A cabin in the woods of eastern Ohio.
10 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, assorted couches.
Three generations, 16 adults, 19 kids.
20 burgers, 40 hot dogs, 10 pounds of blueberries.
13 passenger pontoon, ski boat, 2 jet skis.
2 hot days in July.
I grew up with these people. We shared home, cultural heritage, church, education. We survived multiple moves and a family split. There was a time when supper was a family reunion almost every night of the week. We sat around the wooden table, complained about mama’s cooking and made fun of each other. John moved to Dayton for medical school. Molly worked on her Masters at Wright State. I had a studio apartment in Toledo, attending the Medical College of Ohio. There were still the weekends when everyone was home. Warm chocolate chip cookies on Sunday evening with conversation and laughter around the kitchen table.
Pages turned, chapters ended and began.
We took our turns getting married, moving away and having kids, scattered across 5 states and the District of Columbia. My mom was the last to leave Elida; she sold the house on Carolyn Drive and moved to south Florida. By the grace of God, each one of us is blooming where we’ve been planted.
I’m approaching 40, building a life and a church in south Florida. My oldest is in high school. Family reunions are more important than ever!
There are hugs and smiles as each sibling and their family arrives. Conversation starts with superficial questions and answers, but fortunately doesn’t stay there. The cousins are ecstatic to see each other; imaginative play and laughter is immediate. Squabbles will begin within a couple hours. The volume gradually increases along with the size of the group.
We truck to the lake, a veritable parade of minivans, and find the marina on the third stop. Lathered heavily in sunblock, we split into groups for 6 hours of assorted water sports.
We clean up for a performance of the life of Christ at the “Living Word Amphitheater”. The outdoor drama is packed with Jesus exact words as recorded in the gospels.
We put our kids to bed and the conversation continues, long past midnight. This is the good stuff: the memories of shared times in the recent and remote past, current life events, hopes and dreams for the next year or ten.
Sunday morning we worship as a family. We sing, share, read the Word and pray. It’s a deeply meaningful time. We know we won’t sit in a circle like this for many months or a year and when we do, somehow we’ll be different. It is our faith that connects us more than the bonds of shared history and demographics.
At the end of Luke 18 is an incredible story. I’ll summarize it. There is so much more in this story to absorb; it warrants a second, third and fourth reading. Jesus was approached by a wealthy man and asked the secret of eternal life. Jesus listed a few commandments: no adultery, don’t murder or steal, honor your parents. The man responded that he had been fully obedient every day of his life since he was a teen. Jesus didn’t contradict that bold statement, instead he told the man “sell EVERYTHING, give to the poor and follow me”! The rich man was saddened by this. Jesus saw those emotions “It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved”.
There was a low murmur in the crowd “then who can be saved?”
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
Peter had an egocentric view of the world. I don’t know if you can relate. He was the guy that heard every story in relation to himself. He had a front row seat for everything that just happened none of which was about him, yet he spoke up: “See, we have left our homes and followed you”.
Jesus response was so reassuring.
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30, ESV)
Following Jesus takes priority over everything – homes, wealth, relationships, family. Jesus is clear that as we are willing to give these up, we gain so much more RIGHT NOW, and eternal life in the hereafter. Faith is more than blood. As you accept Jesus and walk with him, you are joined with countless others on the same journey. Every time we gather in the name of Jesus is an amazing family reunion; brothers and sisters, united in purpose and love, supporting and caring for each other! You can be part of a Ginormous family, spanning 2,000 years, circling the globe, expressed in small gatherings, each of which is a tiny preview of the glorious marriage supper of the Lamb!