You Don’t Get To Pick Your Family

This was the text of the homily given in our worshipping community by Hugh Hollowell on October 4, 2011. It was World Communion Sunday.

A friend told me one time that you don’t get to pick your family.

Sadly, this is true. I love my family, but if I could have picked a different family – one with better metabolism, say, or one that was genetically pre-disposed to living to 110 years old or maybe even one that was filthy stinking rich – that might have been better for me.

But you don’t get to pick your family.

A lot of us have family members we wish we could gloss over.  Like that cousin who creeps you out, or the Dad who is just a jerk to you, or the sister who tells you at every available opportunity that Obama is the anti-christ and you are destined for hell because you don’t attend her church.

As we say in the South, “Bless her heart. “

A lot of us in this room have felt what it is like to not be able to get along with your whole family.

And it hurts more to disagree with your family than it does someone outside the family. So what some guy you never met thinks your ideas are silly. So what?

But when your Mother says your ideas are silly, well, that hurts. And it can make us angry, and bitter, and before long, we don’t want to talk to them, or even be around them.

In the universal church, today is World Communion Sunday. It is the day when, all over the world, churches remember that we are not alone – that we are all members of the same family, scattered around the world, with differing views on various things, but still, family.

You know that crazy uncle you have that, every time he speaks, you shake your head and just wish he would be quiet? In the Christian family, we have one of those. In fact, I think we have a lot of those.

That abusive cousin who never says anything good and just pisses off everyone who he talks to? We have lots of those, too.

And we have our criminals, and those who ought to be criminals and the child abusers and the prosperity pimps and the people who spiritually abuse people.

And they are all family, and we don’t get to pick our family.

The early church liked this idea of family to describe the connection of all the believers. It is out of that new understanding that they came to call each other “Brother” or “Sister”.

I went to Nashville last weekend, and was only three hours or so away from where my parents live, so they came up since it has been a year or so since I have seen them.  And, of course, we sat down and ate together. Because that is what families do – They eat together.

Today, on World Communion Sunday, we have the opportunity to remember that every week when we gather and we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are in fact sharing a meal with all those who have come before us and with all the church, scattered all around the world.

We don’t just share the meal with those in this room, but with the Christians hiding in basements in hostile countries and the Christians in the big steeples Downtown and the Christians in mud floored shacks in central America.

Our giant family is dysfunctional, but it is family, none the less. And today is the day we remember them and pray for them and they pray for us. And then they pass us the bread.

In The Name of The Father. And The Son. And The Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hugh Hollowell

About Hugh Hollowell

Hugh Hollowell is a minister in the Mennonite Church USA and based in Raleigh, N.C. He is the founder and director of Love Wins Ministries, which tackles the problems of homelessness by focusing on relationships, not outcomes. He likes peanut M&Ms.
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