“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” In the name of God, creator, sustainer and redeemer, AMEN
For those gathered around Jesus in our gospel lesson, they must have recognized that in the moment, they were all assembled in a period of great confusion and uncertainty. This mornings gospel takes place after last weeks story of Jesus in the synagogue, healing the man with the withered hand, restoring him to wholeness. It also just after one of the many pivotal moments in Jesus’ ministry, when he’s forced to get into a boat on the sea of Galiliee, because as Mark’s gospel tells us, “after hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.”
Picture what that must have been like; Thousands of people crowding around Jesus to hear him, to see him, to touch him, to ask him for healing. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Imagine being there witnessing the moments when the unclean spirits saw him, and they fell down before him shouting, “You are the Son of God!”
Between this moment and this mornings gospel lesson, Jesus climbs the mountain and appointed the 12 destined to be his apostles, those destined to become the vigorous and pioneering advocates of a new way of being in relationship with God and one another. And when he had accomplished that, we hear Mark write, “Then he went home;” back into the noisy chaotic world now full of people yearning to meet him. Back into a crowd again so large that “he couldn’t even eat.”
It’s an interesting comment we hear that “His family went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” Despite all the good work he has done, despite the thousands of people who surround him, despite the healings and make untold people whole again, the scribes continue the attack against him, attempting to rile the crowds up against him literally calling him the devil, Beelzebul. And Jesus responds with a handful of one-sentence parables, effectively exposing them as hypocrites to God’s very work in the world.
If we take a moment to think about parables, you may remember that these stories are crafted in a way to pull you into a place of discernment. You initially hear something so absurd or foolish that you can’t help but want to hear more, and you’re eventually left to wrestle as it were with the word of God; you’re left to discover the story within the story.
Todays are no different, even if they’re single sentences rather than a longer story. In his parables today, Jesus breaks open the understandings of leadership and relationship, of the challenges we face together as a body, and what it is that will divide us and ultimately destroy us. And what true relationship means in the broader sense when we begin to love one another earnestly and fully.
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.”
In a few short sentences, Jesus when you think about it has described the very world itself, and also how to change it. Over the course of our collective lifetimes here this morning, how many of us have witnessed the destruction of a relationship or the fracturing of a family once closely knit. How many of us have witnessed and quite possibly experienced, churches, the very model of what should be perfect relationship broken and split apart because of infighting and disagreement. Who here has witnessed the demise of a business because infighting and power struggles caused the place to lose its focus? I’d daresay that probably most everyone here has witnessed at one time or another the death that comes from brokenness. A kingdom, a house, divided against itself cannot stand.
Yesterday I attended the de-consecration of Saint John’s memorial chapel at Episcopal Divinity School. While I still do not quite understand how you take something holy and make it unholy, what we witnessed yesterday was the epitome of todays gospel lesson. A community built and sustained for over a hundred years. A place of learning for thousands of people who walked through its hallowed doors and sat in its classrooms. A place which formed and informed countless religious leaders, ministers, priests and deacons, who went out into the world to preach a gospel of social justice and love.
Yet it was a house divided, a place that lost its focus, its mission and ultimately its life. The DNA of EDS is now a diaspora, spread about the world in a sense without a home, yet continuing, as its DNA should, people formed to serve God and promote justice and inclusion, traveling just as our ancestors who walked the deserts in history. What it should be for those who’ve witnessed it, as the life experiences of us gathered here are teach us, are that these are learning moments of what it means to live truly into the Gospel of Christ and his inclusive ministry in the world. That if we allow ourselves to be divided over the earthly things, we become the house divided and ultimately will fail. When we step away from authentic relationships, we become the hairline crack they eventually splits the whole into parts.
And yet, as with all parables, there’s a story within the story here. Another teaching moment to be discerned pondered and then lived out. That’s the teaching that when we are in solid relationships, at home, at church, work and around the world, when we commit ourselves to living our faith life, seeking and loving all persons the same way we love God and ourselves, we live lives that are rich and full of promise and hope. God’s grace in us flows through us, and touches everyone we encounter if it is based in authenticity and compassion. If it’s real and heartfelt.
That heartfelt and real love is what I witness here at Trinity each and every day. Despite difference we gather together to be fed with the Holy Food God provides us at his table. We discover through our relationship with one another the talents and gifts each of us hold, and we enable and embolden each other to share them. We rise above challenge and face the world together, and work to envision what our parish can do far beyond our times here. As stewards of this parish, we all commit ourselves to growth and mission in our time, our talent and treasure in ways that help keep this parish alive, and a viable and vital part of our community and diocese, ensuring it will be here for the generations of tomorrow. And that all flows from our living in right relationship.
Jesus sums this up perfectly at the end of this mornings gospel when after addressing the crowd, some of them point and say, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And instead of simply turning and walking away towards them, he replied to the crowd, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at them he said:“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
In a few short, simple yet powerful statements, he acknowledges each and every person in the crowd around him, letting them know that they mattered to him, and that they were loved. And most importantly in a culture that held family in great importance, he let them know that he was in relationship with them.
This is the gospel message that well all need to inwardly digest and outwardly share!
That everyone we encounter and even those we may not ever have the grace to meet are important. That they are our brothers and sisters and mothers, and they matter. Their lives are vital to our very existence and the challenges they face are ones which we face with them. Where ever you stand on the political spectrum, or what side you consider yourself on regarding the many issues facing our nation and the world, one thing is clear. When you take the time to know someone, know their struggle, their life story, their hopes and dreams, you discover that you’ve entered a relationship that is life changing for both of you. The divisions around class, race, and immigration all become superfluous and unimportant.
What becomes important is the person standing before you and the hopes you wish for them. That is relationship at it’s best, a house not divided by made whole in the strength and grace that comes from God and our example of living lives of faith and love.
So let us pray:
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; and grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.