I'm back in my office this morning after a great Labor Day weekend. We made our annual pilgrimage to the family reunion for my mother's family. These aren't your typical reunions--at least, not in my mind. First of all, there are a ton of us (this year we were in the vicinity of 100 without everyone in attendance). Needless to say, we take over the little hotel in North Georgia where the event takes place. There are family members of all ages from at least 3 different states. Most of them still live in South Georgia but, with time, the family continues to stretch a little further apart.
I guess another reason it's a little different is that, every year, we rent a room at the local state park and we have a time of worship. I think that speaks volumes about the role that God has played in this family for many generations. My grandfather was a Freewill Baptist pastor in South Georgia. There he would farm all week long and then travel to different churches as their itinerant pastor each weekend. I would say well over 90% of my family continues this tradition of faith with their own families, even as we get larger. There are a few exceptions but not many.
It's quite comical when we get together (for a lot of reasons that I will not list here in order to save my good standing with the rest of the family). In particular, it's been fun watching my mom and her brothers and sisters get older (there are 8 total). It's great sitting around and listening to them talk about old stories for the fifth and sixth time. It's great to see the pride in their faces as they watch, first their children, then their grandchildren, then their great-grandchildren become a part of this tradition. Most of the time, they'll have to call 10 names before they get to the right one. Lots of times, they forget whose grandchild belongs with which niece or nephew (that happens when you don't see each other all year). But, from beginning to end, there is something strong that underlies all of this--it's that bond of family and the expectation that comes with the family name. (Okay, I'm headed somewhere with all of this...are you ready?)
I thought about this all the way home yesterday as we drove through the mountains. Then, this morning, I came to this passage. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1 NIV
Isn't that awesome? God calls you by name. God claims ownership over you. If you listen when He calls, you become part of His family. It's a large family, a diverse family. It comes from 50 states and a 1000 nations. It speaks languages like Slavic and Yiddish and Mandarin and, yes, South Georgia English. Every member has its story and every story points to Him and His greatness. And, He calls you by name! The best news of all is that it is a name He'll never forget. Once you enter into the family, you are inscribed on His hand and kept there forever. Makes me proud to be part of the family. Proud to know the heritage we have and the future we've been promised. I look forward to the day we have the greatness reunion ever known. We'll meet brothers and sisters we never knew. We'll be introduced to children and adults who became part of the family because we did our part. And...as one great big family, we will worship. Worship the God who calls us, every single one of us, by name.