A Spontaneous Eruption of Family
by Lori Heine

I stopped in to a meeting, one Wednesday night, of my church’s Scripture meditation group. I didn’t expect much, based on a tiny and modest blurb in the bulletin. In our congregation, all are welcome, so I knew I’d find an assortment of folks. I figured it would be a friendly hour, and that I’d learn something new about the Bible. I approached it much as I would a tasty new recipe for asparagus: a relatively painless way to eat my vegetables.

What I’ve experienced is one of the obscure little miracles in which God seems to delight. It’s been a random and spontaneous eruption of family. In this group, from week to week, I have, indeed, learned some new things about God from the Bible. I’ve also learned a lesson, from the free interplay of the group members themselves, that illustrates in real life the very heart of what Scripture is. I’ve seen the story of God’s work, among “His” people, come to life.

Though it started as merely a weekly meeting of church members for meditation on Scripture (sounded, I must now admit, like a snore-fest to me), it has taken on a life of its own. It has, indeed, shown that family can erupt almost anywhere.

Those who fear the demise of “family values” do not understand the God they serve. They grossly underestimate “Him.”

The standard announcement, published weekly in our church bulletin, warns that “This is NOT a support group.” I can understand their trepidation. Our congregation has no psychologist on staff to run such a group, and without a professional to guide formal group therapy, our insurance policy might not even cover one. Best, it was probably reasoned, to keep expectations low.

The Scriptures seem old and dry. Written by dead people who lived thousands of years ago, what might they have to do with our lives today? Moreover, to many of us (including several in that group), they seem forbidding. They seem, if not to condemn us, simply to leave us out. I’ve come to realize that they don’t condemn us, but still, I wondered how relevant they could possibly be to the problems I face.

Yet it’s funny how Scripture mirrors whatever is going on in our lives. We always find our experiences in those of Bible characters, because their story – as it turns out – is ours, as well. We find that we ourselves are characters in those stories. The Bible really is about us.

LGBT people (including the majority of our group) often feel themselves left out of Scripture. Yet there we are: in David and Jonathan’s enduring love for each other, in Ruth’s brave decision to share her life with Naomi, in the servant of the Centurion (whom many Bible scholars say may have been his male lover), believed by Jesus to have been important enough to bring back from the brink of death.

Our associate pastor is openly gay, and is himself astonished at how often he finds himself in those pages. It’s “all about us” because it’s all about God – and God is all about us, even as we are all about God. It’s okay for us to see ourselves there, along with everybody else.

Jesus made a family for Himself, very much as we do. The values of voluntary family are present there – and blessed along with those of blood ties. Even the eunuch in Isaiah is given an everlasting name. The eunuch who sits in his master’s chariot, reading Isaiah’s scrolls, sees himself there – and his request to be baptized is honored, even though the religious establishment excluded him, as a sexual minority, from Temple worship.

We bring our weekly joys and heartaches, our worries and our hopes. We share them, and as we comfort and encourage one another, following each other’s stories from week to week, we are strengthened. We learn and grow together, as God knits us into family.

“God is still speaking” is the motto of our church denomination. The Bible’s story is still being written – and we are a part of it. Jesus tells Nicodemus, his fearful, nighttime disciple, that “the Spirit blows where it will.” Even the weight of centuries of the religious establishment’s prejudice cannot keep God from working in our midst today, and every day. Family can spontaneously erupt anywhere.

This has come to be a support group in the best sense of the term. Bonds of family are being forged, week by week. We’re making friendships that will last well beyond the duration of our little group. And we are learning new things about the Bible, indeed.

 

© 2010 Lori Heine


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