Message for Proper 5 – June 6, 2021

I share with you from a book “Sermons on the gospel Readings by David Ball the passage entitled “Brothers & Sisters of Jesus”

The gospels are very open in sharing the opposition that Jesus faced in his ministry.  They ae not afraid to have Jesus himself report that he was accused of being a glutton and wino or, in this lesson, of his family trying to restrain him when the people thought he was insane.  The religious folks accused him of even worse by suggesting that he was actually in league with the prince of demons.  After Jesus offers a convincing reproof of this charge, his mother and family arrive and try to have a word with him.  When they cannot get to him because of the crowd the word is passed to him that they are outside.  His reply is to recast the idea of family in terms of relationship to God rather than in terms of blood.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asks and then goes on to answer, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  It is not that Jesus turns against his mother and family.  His mother will follow him and stand beneath the cross when he is crucified.  He will entrust her care to his beloved disciple.  His brother, James, will become the leader of the Jerusalem church and will be a faithful follower.  Jesus does not despise his family but rather calls on his listeners to undersatand that as important as family is, our relationship to God defines to a much greater extent who we are.

There was a time in our culture when it was important to be identified as a member of the church.  It was the respectable and acceptable thing to do.  While  it was recent enough that some of us can still remember it, things have changed drastically.  We can   lament this change, talk about how terrible it is, and find all kinds of things to blame it on, or we can take advantage of the situation.  In a time when people no longer just show up in churches because it is the thing to do, we are given the opportunity to bring them in by offering them a relationship with God.  What we have seen as a breakdown may actually be a breakthrough as we find a chance to offer folks something beyond just belonging to “the family” by offering them the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus Christ.    

So often in the Church, the discussion revolves around the question of how we can grow the size of the congregation.  This is the wrong question.  It is not about growing the size of the family, the congregation, but rather about how we can help people do the will of God.  Our goal should not be to make sure our congregation survives, but that the reign of God is spread throughout the world.  Although we may have emotional links to a particular congregation, it is not our organizational survival that matters in the end, but, rather, whether we are able to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.  There are all kinds of programs and special campaigns that congregations can run to try to draw crowds.  Some of them are awful and some of them are very good.  In evaluating them, however, we need to keep in mind that our goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and not perpetuate an organization.  We are about the work of inviting people to come and do the will of God for their lives and for the life of the world.  We have the way to a full and abundant life that offers meaning and hope to a world gone mad. Whatever kind of program or advertising campaign we may embark on, it needs to be for the purpose of helping us reach people for God.  If our congregation doesn’t survive, then let it be that we went out bringing people into a life-giving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Then we will know that we have truly become  the mother, brother and sister of Jesus