Preached 8/14/2014

Mark 3:19b-35

We build family based upon relationships that meet certain criteria… Bloodline and ancestry, geography, sexuality, nationality, religious persuasion… But in Jesus’ words, he both includes and radicalizes family… Those who do God’s will are family. God’s will be done… Love, practice justice and mercy… [Supplemental text (Micah 6:6-8)] This is how we walk with God; this is how we do God’s will. This is how we participate in God’s family.

This sermonette poses a question and puts us in a moment of crisis. This is a challenge from God given to all of us. When unarmed folks are getting gunned down with raised hands; when Ebola is putting West Africa on edge, when disintegrated concrete, craters, and bombs litter Palestine, when children, men, and women are seeking refuge in Iraqi mountains, when many of us harbor the same misguided fear of our own sons, nephews, brothers, dads, and cousins that our larger society harbors… And when we claim that our acts of aggression, occupation, negligence, genocide, and fear against others are sanctioned and guided by God… We gotta ask ourselves… who is our family? Who is in God’s family? And for those of us who claim to belong to God’s family, what are some fundamental criteria to being a part of God’s family? O Brothers and Sisters, Is there a word from God today, a word that can connect us, a word that can heal us, a word that can challenge us, a word that can offer us hope? There is a word from God, but it’s not an easy word, filled with easy promises or easy answers… It’s what’s always been… an invitation… An invitation for participation…

It’s as if Sister Sledge was playing, the soul train was lining up, you and ya boy were about to do the robot, and someone yelled out, “Turn off the Devil’s Music!!!”

In the text, Jesus’ family thought they were doing the right thing. They had heard reports that he had gone out of his mind, had gone cray cray, had been hanging with the wrong crowd too long… and they wanted to do what a good family would do: have an intervention… So even Jesus’ mama, Mary, comes to see about him… And before his family can call for him, Jesus gets into it with some Scribes from Jerusalem, claim that he is demon-possessed and an agent of Satan. Like Jesus’ family, the religious leaders thought they were doing the right thing. If those charges don’t sit well with our contemporary minds, these scribes thought that Jesus was an agent of death and injury, an agent of evil. A person who was destabilizing everything many held as true and non-negotiable. It’s as if Sister Sledge was playing, the soul train was lining up, you and ya boy were about to do the robot, and someone yelled out, “Turn off the Devil’s Music!!!”

It’s an amazing and scary thing when your family and friends and your enemies all agree on the same thing… They all agree that a family based on love, mercy, and justice is a problem and that relationships based on fear, power, and domination is a solution. That those who are truly concerned about Jesus and those who misunderstand and hate on his ministry… both of these groups actually agree. Jesus done lost his mind. What do you do, brothers and sisters, when your family and friends and enemies all agree that you’ve gone crazy…?

Jesus keeps drawing these crowds, you see. And the crowds don’t look “religious.” They don’t look like “family.” They are too diverse. There’s some people we wouldn’t want to let in our homes in these crowds, and here Jesus got so many people in the house that folk cannot even eat. And I don’t know about you but I ain’t down for somebody interrupting my plate of collard greens. Mark puts in plain sight the paradox of Jesus. Jesus’ presence has the ability to bring people together, but Jesus’ presence also has the ability to be misunderstood, disliked, and feared. One person sees Jesus and jumps for joy. Another person sees Jesus and picks up a gat. Start gathering the rich and the poor together, start gathering different races together, start gathering different sexualities together, start gathering different religious traditions together under one roof… Start having that kinda family reunion, and see what will happen. See what you might be accused of, no matter how good the food taste or what records the DJ spins… Haters gone hate… Your family might not understand. Some preachers might say you are demonic. Some might call you unpatriotic. Beware of the gatekeepers of the status quo… And sometimes my brothers and sisters, we are the gatekeepers.

There is something dangerous to the established order when people who aren’t supposed to be together suddenly find themselves together…

What’s so dangerous about this family? The danger is that we may find out that our differences are more superficial than we thought. And that those differences that really set us apart are actually not marks of inhumanity or sin. They are actually marks of our humanity and the divine spark that dwells within us. The danger is that we will come to learn that our motivations for separation were not as divinely motivated as we thought. Our motivation to exclude and set boundaries was actually based on fear and not on love. To recognize, to admit, and to repent of the fact that fear runs the family, that fear runs this nation, that fear runs our household… This admission is disastrous for forces that need us separate, that need us divided, that need us hating one another and distrusting one another…

The question is not “do I agree with this or that person?” The question is not “who is on my side and who is against me?” The question is “am I related to them and how?”

Jesus did not necessarily disavow his blood relatives as family. He simply added more people to his family.

Those who are afraid when people unite for the sake of love are those who let fear dominate and control their worldview. This fundamental choice is ever before us, individually and collectively. Love or fear? Empathy or apathy? Do we truly believe that love and openness will bring us security and peace, or are we motivated by fear and therefore believe that power and domination are the real avenues to security? What’s our answer? What’s our community’s answer? What’s America’s answer? God is waiting for our answer. Jesus is waiting for our answer. The Holy Spirit is waiting for answer… They’ve invited us to participate…

Jesus tells his family that those who do God’s will are his family. And in this statement Jesus has challenged the church to NOT do what his family did. We must deal with this statement, because we have to hear what Jesus did not say. Jesus did not necessarily disavow his blood relatives as family. He simply added more people to his family. Jesus did not say “if you believe in me” then you are family. Amen lights. Jesus did not say “if you belong to the church” then you are my family. Amen pews. Jesus did not say “if your skin looks like mine and we share the same grandparents” then we are family. Jesus didn’t say if your income is above… Amen collection plates… Jesus did not say if you talk like I talk, live where I live, ride with the people I ride with, then we are family…

Jesus said that if we do God’s will, then we are family… If we do God’s will then we are participating in God’s reign… Oh how unsearchable are the ways of God… Men and women, boys and girls… sisters and brothers… Belonging to the family of God requires nothing less than accepting God’s invitation to actively participate in God’s reign/the kingdom of God…

Do God’s will… Love life. Love life brothers and sisters. Love those who are alive. Love them so much that you seek to transform lives for the better and allow your lives to be transformed. Do God’s will. Love. Love Justice. Love mercy. Love with justice. Love with mercy. No love without justice and no love without mercy. Love yourself. And in loving yourself, appreciate yourself. And in appreciating yourself, you are able to appreciate others. Do God’s will. Love somebody! Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor and see that your neighbor is beyond family ties, race, class, gender, geography, sexuality… Do God’s will! Love God. Love God with everything you have because God loves us in a radical way. This love is not weak. It challenges hate and apathy. It trusts and hopes in God and that life and love is the pathway to peace and family. Love does not rejoice in violence or in death… Doing God’s will means that we are guided by love and not by fear.

©2014 M. J. Sales

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