I have said in sermons lately, “There are some members of the Family of God who are no longer receiving Christmas cards from me.” Just one of my patented cheeky little comments; just something I threw out there to let you know that I understand all too well the divisions that happen in the body of Christ. But today I regret saying that because today is my brother’s birthday.
For clarity, I have two brothers; I am the middle of three boys, born about a year apart from each other. I am very close to my younger brother, but my older brother and I have not had a meaningful conversation in years. My older brother is the one having a birthday today. I think the last birthday card I sent him was about ten years ago. There was no fight. There were no hateful or angry words. The conversation just kind of stopped. After another year of unanswered gestures I decided to let our relationship simply drift away. It was a decision I felt I had to make to keep my hurt from turning into anger; a decision that hasn’t always worked out like it should. On days like these the feelings are like being sunburned under your shirt: no one knows that anything’s wrong until someone pats you just a little too hard.
On days like these it occurs to me that my brother may never meet my children. On days like these I remember how close we once were. My older brother was the one who dragged me to church when church was exactly what I needed in my life. I remember the two of us standing in our kitchen, talking for hours about faith and life and whatever else came up. I loved to make my brother laugh. Now we don’t even talk.
I have done my part in punching holes in the Body of Christ. And although I might make light of it in an effort to hide my own guilt and pain, I know as well as anyone that it isn’t funny. It isn’t funny, it isn’t inevitable, and it isn’t God’s will for us to be separated from one another. I will do all I can to keep our disagreements from turning into divisions. When the Spirit shows us the way, I will seek our reconciliation. And in those times we cannot even speak, I will pray for you and look for the day when nothing will separate us again.
Today is my brother’s birthday and I am particularly conscious of all those who are absent from my life.