We Can Choose Our Own Family?

“We Can Choose Our Own Family?” – sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 10, 2018 – based on Mark 3:20-21, 31-35

    There’s a category of quotes from Jesus that biblical scholars call his “hard sayings.”  You’ve just heard one in the reading from Mark.  Now, context matters, and it may be helpful to recall that the followers of Jesus who first heard or read these words from Mark’s Gospel believed that the end was in sight, that the only long-term to worry about was going to start after Jesus returned to judge the living and the dead – and that would be within their lifetimes.  So work that assumption into the mix as you hear or read what follows.

So – you’ve heard the Scripture.  What did you just hear? 

First, it seems Jesus comes from a fairly large family.  He has brothers.  He has sisters, unnamed.  His mother is still alive.  And they’ve all come to bring him home because they think what?  They think he’s crazy.  So, for his own good, here they are.  Here’s what they want to say to him.  “Come on, Jesus.  Before you get in REAL trouble.  Let’s go home. Ok?”  But –
they never get to have that conversation with him as far as we know.  Why not?  Jesus leaves them outside to cool their heels.  

Now this is the same Jesus who was known to say something like, “Let the children come to me.  I’ll talk to the Samaritan woman, I’ll talk to the Roman occupation officer with the sick servant, I’ll talk to all the Pharisees who want to argue with me all day long.  Bring me your sick.  Whoever.  Whatever.”

  But when word comes to him that his Mom is out there with his family,  what does he have to say about that?  

It does make me wonder.  By the way, do you think there’s something symbolic about the way this is set?  There’s Jesus on the inside with his followers.  Where is his family?  On the outside, trying to look in.  

Maybe there was a little tension on the home front?  That seems likely.  They think Jesus is crazy.  He thinks they should stop bothering him.  Ignore them and maybe they’ll go away.  Don’t go away mad, Mom.  Just go away.

  You’d think they’d have settled this by now.  When he was 12, instead of going home with his family after the Passover festival, Jesus – without telling anybody – opted to stay at the Temple to pick the brains of the teachers of the law.  When his family realized he was missing – I thought he was with you – well I thought he was with YOU – it took them three days to figure out he hadn’t come with any of them.  It’s like if your large, extended family from some little town got yourselves a tour bus and went to New York City for New Year’s weekend.  At the end, everybody – you think – gets back on the bus.  Halfway home, you realize Jesus never got back on the bus.  Imagine if that were your kid.  What would YOU do?

Well, Jesus’ family said, I guess we have to turn around and go back to Jerusalem.  And so they did.  When they found him, what was his response?  Where else would I be?  The story is in Luke 2:41-52.  Check it out.  

So – here we are, some fifteen or twenty years later.  Not much has changed.  At least he’s consistent.  Imagine being his long-suffering family.

There’s an old saying that blood is thicker than water.  What’s that mean?  Family – even if you can’t stand them, you’re there FOR them.  You put up with stuff from your family that you’d never take from anyone else.  Why?  They’re family.  Clearly, Jesus has a different set of priorities.  Who are my mother and brothers and sisters?  Anyone who obeys God is my brother or sister or mother.  I wonder if that’s the message they took back to Mary and the rest of his family.

Interesting message, isn’t it?  You get to choose your family.  According to what priorities?  There’s an old Dallas Holm song called “What Will You Do?”  It’s set during Holy Week, when Jesus can foresee that all of his disciples will soon bail on him.  A line from the lyrics goes, “Inside your heart you say, “It’s not for me.’”  You’re asking too much, Jesus.  It’s not for me after all.

And there’s a much older statement from an evangelist named Alexander Mack.  I learned about him back in the ‘70’s.  Debbie and I were members of First Parish Church in Berlin, Mass.  Another couple were also members at a new church start that the Church of the Brethren – an Anabaptist denomination – had started in Putney, Vermont.  We visited with them a few times.  I was impressed in many ways, so I wanted to learn more.  Alexander Mack, a Brethren preacher in the eighteenth century, told potential followers of Jesus to, “Count well the cost.”  Know what you’re committing to here.  If blood is thicker than water, obeying God is thicker than blood.  Commitment – Jesus style – it’s not a, “Well, let me check my schedule” kind of thing.  If this week doesn’t look good and next week is already maxed out, Jesus’ family would understand.  After all, they already think he’s gone off the deep end.  Their hope, their message to him probably sounded a lot like, “Come on home, Jesus.  Get a real job.  You can take over the family construction business.  Find a nice girl, settle down, have some kids – then you’ll be too busy for this Messiah stuff.”  What Jesus did instead tells us that his own response to that kind of life was, “It’s not for me.”

Who  was right?  Jesus?  His family?  Can they both be right about this?

The UCC Statement of Faith says that we are called to accept both the cost and the joy of discipleship.  If we think the cost of discipleship is no more than a budget and pledge issue, we‘ve missed the point.  It’s actually a commitment issue.  It begins when we make a commitment to be baptized.  From there, it deepens.  Others may – probably will – think we’re crazy if we take this seriously.  Why are you spending a beautiful Sunday morning in church?  Yes, some of your friends probably think you’re crazy.

Jesus will think you are his brothers and sisters and mother.  Amen