“Doing God’s Will” Colchester Federated Church, June 6, 2021, Second Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 3:20-35)
Our story begins in the Gospel according to Mark with a simple statement, “Jesus entered a house.” In Mark, Jesus’ ministry often took place in people’s homes. Early Christian communities met in homes before church buildings became a thing. This Gospel story begins in a familiar way for Mark’s audience. Jesus is going about business as usual, entering somebody’s house to spread some love. Then it all goes awry. So many people gather that it’s impossible for Jesus and his followers to even eat a meal. Jesus’ family hears what’s happening and come to take control of him. His own family was saying that Jesus was out of his mind. The legal experts come from Jerusalem and claim that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul and is throwing out demons because he has authority from Satan.
Keep in mind that we’re only in Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is already dealing with naysayers, with people who doubt him and insult him by saying that he is able to heal people because of Satan. Jesus responds to all of this pushback (pushback he was receiving from his own family as well), with a parable. A parable about unity. Jesus says, “A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. And a house torn apart by division will collapse.” Jesus isn’t performing healings and exorcisms because he’s out of his mind or working in concert with evil forces. Jesus is healing people because of his profound connection with God. Because Jesus is Emmanuel—God-with-us.
Now after clarifying where his power comes from, Jesus’ family arrives at that house. Well, Mark tells us that his mother and brothers arrive. No word about Joseph which could mean that Mark sees God as the head of the family or Joseph may have died by then, so Mary was on her own with her children. We just don’t know. Other scripture passages say that Jesus had sisters too. Anyway, Jesus’ family members stand outside the house, calling for him. When Jesus hears that his family is there his response is incredible, “Who is my mother? Who is my brother?” He looks around at everyone seated around him in a circle and says, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
This is a Gospel story that shows Jesus understanding family in terms of loyalty to God’s realm rather than family as people we are related to by blood. When his blood relatives show up and call for him, he doesn’t go out to meet them. Instead, he looks around at the people who are gathered before him and says—here are my mother and brothers and sisters. Whoever does the will of God is part of my family.
Jesus is offering this new idea about family to people who are following him. He does this especially knowing that some of their relatives may have not approved of them going off and following Jesus in the first place. Apparently even Jesus’ own family showed up when he was in that house to take control of him. That’s what Mark tells us. Jesus’ blood relatives said that he was out of his mind as he was beginning his ministry. Redefining family and what family means mattered to Jesus.
In some ways this is a story about having a chosen family. June is upon us, and this, of course, is Pride month. It’s an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to be affirmed and celebrated. We are a Welcoming, Open and Affirming congregation here at Colchester Federated Church as of 2013. Our Statement of Welcome reads in part, “We declare ourselves a Welcoming, Open and Affirming faith community. We invite all who seek to follow Jesus into the full life of our church, ministry, leadership, worship, sacraments, rites, and fellowship: all persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; as well as all ages, races, nationalities, mental and physical ability, family structure, and social and economic status.” When we say that everyone is welcome here, we mean it.
June is as good a time as any to hear and be reminded of our Statement of Welcome. Let’s face it, we know that not everyone is welcome in communities of faith. Some communities shun and exclude people because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity or gender expression in particular. The idea of chosen family is very important in the LGBTQ+ community because people are sometimes rejected by members of their own families of origin. Kicked out of the house when they share more openly about who they are on the inside. I love that we are hearing this Gospel story about chosen family during the month of Pride. Because it’s a reminder that community matters. Having a welcoming faith community—a chosen family in a sense—where people are affirmed and loved for exactly who they are matters.
For instance, Nicole read a book for a Children’s Message some time ago called Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima. It’s the story of Kelp who realized very early on that he was different from the other narwhals in the ocean. His tusk wasn’t as long, he had different tastes in food, and couldn’t swim very well. His friends didn’t seem to mind his differences and Kelp decided that he wouldn’t mind them either. But then Kelp got swept away by a strong current and spotted a mysterious creature once he got closer to land. Kelp discovered a creature that looked just like him—he was so excited to see land narwhals! Who kindly told him that actually they’re unicorns and it looks like Kelp is a unicorn too.
Kelp spent time with the unicorns who taught him all sorts of things. He learned that his tusk was called a horn and ate some unicorn delicacies. The unicorns showed him how to gallop, he had a wonderful time. But he missed his friends under the sea. Kelp decided to return and was so nervous that the narwhals wouldn’t accept him now that he knew that he was a unicorn. But he bravely shared the news, and the narwhals knew that already and took the news quite well. The story concludes with Kelp realizing that maybe he doesn’t have to choose between being a sea unicorn with the narwhals or a land narwhal with the unicorns. Kelp could simply be Kelp and the book ends with the unicorns and narwhals having a party at the beach.
We can be a community of faith that embraces having a chosen family. That we can experience welcome and extend welcome far beyond people we are related to by blood. Jesus embodied this when he looked around at those gathered that day at that home and declared that they were his family members. We can embody that when we look around at each other and declare that we are all part of the Body of Christ. “All persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; as well as all ages, races, nationalities, mental and physical ability, family structure, and social and economic status” are welcome here. We are a faith community that has taken a stance of inclusivity and radical hospitality. Thanks be to God. Amen.