by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12:50
I got to play co-hostess a few weekends ago when I helped throw a baby shower for my step-daughter Ashton, together with her mom Teresa. Besides the amazing joy of watching my “bonus daughter” blossom with new life (although she has another term for it when her feet swell), I got to go back to a North Carolina beach where we spent several weeks every year, for more than 20 years. I hadn’t been back in earnest since 2010, and only once in the interim in 2017 when my step-daughter married. Ashton and Teresa are my ex-husband’s first family. It was poignant and wonderful and beautiful all at the same time.
Families can be tough enough to navigate, and a blended family such as ours perhaps, for many people, traditionally a little bit tougher – but as I have experienced it, not when there’s love and respect and inclusion. In some families, Teresa and I would not be expected to come together for such events, or if we did it would expect it to be super awkward. But it was a sweet time of sharing and love and coming together, despite the years of being apart and being a blended family. Not only is Ashton my “bonus daughter”, her mom and I are “bonus sisters”, my parents are Ashton’s “bonus grandparents”, Teresa’s mom is my “bonus mom”…
That weekend, as I walked on a very familiar beach in the early morning sunlight, I meditated for a long time on the thought that this kind of blended family must be what the Beloved Community of God’s Kingdom, and His church on Earth, is really like.
The story of Pentecost gives us a hint that the Good News of the Gospel is open to all of us.
Acts 2: 5-12: “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Paul wrote to the church in Galatia that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
It took the cross of Christ to bring unity in God’s blended family.
Ephesians 2:13-21: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
God receives glory when there is unity in the midst of diversity.
Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
God’s chosen leaders are all part of blended families.
Abraham. David. Jesus.
Yes, even His Son was in a blended earthly family.
Mark 6:3, “ ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” (Calling Jesus the “son of Mary” would have been an insult pointing out that Joseph was not his biological father.)
Blended is the way we should look at other brothers and sisters throughout the world Beloved Community – we are all one in Christ Jesus, all one family and all one, universal church, blended together in that beautiful place we call the Kingdom of God.
It’s also the way we should approach our brothers and sisters in our church Beloved Community blended family, and – with that kind of love and respect and grace-filled lives – invite others to join us. Because as Anne Lamott says, “Grace bats last”. It’s always about grace.
My challenge to you? Grow your church Beloved Community! Invite others in and show them the love and grace you’ve received!