Working it out for ourselves together

A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School, I mentioned the speck vs. log in the eye passage as an example of Jesus’ wit. I think, in retrospect, that I got my audience a little wrong. The kids utterly failed to see the humour in it – in fact, they failed to understand the image at all. Judging others was a little beyond them, as was worrying about wooden metaphors. Which just goes to show that I should never grit my teeth when others failed to appreciate my own kids ages and stages.

Nice how things come home to you, really.

That moment is living with me this morning as I’m reading through the New Testament lectionary passages. Both in Matthew and Romans, we read words of forgiveness, openness and advice against judging others.

Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Matthew 18: 22

“If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s….Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister?” Romans 14:8,10

I hold all that in one hand, and in the other, the memory of this day one year ago. Last year on September 8th, we celebrated Plum’s baptism. Today, I’m remembering that baptism with thanksgiving and again thinking through what it means to be baptised into the broad family of the church. Because broad it most certainly is – with so many flavours, opinions and colourful relations.

Last year, my parents were visiting with us, and so on the day of the baptism, we had grandparents at church. That felt wonderful. It was great to be able to share that day with both our flesh-and-blood family and our church family. A bit of a rare occurrence these days. In this season of our family’s life, we’re living far away from our family so church becomes a place where my kids get to spend time with the older generations. There are the tiny, twinkly old ladies who flirt with my little sons. There are the tall grandpa types who work in the community garden with my daughter. The mad, noisy cousin-ish friends who like to play running-around games in the small church lobby. The bigger kids who remember what books my kids are reading and the smaller kids whose parents commiserate with the Spouse and me after difficult teething nights. (Yes, we’re there again. Another molar coming through and this kid suffers like nobody’s business. Any tips would be gratefully received.) The older parents who shine like light at the end of a tunnel because their kids are grown. All the Granny Aunties.

It is good to be part of this family. Not a perfectly assembled community or one with polished edges. All families, church and otherwise, have their sharp corners and rough spots.

And we’re baptised into all that, too.

That’s what I read in today’s New Testament readings. It is a reminder to be plural. To be open to the difference of others. To be forgiving and tolerant and together.

I also hear a strangely beautiful dual freedom in this reminder. Because we are each individually accountable to God, we are free from carrying another’s faith for them. We can step back and relax a little with one another. We don’t need to examine each other’s faith and feelings to be sure that we’re all up to scratch. If we are each working our faith out for ourselves, then we can develop a healthy sense of detachment with each other. But we also have the freedom of companionship. If we are all welcomed by God, then we don’t need to be lonely. We don’t need to hunt high and low for like-minded companions. We can welcome all for God has welcomed them. Us, them and everyone across the board. We can be family with everyone. 

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About Katie Munnik

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practice of reading lectionary and the practical theology of parenting - from birthday cakes to broken hearts and everything in between. Katie also writes Kaleidoscopically, a monthly column in the print edition of the Presbyterian Record. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table Subscribe to this blog.