Real life has a way of interrupting our fantasies -- even our Christian fantasies (like the one that conceives all my Christian "brothers and sisters" as a perpetually mature, harmonious happy family). Few environments jump us back into reality more quickly (and sometimes jarringly) than a house church environment.
Sure, in a larger church "family" you can skillfully maneuver your way through the crowd to be with your favorite people before and after the carefully-tailored worship service with the best possible music, first rate preaching and multi-media bedazzlement of the week. But in the house church environment of a dozen or so people, you see quite a lot more of what there is to see about each other -- which can make for some very interesting interactions, indeed.
So that's the agony and ecstacy of real Christian "fellowship" -- not the chit-chat of coffee and donuts in the "fellowship hall" at 11:30 a.m., but the blood, sweat and tears of real human interaction with people who can make your heart sing one minute and sink the next. House church reminds us that, as in the case of our family of origin, we do not necessarily choose our companions for the journey. They are given to us, for better or for worse, by forces beyond our control.
These people are "family" in the most meaningful sense of the word. They stretch our generosity, they delight our hearts, they try our patience, they hold our hand and ask us to hold theirs. They provide us with our best stories and, sometimes, our worst headaches. Living the faith up close and personal with them teaches us irreplaceable lessons about ourselves, about God, about community and about growth and change. There are those of us who won't settle for anything less.
As the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding winds to a close, the narrator and chief character of the movie (Toula) sums up her clan by observing:
"My family is big and loud but they're my family. We fight and we laugh and, yes, we roast lamb on a spit in the front yard. And wherever I go and whatever I do, they will always be there". And all the house church folks said, "amen".
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