Another wonderful gift of Sabbath time is the opportunity to re-connect with family and friends. For the last several days, Connie and I have been in Pennsylvania enjoying the company of brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, cousins and long time friends. Even with the advantages of email, snail mail and telephone, there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation.
Recently connecting with my 87 year old cousin on my father’s side revealed some new information about a grandfather. John Lewis died from injuries sustained in a coal mining accident when my father was five years old. My father was absent a father. My cousin shared her own mother’s (my father’s older sister) fondness for her father by insisting on being buried next to him. “He was a good guy,” she explained.
So now I know a little bit more about the power of loss and love. I know something more about a grandfather I never met. I learned something more about the way our family functions. And it helps explain why a grown daughter is buried next to a mother and father.
I think staying connected is a big part of life. It is easy to lose touch, become disconnected or drift away. Staying connected despite distance, disagreement, conflict or unpleasantness is challenging. Yet, it is a hallmark of healthy relationships.
We learn to distance from others at an early age. Family patterns set things in motion. And so does staying connected. We can learn the art of staying connected from family, as well.
I hope this journey of staying connected will pay some dividends in ministry. Relationships provide the avenues for grace, forgiveness and love, which are great gifts from God as well. Staying connected while maintaining our own clearly-defined goals and beliefs is the hallmark of a healthy community of faith. Yet it makes for a very robust and powerful community. I think this is what the New Testament writers were inspired to talk about when they used the word “fellowship.” It also allows a church to be united in the essential things while maintaining differences.
There is much to learn about life and faith and community out here on the road.