Old Testament Reading 1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20
Epistle Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Well, it has been quite a wonderful week in Newkirk America. As you have already heard in some detail at the children’s time, we had contact with 120 kids from this town and the surrounding area. It was an exhibition of the kingdom of God at work – a joint effort of 5 area churches, working together to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with elementary aged kids in a fun and loving way. Kids were fed in both body and spirit. They were engaged in story and song and artistic expression and just plain fun. They were hugged and cared for and even bandaged occasionally.
We learned to trust each other and to make new friends. It was carefully planned and well staffed by many volunteers – including 8 or 9 of us from this congregation in various tasks. Five of our own kids participated, as well as many from the other hosting congregations, but the most exciting part is that there were many kids there who are not regular church goers at all. For this week, they too got to hear a clear and inviting message of the love and security found in God. It was a privilege to participate.
I’ll take a briefer time this morning than usual, since we have already heard so much of what went on, but there a few things I want to lift out of today’s readings that tie in with VBS week. The primary thought is family – family understood in the broad sense. Not merely father, mother and their biological children, but family as understood as the family of God. That’s what Jesus was trying to open some eyes to in the reading from Mark this morning.
Its early in Jesus’ ministry. The disciples have just been called; The curious crowds are growing rapidly, as word of his gracious miracles and authoritative teaching spreads. However, his own family seems not to understand at all, matter of fact they seem frightened at this sudden shift from carpenter to itinerant preacher and miracle worker. Truth be known, they had come believing he had just plain lost it and gone a little mad. They were here to collect him and take him home. The passage leaves little doubt as it quotes them saying “He is out of his mind.”
Family – you can pick your friends, but not your family – still, in their own minds, they were being loving I suppose. Trying to take care of him, even in spite of himself. At this moment, Mark chooses to interrupt this line of the plot and introduce us to others who also misunderstood what was going on, but not from such caring motives – no rather from jealousy and growing hatred. They are introduced as the teachers of the law – the religious elite from Jerusalem, come all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Unlike Jesus family, they do recognize spiritual power at work. But rather than acknowledge the power of God at work outside of their own jurisdiction and control, they instead tragically choose to attribute the grace and miracles of Jesus to the power of Satan.
Jesus quickly points out that what they propose is preposterous. Satan would never cast out his own demons! And then Jesus offers a telling analogy – of a thief breaking into a strong mans house to carry off his possessions. How strange to hear Jesus’ story and realize that Jesus is in fact describing himself as the one who has subdued the strong man and claimed his plunder. Calling the power of God evil, is of course the unpardonable sin. Just in case you were worried about it, let me assure you. Its not something you need worry about having accidentally committed. Its the full rejection of the power of God and no one who worries about it can possibly have committed it.
At this point, Mark turns back to the original plot. Jesus family have finally managed to push their way through the crowd enough to get a message to Jesus that they were looking for him. Jesus reply seems harsh, but it is given to teach us a critical lesson. The family of God is not to be denied. Jesus gestures at those gathered closely around him listening to his teaching: (Mark 3:33-35 NLT) “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mother, Sister, Brother – family! God’s family of faith. Now that does not mean that the natural family is not important at all. It simply means that it is insufficient in and of itself. Scripture is full of examples where even notable, Godly parents have been unable to pass along the precepts of obedient faith. Last week, we talked about the young Samuel – raised in the temple by the Godly priest Eli. God chooses Samuel to guide the nation, because Eli’s sons were corrupt.
Now this week, we find that Samuel’s sons were no better. As we go on through the stories this summer, we will find that even King David turns out to not be a particularly successful father either and Solomon’s offspring were even worse. What makes a great family? Well, perhaps nothing less than the grace of God, lived out in the community of faith.
That’s what makes opportunities like this week so important. It was an opportunity to strengthen ties in the community of faith. To learn to rely on strengths outside our own. To work with traditions and bit different than ours and find that we truly are brothers and sisters under the leadership of Jesus Christ our Lord. The power and grace of God are not the private property of any particular church or denomination. That narrow line of thought leads to disaster, fracture and disappointment. Our own Book of Order commends ecumenical outreach this way: (G-5.0101) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels seeks to manifest more visibly the unity of the body of Christ and will be open to opportunities for conversation, cooperation, and action with other ecclesiastical groups. It will seek to initiate, maintain, and strengthen relations with other Reformed and Christian entities.
And so we do. We send kids to Young life camp as well as Dwight Mission; We teach and worship and serve along side our brothers and sisters at both St John’s Lutheran churches, First Methodist and First Christian. We welcome and love kids, whether they are associated with our congregation, someone else’s or none at all. When our Wednesday night fellowship turns out to be 1/3 guests we rejoice and invite more. This is what we understand to be the family of God and its wonderful. Sometimes we give, sometimes we receive; always we learn and we love and we find the grace of God at work ahead of us. Lets promise each other to not only look out after each other, as you already do, but to open our arms even more broadly and to give of ourselves in the name of our Heavenly Father to His glory and never to our own. In this way, we will grow in grace and our fellowship will be blessed.
Thanks be to God!