Weekly sermons based on the Revised Common Lectionary, with the intent of helping all find hope.
Sunday, June 6, 2021
We Are Family!
We have spent the
last few weeks reading from John’s Gospel. Today, we return to the Book of
Mark. Let’s recall the first verse of the Gospel, because it reminds us of Mark’s
reason for writing. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of
We are in Chapter 3, and already Jesus has enemies. So far
in Mark, Jesus has been baptized by John; he has appointed twelve disciples to
be sent out; cast out demons and healed sick people. He has forgiven sins,
which resulted in the healing of a person who had been crippled. He has eaten
with tax collectors and argued with Pharisees. Some of what he has done is
contrary to Sabbath laws. He is so popular, he has to hide in deserted places
to find time to pray.
The Scribes are calling him names, accusing him of
representing the Evil One, Beelzebul. They say, “He casts out demons in the name
of the chief of demons.” But Jesus counters that. “That makes no sense! It
would be counterproductive for evil to cast out evil.”
His family is worried, first that what he is saying seems
crazy, and second, that what he says and does is having a negative impact on
the whole family. Society in ancient Israel, in fact the whole region, was based
on honor and shame. Honor and the reputation of the family name were of utmost
importance. Anything a person did reflected on the whole extended family, far
beyond the nuclear family of parents and children.
So, a few family members
show up where Jesus is teaching and speak to him. They try to save themselves
from his growing reputation as a crazy person. “C’mon, Jesus, it’s time to stop
this nonsense. Think about what you are doing to the whole family.”
Jesus’ response is not what they expected. “Who is my
family? Maybe you are not really my family! Those who do the will of God are my
family!” This is not the outcome the family members were looking for, of
It may look different today, but people are always guilty
of forming in-groups and out-groups. Are you a member of the family or group?
Do you conform to our rules, our standards? If you don’t conform, you risk
being cast out of the group. If you don’t conform already, we won’t let you in.
This behavior begins early. It seems to be hard-wired into
us. Adam and Eve struggled with it. They wanted to be part of the group who
knew what would happen if they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree.
We learn the behavior from our parents and our peers in
elementary school, refine it in middle school, perfect it in high school, and formally
implement it in the community and workplace. We cement it in place with laws
that reinforce the preferences of the in-group, resulting in the abasement and
even abuse of the out-groups. The question becomes, where is Jesus? For
example, is he in the circle of whispering, giggling girls? Or is he with the
one girl who has been left out?
As Jesus’ ministry continues it is clear he sides with those
outside the in-group circle. He challenges the rules that separate people into
groups in the first place. Jesus eats with tax collectors and other sinners. He
talks with foreign mothers and with bleeding women. He welcomes children. He
says all those in the room are his family members.
Jesus works tirelessly to demonstrate that a relationship
with God should be free and easy. He makes it plain that all are welcome in God’s
reign. Yet, from the beginning the Church has struggled with this. Issues such
as circumcision, baptism, skin color, ability, gender, and class have all been
used to limit who is welcome. Those same descriptors have been used to determine
who can be leaders even if they are otherwise welcome.
Jesus broke a lot of rules and included so many in his
circle of welcome. We are not always so welcoming. This is hard work, admitting
that we sometimes think some people don’t belong, that some people are less
worthy of God’s love, because something makes them different.
Here’s a story of very inclusive welcome adapted from the
June/July 2021 issue of Living Lutheran. Emily worked for several years at a
homeless shelter. She wasn’t ordained, but many of the clients opened up to her
and considered her their pastor.
They expressed the desire for a faith community that looked
like them, people who were homeless. They wished for a space where they could
worship and not feel judged by their housing status, their past, or their
Emily found herself at Wartburg Theological Seminary, and
was ordained in 2020. She is now serving as the mission developer for the
Dwelling, a faith community designed for people who are or have been homeless,
and those who choose to be among them. The Dwelling has established ministries including
mobile showers and affordable housing. The participants are more than clients;
they are also the leaders of the community.
One member describes the Dwelling this way. It is a place “where
you can come in and get comfy. It’s OK to talk to the person next to you, get
up and get a cup of coffee, doughnut or muffin.” She calls it one of her “God
Can’t you imagine Jesus sitting and chatting with these
folks, calling them his sisters and brothers? Can you imagine St Matthew’s
being just as welcoming? Does it help to remember that sometimes Jesus shows up
looking like a person who is homeless? We can learn some things from our
siblings at the Dwelling. Amen