Last week I ended up in Florida on short notice. My uncle was dying, doctors said. He might not make it through last weekend.

One thing I love about my family: no matter how long you’ve been gone, they make it easy to pick up where you left off.

To much of my extended family, and even to some closer relations, the only thing that connects me to them is a last name. And for a lot of them, there was no awkward moment, a fishy handshake or nod. I was embraced on the strength of our blood connection. I saw an uncle I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years, a second cousin I hadn’t seen in 15, and a few other people who haven’t seen my face in a decade.

And I spent a good deal of time in a couple days with my first cousins. I hadn’t seen them in about 5 years and getting to know one another a little again was a lot of fun, even in the midst of apparent sorrow. There were lots of big hugs, and more casual ones, the side-hugs that reminded everyone that we were together, we were with each other. We talked together so quickly and easily that it surprised me, reminiscing a little and catching up. And the stories. Stories we’ve all heard a hundred times still seemed fresh with this telling. It was interesting, no, more that that. It was life-giving.

Why isn’t church this way? This past Sunday my wife and I attended a local church for the third or fourth time. We’re not staying there, since our move’s just a month or so away. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different. Now sure, we’re still visitors there, but we have what should be a stronger blood connection. And by the way, I’ve attended churches for years without ever feeling like much more than a visitor. I never got into the ‘inner circle.’ “Dear friends, this should not be,” to borrow from the apostle Paul.

I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I pray we’ll find a church that feels like a family reunion.

By the way, I talked to my cousin yesterday. Against all expectations, they’re talking about sending my uncle home.


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