By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
I spent last weekend in a place I’ve never been, with a great big group of people, most of whom I’ve never met. My husband and I drove for two days from South/Central Texas to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Wisconsin for a delayed celebration in honor of our youngest daughter’s marriage. A little over a year ago, Erin and Dusty were married in a sweet little wedding chapel in Memphis with only his parents, a couple of siblings, and us to share their day. And yet they each have families and friends with whom they wanted to share their joy, so a great gathering was planned for this summer at Dusty’s Grandparents’ farm.
All our children—except our youngest, who had a previous engagement with the United States Marine Corps—arrived from the various points across the country where they live, along with a dear girl who we’ve adopted as an honorary daughter. Dusty’s family all live in Wisconsin, and he and Erin have been living on the farm this summer before they return to Maine for her final year at college.
The celebration involved lots of food, prepared by many of the family members and guests, games on the lawn, music, beverages flowing in abundance, gifts, introductions between our family and theirs, laughter, stories, a few tears, and a general atmosphere of joy. To see Erin surrounded by these people who have embraced her as one of their own, simply because she married their dear son (grandson, nephew, cousin), gladdened my heart. She has learned the rhythms of this her new family in this new place. By helping with chores on the farm and participating in family life, Erin has become a vital contributor to her new clan. She has even begun to pick up their Wisconsin accent when she speaks. They all love her. She belongs.
Now, I didn’t make it home in time to join our book study yesterday, but I did read the chapter on Community, and it reflected a theme which has been burbling in my heart for the past few weeks. Because we are in Christ, we are united to our covenant community of believers in a bond of fellowship which transcends ethnicities, nationalities, families of origin, or any other way in which we define our relationships. We become “kin” to people to whom we’ve only just been introduced. But do we recognize this? Do we see the deep need for us to embrace one another and participate in the family life and rhythms of our covenant communities—our churches? Do we feel the need which we mutually have for one another?
Once we believe the gospel by faith, we are drawn by grace not only into Christ, but into the church, which is his body, and we become a vital part of the structure which, “when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” In Christ, we are united to one another by bonds which were forged in eternity past and will hold us into eternal glory, loosening only to make room for others to join us in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We learn to speak with the same accent as we grow together, “filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Each local church is a living and breathing temple of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are connected to the church universal, but we are also connected to one another—to those sitting next to us in the pews and in Sunday school and prayer meetings, volunteering in the nursery and VBS, singing in the choir, and serving the visitors’ and the Sonshine luncheons. Our lives here and now are marked at times by success and sometimes by difficulty, by health and sickness, by happiness and by sorrows. We need one another here and now for encouragement and help and sometimes just a hug. Though we are already united to our heavenly bridegroom the wedding feast is yet before us, the celebration is still delayed. But make no mistake, it is coming and on that day we will celebrate with joy unfathomable.
We love one another not because we’re so loveable, but because we are loved by the Son, our Savior, who died that we might be untied as one in him. He looked beyond the cross and saw us, his bride, united in him, cleansed by his blood, saved through the faith which he would give us by grace. Knowing what he would accomplish through the agonies of the cross gave him joy. Because we belong to him we belong to one another. So, let’s do just that: let’s belong to one another. We are kin.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1, 2
 Ephesians 4:16
 Ephesians 5:19-21