By the Rev. Lee
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, May 11, 2003
Psalm 68:1-6 God sets the lonely in
May God arise, may his enemies be
may his foes flee before him.
As smoke is blown away by the wind,
may you blow them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds--
His name is the Lord--
and rejoice before him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with
but the rebellious live in a
Mark 3:20, 21, 31-35 Jesus' mother
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a
crowd gathered, so that he and his
disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they
went to take charge of him, for they
said, "He is out of his mind." . . .
Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in
to call him. A crowd was sitting around
him, and they told him, "Your mother and
brothers are outside looking for you."
"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he
asked. Then he looked at those seated in
a circle around him and said, "Here are
my mother and my brothers! Whoever does
God's will is my brother and sister and
Marital Love #120 All God's relations
The children of the Lord as husband and
father and the church as wife and mother
are all spiritual. In the Bible's
spiritual sense, this is the meaning of
sons and daughters, brothers and
sisters, sons-in-law and
daughters-in-law, and other family
Our rational mind can see without any
explanation that no children but these
are born of the Lord through the
church--so no explanation is necessary.
After all, everything good and true
comes from the Lord; and the church is
what receives them and puts them into
action. And everything spiritual that
has to do with heaven and the church
relates to goodness and truth. That is
why in the spiritual meaning of the
Bible, sons and daughters stand for
different kinds of truth and
goodness. . . .
The Lord also calls people who are part
of his church brothers and sisters.
the scene. Jesus, who has recently come out of his quiet
years and started his public ministry, has had yet
another crowd gather around him. The people are eager to
see one of the miraculous healings they have heard
about, and to hear his strange teaching--so unlike the
pedantic teachings of their religious leaders. People
crowd around him, press in upon him, pushing their way
into the house where he and his disciples have gone. The
mass of people is so tightly packed around Jesus and his
disciples that they cannot even eat their meal. From the
looks of it, Jesus' ministry is really taking off!
family has a different view of things. For them, Jesus
is not some new phenomenon on the scene--the latest
wonder to appear in Israel. Rather, he is their son and
their brother, whom they have known for years. But did
they really know him? He is too familiar to them. They
can't see him as a charismatic spiritual leader.
Instead, they think he has gone off his rocker. So they
come to take charge of him, figuring that since he is a
member of their family, they are responsible for him.
mother and brothers don't go into the house. Instead,
they stand outside and send someone in to call him out.
And Jesus calmly and pointedly disowns them:
are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he
looked at those seated in a circle around him and
said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever
does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
ways, this was a shocking statement for Jesus to make.
Then, even more than now, the members of a person's
family were the most important people in his or her
life. Family stuck together. Family was the bulwark
against an often hostile and usually uncaring world. And
here was Jesus, publicly disowning his family. How could
he do such a thing? How could he turn his back on those
who had cared for him all his life, who had grown up
with him, who had shared all his earlier years with him?
is, it was not Jesus who turned his back on his family,
but his family who turned their back on him. Apparently
they had not known him all that well after all. Despite
the incident at the temple when he was twelve years
old--probably just a bit of family lore by now--they
simply couldn't picture the oldest son and brother in
their family as a popular and powerful spiritual leader.
And knowing the rigid religious hierarchy of their day,
they were probably a bit frightened that Jesus' fame
might bring down persecution on his family--namely, on
themselves. So they came, not to hear what he had to
say, but to take charge of him and put a stop to all
knew very well why they were there. He knew that his
family had rejected him and did not believe in what he
was doing. Later on, some of them, including Mary, his
birth mother, became his followers. But at this time
they were fulfilling a statement Jesus would soon make
in his home town of Nazareth. We read a few chapters
later in Mark:
left there and went to his home town, accompanied by
his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to
teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were
did this man get these things?" they asked. "What is
this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does
miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's
son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and
Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took
offense at him.
said to them, "Only in his home town, among his
relatives and in his own house is a prophet without
honor." (Mark 6:1-4)
knew why his family had come. He knew they had rejected
some of you have had the same experience. Perhaps some
of you have had your family, the people you grew up with
all your lives, turn their backs on you when you went in
a direction that they did not approve of. If so, then
you know the pain that Jesus must have been feeling when
his family members arrived that day. You know the
feeling of deep pain that David expressed in the Psalms:
"Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, with whom I
shared bread, has lifted the heel against me" (Psalm
of us, rejection by our families is--or would be--a
crushing blow. Some people never quite recover from the
experience. Many give up on the new life course they had
set for themselves, and run back to their families with
their tails between their legs. Others continue on their
unapproved paths, but carry the raw and painful wound of
family rejection with them throughout their lives.
of us whose life decisions carry us away from our
families, Jesus presents another, more emotionally
healthful course. Perhaps we must leave our family of
origin behind. But that does not mean we must be forever
without a family.
the members of his biological family were turning their
backs on him, Jesus was building a new, spiritual
family. The members of his new family were gathered
close around him--not standing outside, safely at a
distance, sending a messenger to make the contact for
them. The physical distance from his former, biological
family showed through body language the emotional and
spiritual distance that now stood between them.
Meanwhile, the members of his new family showed their
emotional and spiritual closeness to him through their
physical closeness. These were the people with whom
Jesus would spend the rest of his life. These were his
have found ourselves in the painful position of having
to leave our biological family behind, we, too, can
build a new and deeper family around ourselves. If our
family does not share our values, we can find others who
do, and build ourselves a new, spiritual family with
them. For many of you, I know that this church is a
second family. These are people with whom we can share
our beliefs and our values, people who understand us and
support us in the course of life we have taken. And if
we can share our church with some of our biological
family, that is so much the better.
perhaps I shouldn't be saying this on Mother's Day, but
as strong as our family bonds are here on earth, in the
wider scope of human life our biological relationships
are not primary, but secondary relationships. Our
biological family relationships are like a womb in which
we spend our early, formative years. Their influence on
us is critical and profound. We will always have the
mark of our family of origin on us. Our earthly,
biological mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers will
always be within us, however deeply buried in our
consciousness, affecting the course of our lives.
are not primarily biological beings. We inhabit this
physical body for a few decades, and maybe even for a
century if we are of particularly hardy stock. Sooner or
later, though, we will leave this physical body behind,
and never return to it. Then our true life--the life
that we were designed for from the beginning--will
begin. That life does not last just a few decades or
even a century, but throughout all the ages of eternity.
life, we do not live in the physical body that developed
in our mother's womb, but in the spiritual body that
developed in the womb of our life here on earth. When we
enter the next life, we are born into the spiritual
world from the womb of the material world. There we live
as spiritual beings with spiritual bodies, freed from
the confines of this material world and our physical
body. And our families there will not be determined by
blood relationships, but by spiritual relationships.
speaking of these spiritual relationships when he looked
at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here
are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will
is my brother and sister and mother." And this gives us
the key to how we can become the brother and sister and
mother of the Lord--and become true family to one
another as well.
have had to leave our family of origin behind
emotionally, it is because we do not share their values,
and have chosen a different life for ourselves. If we
have been able to stay close to our family emotionally
and spiritually, it is because we continue to share
basic life values with them--especially spiritual
values. And the Lord is pointing out that it is not only
sharing spiritual values, but acting on them that
makes us family to one another.
How do we
become part of the family of the Lord? Jesus tells us
very plainly. We become the Lord's family by doing God's
will. If, like Jesus' biological family, we turn our
backs on the wonderful work of preaching and teaching
and healing that the Lord wishes to do in our lives,
then we stand spiritually outside the household where
the Lord dwells with his true family. But if we are
willing to accept the teachings of the Lord and put them
into practice in our lives, then we have moved into the
Lord's house, and have become his mother and sister and
celebrate our family relationships today, let us also
keep in mind our spiritual family. We are all children
of the Lord. And we become the Lord's true children when
we "hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:28).
The painting is "The Bouquet" ©Tom
and used with his permission by Moon and Back Graphics
to construct this set.
Music: Heart and Soul © Bruce De Boer