June 9: The Third Sunday after Pentecost

Valerie Kelley is a retired educator and congregant at St. Hilda St. Patrick. She has served on the Bishop’s Committee and is a former Senior Warden. The sermon for June 9, 2024 was preached in response to Mark 3:20-35 based on the manuscript below.

I don’t know about you, but I often find that scripture can seem baffling and strange to my modern ears. in this Mark passage, for example, there’s all this talk of Satan and how he seems to be controlling Jesus. And what’s this about Jesus’ family? We don’t often hear about them, so why are they appearing in this text? And here we see again a rebellious Jesus – who openly flouts the laws of Judaism. So let’s unpack this a little, leave our comfort zones, and see what happens.

Before this story opens, Jesus has been wandering the countryside in his ministry. He has been healing and he has appointed the 12 disciples. Lives have been changed as Jesus has ministered, and as we’ve seen in recent weeks, Jesus has been challenging some Jewish norms. He’s helping people, but he’s also causing some unease.

This story starts with crowds coming to see the show. As the scene opens, there are lots of people clambering around Jesus. It’s even hard for Jesus and his friends to eat because of the crowds, and many people think he’s crazy. The scribes are saying that the devil is controlling him. His family isn’t sure what to do with him.

His family is central to this text. It’s easy to imagine Jesus’ mother and siblings not knowing what to think about him and his movement. Maybe they were a little scared – both for themselves as well as for their son and brother. For Jewish people at this crucial time in history, we know that identifying as a follower of Jesus was unconventional, and it meant that you were challenging many of the religious and societal ideas of the day. Maybe his family had different hopes and dreams for him. Certainly they didn’t want him hurt or killed by his enemies.

Family was very important in Jesus’ culture. Staying in good relationship to one’s kin? It was part of the expectations placed on all faithful Jewish people. Jesus was probably seen as close to God partly because he was born into a Jewish household; and he was expected to care for his own kin. Part of Jesus dense parable about the devil illustrates this centrality of family. Jesus says, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 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.” This parable seems to tell us that in order for family relationships to prosper, evil needs to be defeated through the love of God. It is only through the centering of the Holy Spirit that we can honor our households and keep them strong.

And then Jesus throws us another curve ball. He’s made it clear that that relationships and family are central to life, but then he tells us that our families are really bigger than we thought. Jesus says in this scripture, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Rather than turning his back on his kin, Jesus is growing his family; he’s telling us our true family includes our neighbors. Our friends. Our colleagues. Our housemates. Everyone who is attempting to resist evil and to do God’s will.
So what do I take away from this story? At the end of every Bible Study session, Father Joseph asks us, “So what’s the good news?” My answer to this question about today’s gospel is that Jesus has adopted us into the family of God. Jesus has made us his siblings. We are all related to one another through the Holy Spirit. And it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can resist evil and do God’s will. We only need to look for Jesus’ example – to minister, to heal, to support our many, many sisters and brothers. We may need to cause some unease along the way, but we know that God has our backs.

I’m reminded of the baptismal covenant, which asks us to do the will of God by continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, by the breaking of bread and in the prayers, by resisting evil, by repenting and returning to the Lord, by proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, by seeking and serving Christ in all persons, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, by striving for justice and peace among all people, and by respecting the dignity of every human being,” We answer each of these parts of the covenant with, “I will with God’s help.”

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