When I was growing up, I had one cousin with whom I was close. She was one year younger than me, an only child who lived with her parents in a large old two story house in a small city about 100 miles from our home. I spent some time each summer with her and family holiday gatherings were sometimes held in that big house.

Family gatherings and in-between conversations were peppered with whispers and behind the hand comments about my cousin’s family. My aunt, my cousin’s mother, had married of all things, (whisper) a Catholic. In a family of all Lutherans, this truly was scandalous. My aunt’s father (my great-grandfather) disowned her and then died in his 50s, before many of these family gatherings. My cousin’s father usually appeared only briefly at family gatherings, sometime hanging out in the den watching TV with the some of the other men, who seemed to not care that he was Catholic as long as they could watch football together.

There was another difference. My cousin’s father was a factory worker, so he sometimes worked nights and slept during the day. Sometimes the workers went on strike. All of this was a mystery to most of the family who worked days in offices, small businesses, and schools.

Most of the family didn’t get to know my uncle very well. Because I spent time each summer with their family, away from my large family with five children, I did get to know him. I discovered that he loved my aunt and cousin fiercely and would do anything to provide for and defend them. He was unbelievably silly and funny and disliked doing home projects even though he was very good at them. He knew that he was not accepted by much of his wife’s family. He also knew that this lack of acceptance affected my aunt and cousin, made them a little outside of everything, and caused sadness for them over the years.

God taught me some important things through my relationship with my cousin’s little family. God taught me the importance of getting to know people who might be different from me. God showed me that my uncle loved his family as much as my parents loved mine. God pushed me to see that because something had always been done one way – in this case, Lutherans marrying Lutherans – that wasn’t the only way to realize joy and serve God in the world.

This Sunday, August 25, we continue our series on Relating to Others in Good Ways by talking about “What Difference Does ‘Different’ Make?”, with the biblical stories of Mephibosheth in II Samuel and the bent-over woman in Luke 13.

See you in church!

Blessings, Sharon