We Are Family

Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept you Word. Silence in us any voices but your own, so that we may hear your Word and also do it; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mark 3:20-35

Misunderstandings about Jesus

20 Jesus entered a house. A crowd gathered again so that it was impossible for him and his followers even to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they came to take control of him. They were saying, “He’s out of his mind!”

22 The legal experts came down from Jerusalem. Over and over they charged, “He’s possessed by Beelzebul. He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons.”

23 When Jesus called them together he spoke to them in a parable: “How can Satan throw Satan out? 24  A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. 25  And a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. 26  If Satan rebels against himself and is divided, then he can’t endure. He’s done for. 27  No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without first tying up the strong person. Only then can the house be burglarized. 28  I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. 29  But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” 30 He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”

31 His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. 32 A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. 35  Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

We Are Family

 

I come from a family of five kids, and I grew up with a mom and a dad in my household. Pretty much a “Leave it to Beaver” kind of family. Every Sunday we went to church. After church we went to my grandparents’ house for lunch. And every Sunday night we went to my other grandma’s house for dinner. I saw my cousins and aunt and uncle almost every Sunday at lunch at my grandma and grandpa’s house. Family was a big deal for us – we all lived in the same town and saw each other frequently.

But things are different now. My grandparents have passed. My parents are divorced. My brothers and sisters and my cousins are scattered all around. And we sure don’t see each other every week. In fact, I haven’t seen my cousins in years, and I see my siblings once or twice a year.

Things are different today than in my childhood. Now, we live all over the place, and we just don’t keep up with one another.

On the other hand, wherever I have lived, I have found myself surrounded by groups of people who were like family to me. I left home at 18 and have lived many different places. Oftentimes, the people that I met where I lived came to be more like my family than my blood relatives. These people who were like family were coaching friends or law school friends. Before I found the blessing of a church family, I was surrounded by people who had kids the same ages as our kids and people that I worked with. These were the people who knew what was going on in my life. They knew when I struggled, and they knew when I rejoiced. They didn’t replace my blood relatives, but really they were my family.

And as I became involved in church, I’ve been blessed with the best kind of family that I could ever ask for—a family who loves me for who I am. A family who supports me. A family who encourages me to grow closer to Christ. A family that I can go to for guidance. A family who prays for me. A family who is brave enough to tell me the truth. This is my church family.

In the text for today, we see Jesus responding to his family. It’s hard to imagine Jesus having a family. I guess because it’s hard to remember that Jesus was not only fully God, but he was also fully human – coming complete with a family – with all its warts and flaws. And in today’s scripture Jesus’s blood relatives – his biological family appear in the story. But at this point in scripture, Jesus had already left his family to begin his ministry. He had gone off on his own. And I’m guessing that may have he felt like his disciples were more like his family now than his blood relatives. And we get that impression for sure with today’s scripture.

I think today’s scripture is pretty confusing, so I want to set the stage for you and point out that there are really two stories going on at the same time today. We see Jesus interacting with his family, who think he’s gone crazy; but, we also see that Jesus is dealing with these legal experts who basically accuse him of being the devil. And so just know that at this point in the book of Mark, Jesus had already begun his ministry. Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, and he had spent time in the wilderness. In the chapters before today’s, Jesus had healed a man with an unclean spirit, healed many people at Simon’s house, preached throughout Galilee, cleansed a leper, invited a tax collector to follow him, argued with the Pharisees about fasting and plucking grain on the Sabbath, and healed a man with a withered hand. In Mark 3:11, we even read that “Whenever the evil spirits saw [Jesus] they fell down at his feet and shouted, ‘You are God’s Son!’” As one writer that I read this week said, “It was becoming clear to both the crowds and the unclean spirits that Jesus is working by God’s power.” (www.sermonwriter.com Dick Donovan).   Jesus was drawing attention because of the wonders and signs that he accomplished. People were realizing that he really was God’s Son.

Except for his own family. And except for the religious leaders.

You see his family had heard all about the things that Jesus was doing, and they thought he was insane – that he was totally out of his mind. They had come, not to encourage and support Jesus — not to worship Jesus, but instead they had come to take control of him – in today’s world they would be trying to have him committed.

The legal experts accused Jesus of casting out demons using Satan’s power. And Jesus logically argues if he were the devil, why would he cast himself out of people? If he were the devil, seems like he would be putting himself into people. And he warns the religious leaders that whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. John Wesley the founder of Methodism interpreted these words to mean that to attribute to Satan the power of the Holy Spirit at work in Jesus is to commit blasphemy or to insult God. (Wesley Study Bible Notes for Mark 3:29). It is an insult to God to refuse to recognize the work of God’s spirit and to instead say that it is evil.

And so, this day in the life of Jesus, we have people all around him who are misunderstanding who Jesus is. We have his very own family who think he is crazy and are trying to lock him up. We have the religious leaders who are accusing him of being the devil so that they can bring charges against him and have him arrested. It sounds like Jesus is having a bad day, to me. Chaos reigns around Jesus. And yet, the text tells us that a crowd is surrounding Jesus, and they are sitting in a circle with Jesus in the middle. And it sounds to me like the peace within Jesus permeates the chaos. Our text says:

32 A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. 35  Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

Through all this ruckus around him, Jesus is the peaceful presence in the center of the circle. Through his family pressing in to see what is wrong with Jesus and hoping to take control of him, to the legal experts yelling that he is the devil, he calmly says – these people here, those who are around me – those who do God’s will – these people are my brothers and my sisters and my mothers and my fathers.

And that is one of the things that I have experienced with my church family – the peace of the presence of Jesus in the center of our lives.

That is not to say I don’t love my biological family – what a blessing they are to me. And Jesus doesn’t want us to abandon our blood families. “Family loyalty was extremely important in Jesus’ culture. But Jesus was teaching that among his followers – [among] those who do God’s will – there is a new family even more important than the biological family.” (Wesley Study Bible notes for Mark 3:31-35.) And why not enjoy the blessings of both families?

William Barclay says that the signs of true kinship are a common experience, a common interest, a common obedience and a common goal. (Barclay, William, The Daily Study Bible Series: Mark, pp. 82-83). And that is what God’s family truly shares: common experience, common interests, common obedience, and common goals.

Barclay told a story about a woman whose friend had died. And someone said, “You will be sorry that Mrs. Smith died.” And she said, “Yes,” but the woman failed to show any real grief. And the friend said, “Well I saw you last week laughing and talking with each other. You must have been great friends.” And, she answered, “Yes. I was friendly with her. I used to laugh with her. But to be real friends folks have got to weep together.”

As a community that is God’s family, we do weep together. We weep in sorrow for the losses of our church family and we weep with joy at the triumphs and victories we experience together. We share experiences. We provide comfort. We love one another. And encourage one another. We also listen to one another – pray for one another. We feed one another. And we are even called to hold one another accountable as God’s children – and to speak up when necessary if a member of our family needs a reality check.

But more than that, when we are surrounded by God’s family, we learn who God is and we learn how to be disciples. It has been said that there is no such thing as a solitary disciple. Writer James Harnish says that we can be spiritual or religious on our own, but it takes a community of people to develop into disciples of Jesus Christ. It is in God’s family that we gain the encouragement, wisdom, accountability and guidance of others who have walked this path before us. (Harnish, James, A Disciples’ Path: Companion Reader, p. 38.)  

  1. Stanley Jones, a well-known Methodist missionary said that: “Everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone who belongs to Christ.” (Harnish, p. 38). I love that – everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone who belongs to Christ. And I think that is true.

I’m certain that every member of this church family would love to share their experience with you – they would love to guide you and lend you their wisdom. They would be honored to help you walk closer to Christ in your life.

The family of God is made up of brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. We have a whole church full of people who act as our brothers and sisters and our mothers and fathers. And when we are truly acting as family, we provide that kind of love and support for others. Think how much we can learn from each other – from the mothers and fathers of this church — think of all we can learn from those people who sit beside us every week! Think of all the love we can receive from our brothers and sisters! Did you ever think about that? We walk into church with a ready-made family!

I don’t think we lean on each other enough. I don’t think we tap into the knowledge and experience of our church family enough. What a wonderful gift — and most of us could really use some wise mothers and fathers in our lives. Amen?

And the flip side of that coin is that we are that mother or father, brother or sister for someone else, too. Did you ever realize that you are a mother and a father, a brother and sister to someone in this church? Probably several someones in this church? The family of God is made up of all kinds of people who love us and who want the best for us – and who just want us to know Jesus. And we are called to be that kind of family member, too.

And so, I encourage you this week to think about what God’s family looks like in this church and in your life. God’s family most certainly doesn’t look like this 1950s family in the photo. God’s family is not that quiet. God’s family is not that well-behaved. God’s family is not that perfect or well-mannered. We wish it were that easy.

Instead God’s family can be difficult and messy. Being a part of God’s family doesn’t keep us from hurting one another’s feelings, and it is not a magic ticket to loving our neighbors as ourselves. God’s family is full of people of all ages and races and stages who don’t all act and think alike. God’s family has to deal with hard issues — in fact, we deal with some of the hardest issues in life. But we also experience the greatest joys in life – because we experience the love of God through the worst tragedies.

When you are a part of God’s family, one of the ways that you experience the love of God is through small acts of unselfish love from your brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. As your pastor, I am blessed to sit back and just watch these things happening over and over again on a daily basis. Many of them go unnoticed, but God sees it all.

I received an encouraging card in the mail this week from a member of God’s family. And it made my day! I happen to know the same person sent a card to someone having health issues. It might seem like a little thing, but I think that’s what the family of God looks like – taking the time to say, “I care.”

This week one of our families had located some car seats for their kids in Little Rock but couldn’t drive down to pick them up. Another member of the church was in Little Rock and made a detour and spent the extra time and effort to pick up the car seats and deliver them to the family. I think that’s what the family of God looks like – taking the time to show that you care.

This week we are going to begin delivering summer food boxes to families who might need a little extra help. I think that’s what God’s family looks like – taking the time to care for those we don’t even know yet.

And this week we start Building Faithful Families, too. We have about 50 people who are going to participate and lead our families as we gather for food, faith and fun. Our hope is to build up individual families, but also to build up God’s family. While the kids are outside having some big fun, the adults are going to have the chance to learn parenting skills and to learn about topics of their own choosing. If the parents want to learn how to garden or cook on a budget or help their kids with math — we are going to find someone who can teach us about that topic. The hope is that the church might become a place of support. The hope is that the church might become the place where families can turn no matter what it is that they might face.   I think that’s what the family of God looks like – taking the time to ask, “How can we help?”

I ask you this week to think about how we can be a better family to one another. We have a new directory printed if you want to begin by praying for this family of God. I hope that this week you might consider how God’s family can work together to love God and to love people. So may our eyes be opened to new opportunities to be brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers to one another.

Last Sunday we welcomed 14 new members into our family through baptism, confirmation and transfer of membership. You see their names printed on the back of your bulletin. And I want to close today by taking down that fake looking picture of the family on the screen, and showing you what God’s family really looks like. Here are some pictures of our family.

Let us pray. Mighty and everlasting God, we thank you for this family – we thank you for this church family. We pray that you would pour out your spirit on this place and these families. Would you help us to be the kind of people who love you so much that others would experience your grace through us. Would you draw to us those who desperately need someone to tell them about you. God give us the words of guidance and encouragement for others. Open our eyes to the small ways that we can show love to our family. Give us the courage to act in large ways to show love to our family. And God help us to be the mothers and fathers – the brothers and sisters that you call us to be. God help us to love. Amen.

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