyone at your church?
This little word reminds me of a story. When a mother lost her husband, her daughter tried to get her to sell her house and move to her town so she could look after her. The woman balked and did not want to break up housekeeping. Finally she gave in and moved. After the woman had unpacked most of her boxes, she went down to the local church the next Sunday. When the invitation was given she joined. After church she called her daughter and told her the good news. “Mother,” the girl said, “Don’t you think this is a little hasty?” And the mother said, “Land sakes honey, when the join the church you never have to be lonesome again.” Maybe on just one Sunday the little lady may have heard the word also and knew it included her.