The Rempel Family Reunion
Homily Sunday July 31, 2005 Victoria, British Columbia
A family is a place where people who don’t otherwise have a lot in common have to be in community with each other. Families cross colour and language lines. They cross religious and cultural lines. They toss all the genders of people together, all the ages, all abilities and disabilites, and all the genius and the violence, the anger and the humour that all peoples at all times have been capable of.
At its best, a family is a place where people who are together by accident can decide, safely and sensibly, that they will be intentional about being good to the people close to them. A family is a place where you want to make a commitment to going the distance. Families are about the promises you make with your eyes wide open, to a future you cannot imagine which you know you will never see.
A family is a story. It’s a living, breathing, working, loving, dying, story. Sometimes the story is dark and sometimes it’s a journey in light, but it’s a story, with a million plot twists. The best families — the families we want to live in, tell a very old story. I can’t tell you that story in 20 minutes, but I can give you the flavour of the story, and it goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a man and a woman, and they loved each other, and from their love came children. The children were tall and wild, and very clever, and it took all the effort the parents could muster to tame their rambunctious children to be useful instead of just wild. With much trial and error, they figured out how, but that was only with their youngest children. For the first three children, they failed miserably, and the oldest children were named Madness, Violence and Laziness. The last four children were very independent minded and hard working, and they were also wise. They liked to work together as a team, and they were named Justice, Love, Generosity and Faith.
Madness, Violence and Laziness – as you can imagine – grew up to be every parents’ nightmare. The parents were always running back and forth between the three oldest children, trying to resolve things, but they had no plan, and they never stopped to make a plan. One day the parents became very sick at heart, and for one second they stopped believing they could make a difference. They said, it’s not our problem anymore, and Madness, Violence and Laziness broke free of their parents’ control and did whatever they wanted. The situation became desperate, and the other children met together because they were concerned, and some of them, not surprisingly, were afraid.
Love was the leader of the other four children. Love said, Justice, Generosity, Faith! I need you to help me bring our siblings back into our family; it grieves me to be separated from my own flesh and blood. Will you help me?
Justice knelt and said, Justice will serve Love. Generosity embraced Love and said we are dear siblings, of course I will help you! Faith stepped forward and said, without me you cannot succeed, and with me you cannot fail. I, too, will help you, Love.
Together the siblings made plans, and the plans meant that they would all have to work very hard. But their parents had brought them up right, and even though the parents were too weak to help anymore, the children knew what to do.
Love said, first we must convince Laziness to be reclaimed from error and brought back to usefulness. Violence said that Justice and Love were trying to be very bossy and run the show, and that they would be struck for their insolence. Justice stood up for Love, and made Violence back down. Madness started jumping up and down and begging for attention, and told them of money spent on lottery tickets and said “Madness will be loved by all of you the most, because I have tickets that will win us so much money I will be the most lovable of them all.” The four siblings realized that they had a lot of work to do to help make things right.
The other siblings had a hard time convincing Laziness it was time to reform. Justice laid out the plan to Laziness, and explained why it was best. Love said, I will be here, always. I will love you always, no matter what. Generosity offered to assist during the hard parts, and Faith promised to believe, always, that Laziness could change. Laziness laughed and said, if I am called Laziness, I will always be called Laziness. Since people will always call me Laziness, I will bow to their wishes. Faith nodded and then said, trust me, if you aren’t Laziness anymore, you can call yourself something different. Then the four children sang Laziness a song to help the work along, and Laziness remembered it from childhood, and started singing too, and the four children knew then that Laziness would learn to work.
And that’s the story of our family, over and over. In each generation,
Laziness becomes Self Discipline, Madness becomes Self-knowledge, and Violence becomes Peace — but only if Love, Generosity, Justice and Faith take the time, and make the effort to help.
In our family, we have had to deal with plague, famine, war and religious persecution. These days it seems like our problems are a lot smaller than that, but while we can’t predict the course of the future, we can predict that whatever happens, we’ll still be a family. Despite everything that has happened to us, good and bad, our family is about trying to raise our children in the way they should go; it is about love, and justice, and generosity and above all faith.
When we gather for a family reunion, it’s to say that we love each other; that we wish to be generous with both memory and food, that we wish to do justice to the remarkable men and women who caused us to be here; to honour our cherished elders, and to show our faith in the next generation; so that when we show where we came from, it will be that much easier for you to know how to walk your own path.
Love each other while you can, and keep singing.
Go in peace.