It’s the season for family reunions and graduation parties, when all the aunts and the uncles, cousins and grandparents gather for a meal and conversation. People say things like “I would do anything for my family.” We have high expectations for the word family. We try to attain an ideal, but eventually we have to come to terms with a reality that is different than ideal. There is no such thing as a perfect family.
Families are complicated. They are messy. And yet, families are amazingly loyal. There is a saying that blood is thicker than water. You can criticize your own family member, but woe to the in-law, or friend who makes the same criticism – they are soon to be considered an outlaw. Families are complicated. There are unspoken expectations of what it means to be successful, loving, and honorable. Families keep secrets, hold grudges, engage in cut off, and can often be judgmental. It’s ironic that the group of people that are supposed to love us more than anybody else can sometimes do the most damage. All families have points of anxiety – often its around money. Sometimes it’s around religion and today we know that more and more families are experiencing anxiety in discussions on politics.
In Mark 3:20-35, we see that Jesus' ministry is going really well, and he is making an impact. He’s gaining a following; he’s speaking truth to power. He is also stirring up trouble, and getting people agitated … so agitated, that some arethinking about how to get rid of him. These folks come to his family and say they need to do something about this brother, son, nephew of yours. He’s saying things and doing things that are offensive and shaking up our way of life. I imagine this makes his family anxious. They worry about him. Their excuse for his behavior is that he must be crazy. The religious leaders jump on the band wagon and take it one step further and say, he must have Satan in him – He must be possessed by the devil. The small fire of anxiety just became a bonfire of fear. Satan is afoot. In their mind Jesus has gotten too carried away.
How does Jesus deal with these accusations? He doesn’t get anxious. He doesn’t fight back. He doesn’t try to prove that he’s not Satan, and he doesn’t throw hate on his family. He stays connected, but he also says to his family – you aren’t my family if you aren’t with me and the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t denying his family; he’s saying that his family is not found in those who share the same blood, but rather those who share in the same baptism. It’s a new way of thinking about the meaning of family. Jesus says to his family that while loves them, he is beholden first and foremost to the Holy Spirit. It is the waters of the holy spirit to which he holds his highest calling over the blood of his own family.
Churches pride themselves in saying, “we are a family.” Think about what that means for us as a family of faith – that our higher calling cannot be wanting everything to stay the same, or the fulfillment of our own personal agendas, or our personal friends. Although we love them and call them family, our higher calling in the church and in everything we do must be on serving God with as much integrity as we can muster – even if people think we are crazy. The waters of our baptism demand that of us. It is by our baptism that we all belong and to each other. The radical message of the Gospel is that through one baptism, one table, one bread and one cup, that in life and death you belong to Jesus Christ. As always, all are welcome here: male and female, young and old, rich and poor, married, divorced, or single, gay or straight, member or visitor. You belong here because you belong to Christ.
You may come with a peaceful heart or with a heart burdened by concerns about your children, your elderly parents, your job, your marriage or your future. You may be young and full of enthusiasm about your faith and your future or you may be unsure about who God is and where life is leading you. You may be older and quietly reflective about what your life has been or may have regrets or be weary as you approach the final chapters of your life. You may be alone or with those you love most in life. You may have a supportive network of relationships or you may be pained by a broken marriage, a fractured relationship with a parent, sibling or children, or a lost friendship. You may feel at the top of your game or may be battling with unemployment, financial difficulties, substance abuse or other stresses. If so, you belong here because you belong to Christ. Jesus is the host here and he welcomes you as part of the family.