Family and/or Church

People can be greatly committed to their immediate family, they can love them, they can have a sense of loyalty to them, and they can be proud to defend them. But when it comes to their extended family, to those to whom they're related but with whom they do not live or share in daily practice, they can be indifferent or even divisive. It's possible to share in close relationships with immediate family and to actually perpetuate discord in the extended family.

This paradoxical reality works the other way around as well. It's possible to feel a great connection to the family as a whole without really feeling a sense of loyalty to immediate family. One could feel greatly connected to their family name, history, heritage, traditions, etc. and meanwhile be disinterested and/or at odds with those closest to them. They might not even be talking to them.

It seems that there are two competing family identities; that of being identified with immediate family and that of being identified with extended family. This is how it seems to be with the Church. We can be connected and identified with our own immediate expression of church (whether its' your local congregation, a style, or a particular denomination) or we can be connected and identified with the church as a whole. The trick is to be both at the same time--neither perpetuating division in the whole Body of Christ nor neglecting real fellowship for appeal to heritage, tradition, or doctrine.

This might be where Eucharist comes in--partaking of one loaf and being made one body. In this lies both immediate and extended identity. When I worship with my church I am connected with the people there, with the particular expression, and even with the denomination (if the term applies). But when I worship, I do not worship as a "Protestant, western, white, male, UCC, Mainline, emergent, etc." I worship as a follower of Jesus, indeed even as a "Christian." I worship alongside all who partake of the one loaf. I am, in Christ with humility, connected with both my immediate and my extended family. And, by the grace of God, even if some of my "family" members are having trouble accepting me.