“Water is Thicker Than Blood”
Earlier this year, I chaperoned my parents as we travled to Puerto Rico so that my mother could see her relatives. It was a good trip, I got to see my Uncle Salvador who still doing well in his mid-80s.
But while it was a good trip, it was could be a bit draining. Since my parents can’t walk as well they used to, I need to make sure that there are wheelchairs available at the airport to get the between gates. You learn pretty quickly that it is not easy to arrange all of this stuff. At times, it feels like dancing and you have to try to make things work.
As much as this can be tiring, I don’t mind doing it. As an adult, children start taking care of their parents in the same way that their parents took care of them when they were young. I can still remember when we would go on long trips, especially trips see my Dad’s relatives in Louisiana, Mom would have the back seat in the car prepped for me with a big pillow and a blankets. Somehow they were able to make a long trip enjoyable. We do these things because it’s what family does. Parents take care of the children and children take care of the parents. Like anything, families are not perfect and shouldn’t be deified, but families are important institutions in society. The taking care of each other benefits the society as a whole.
We talk a lot about family in our world today. We talk about family values, working families, gay families, straight families and families breaking down. All of this talk about this basic unit of humanity shows we place a lot of emphasis on blood relations.
The funny thing is, that Jesus doesn’t always seem to have the same fascination. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t care about families, but Jesus doesn’t talk about them as much as we do.
In today’s Gospel passage, we see Jesus’ mother, Mary and his siblings coming to where Jesus is preaching, teaching and healing. They aren’t coming to cheer him on, no, they are fearful for him. They think he’s gone crazy. “He’s gone out of his mind,” the passage says. I can imagine them sending a message to pass along to Jesus. Hopefully they can say something to draw him away from the crowds and get him to listen to them. Maybe, they can drill some sense into him.
But Jesus does something strange. Instead of being a good Jewish boy and going out to see his mother, he instead asks a question: who are my mother and brothers? He then looks around the crowd and finally says, “Anyone that does the will God is my mother and brothers.”
Jesus rebuffs his own flesh and blood. He doesn’t drop everything he’s doing to respond to them, instead he is telling them that he had to be about God’s will.
If we read other passages in the Gospels, we find that time and time again that Jesus seemed to not to plave family first, if he placed it anywhere at all. Matthew 10:35 says that Jesus has come to divide families. Luke 14:26 says that if you don’t put God over family, one can’t be a disciple of Jesus. Maybe in one of the most distrubing passages in the Bible, Jesus rebukes a man who says he wants to follow Jesus, but needs to bury his father first. Jesus just blankly says that the dead sure bury the dead. If you are going to follow Jesus, you are going to place family second. Jesus tells us God is either first in our lives or nothing at all.
Is Jesus saying we should not respect our families? Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this gives people license to treat their siblings or parents badly. That’s not the point of this passage.
That said, God is calling us beyond what is comfortable and into seeing a far more expanded definition of family. One that is not bound together by blood, but by water. Well, water, bread and a little bit grape juice.
When Jesus talks about whomever does God’s will is family, Jesus is talking about what would be called the church. Church is in many ways a family, not one where people are related as blood relatives, but one where we are related through baptism and communion. Last week, we saw the very first baptism at SpringHouse. We saw Salem Lutheran’s pastor baptize little Naomi in our common baptism space. As those drops of water fell on her small head, we saw a formal welcome into God’s family, the church. It is in the church where people from different walks of life will come together and will support each other. Baptism is a way to welcome one into God’s family to be reminded that we are loved by God in a way that a mother loves her child.
But seeing the church as family, means that our biological families take second place. Following God’s will can be disruptive and unsettling. Follow God over family might mean that a young person might forego taking over the family business and become a pastor. It might means disrupting the family life at home to give temporary shelter to someone who doesn’t have a home. It might mean disrupting the “dignity” of worship to include persons with mental illness or autism into the life of the church and into our worship services. There are other examples. My point is that following God means that our staus quo and the status quo of the world is forever upset.
As a kid, I was always puzzled by something in church. Growing up in the African American church, it never made sense that people called each other “Sister So and so” or “Brother So and so.” That didn’t make sense to me. None of these people were related to each other, so why did they call each other brothers and sisters?
It wasn’t till I was older that it made sense. No these people weren’t related by blood. But they were part of the church and they were bound together by more than blood. They saw themselves as a family, larger than the ones they came from, where people pledged to be in community with each other and to treat those outside of the church with love and care.
The church is God’s very odd family. We are bound by baptism and communion, where a bunch of people who don’t always argee on everything and even squabble a bit (like any family). We are an imperfect gathering, but we come to bear each other’s sorrows and joys and go out to take care of the hungry, the lost, the outcast and the sick.
We are family. We are the family of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Mark 3: 20-35 and 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
June 10, 2012
First Christian Church