There was the homeless cab driver who worshiped with manic intensity. The bachelor patent officer in his sixties who lived alone with his mother and who sometimes raised his hand during the sermon. The foreign man who looked and sounded funny because he'd been in a car accident as a young man and had been left for dead on a gurney in the hospital with a sheet pulled over his head until someone noticed his toe twitching.
And there were others. The bi-racial couple. The angry old man. The lady who's job it was to dispense the punch and who treated the clumps of sherbet floating in the punch like they were a very big deal.
To be fair, as a young kid in church I thought the clumps of sherbet were a very big deal - almost as big a deal as Jesus.
This cast of characters, this mishmash of the quietly faithful and the loudly colorful people who made up the church of my youth, were the weird tribe that God used to establish the trajectory of my life.
They weren't the crew I would have chosen, but that's kind of the point.
My father, who was also the pastor, was raising his family in a hostile, urban culture and he really wanted us to know that we belonged to a tribe, to a counter-cultural movement that swam against the prevailing current we experienced at school and on television. He didn't just get his family into the house of God; he brought the people of God, even the funky and strangely redeemed people of God, into his family's house. Mexican immigrants made fragrant tamales in our kitchen and unassuming bachelors discussed the Bible in our living room and somewhere along the way I did the opposite of going native. I went non-native. "The Kingdom of heaven" that Jesus talked about so much in the gospels became real to me. I took my citizenship there seriously. And I decided that I need never be ashamed of my fellow citizens in that blessed Kingdom.
In his letter to the misfit believers in what is modern day Turkey, the apostle Peter said to them "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God." You can not overstate how radical that statement is and how much power it has to change the course of a life.
When everyone in my life is in my life because we share the same values or the same enthusiasms or the same lifestyles, when it's all about affinity, it's certainly convenient and comfortable, but it's also kind of impoverished. When the relationships are easy, finding a reason to put any effort into them can be awfully hard.
If you want something better for yourself and your family, if you want to loosen the grip that culture has on your values and your imagine, get yourself to a house of worship this Sunday. If you meet people there who are not like you take that as confirmation that you are in the right place. If the mode of worship makes you uncomfortable, and the words of Scripture make you squirm, and the fellow playing the spoons against his knee with more enthusiasm than rhythm makes you wince (it's happened), lean into it. And if, after the service, there is punch and a woman has appointed herself the stingy dispenser of it, march up to her and demand a chunk of sherbet in your cup. Tell her I said you could have some.
And always keep in mind that you and your family might end up being the thing that makes the tribe redemptively weird for someone else.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog