Sunday June 6, 2021 We Are Family!

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture Readings

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7 and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 Just as they have done to me,[a] from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

10 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle[ and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Israel’s Request for a King Granted

19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

1 Samuel 11:14-15

14 Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Living by Faith

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Mark 3:20-35

20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

The True Kindred of Jesus

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[a] are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Sermon

Reading the bible can be so simple and we make it difficult but on the other hand, we make things simple when they shouldn’t be. What I mean by that is that it can all be condensed down to love God and love others but when it comes to reading about people in the bible, we tend to make them one dimensional characters and forget that they were human just like we are and much more complex than just good or bad. We bring our feelings to the stories and forget that these people had their own feelings and complicated relationships and day to day stuff to deal with. They had headaches and were stubborn and quirky and just trying to figure out this thing called life – just like us. They might be irritating and we might shake our heads and ask ourselves how they could get things so wrong? 

In today’s scripture, Jesus’ family has decided that he might benefit from some therapy and they try to just get him to come out. At first reading it almost seems as though Jesus is being mean to his own kin when He asks “who is my family?”, and it kind of jars a bit. But maybe Jesus is not disrespecting his family so much as He is expanding the idea of family. He is not excluding his own kin. He draws a bigger circle, bringing all who believe inside. 

But families are not always easy are they? If we look a little closer at some examples of family complications in the bible we may learn that being included in this larger family can mean something much richer and at the same time much harder than just calling each other brother or sister. If we go way back and look at Cain and Abel. It is easy to write off Cain. He murdered his brother. Not only that, but there were not that many people in existence at the time so he killed off a pretty large percentage of the world population. Sometimes what happens in the family affects the world, at least our small part of it. But Cain survives. In fact he thrives. We may read the scripture and judge him guilty and be done, but he has a story. The mark of Cain kept anyone from killing him – it was a mark of divine protection. If God can protect Cain after what he did, can we find it in ourselves to bring him back into the family? 

Abraham had his first born son with Sarah’s maid, Hagar. It was some years before Sarah bore him a son, so when Isaac is born, it is into a family where his dad already has a relationship with that first son. We have to remember that God had promised that Sarah would have a son and we humans often think we should help God along by taking matters into our own hands with consequences, just as the people did when they asked Samuel for a king, and just as Sarah did when she sent Hagar to Abraham. 

Sarah later may have worried that if something happened to Abraham, Ishmael, his first born by Hagar, would inherit and Sarah would be out in the desert with nowhere to call home. Hagar might have been feeling smug and rubbing Sarah’s nose in the fact that she was the mother of the first born son. We don’t know. Isaac and Ishmael were set on a path to make them be at odds and their children still are at odds today, but they came together to bury their father. If Isaac and Ishmael could reconcile maybe there is hope for their children. 

Jacob and Esau, two boys as different as night and day. One stole the other’s birthright and blessing, and one planned murder for revenge. Talk about family complications, Mom helped with the deception! Maybe Esau was a difficult child, always chasing the sheep and running off, causing everyone to have to stop work and go find him, knocking everything over in the tent.  All boy! Maybe Jacob was the thoughtful one, always helping his mom out. We don’t know why mom favored him. So we fill in the blanks according to our own life experience. 

Jacob fell in love with Rachel but her father, Laban, tricked him into marrying Leah first and while Leah loved Jacob, she always knew that no matter what, she would never be first in his eyes. 

I remember coming home from school and mama would be ironing and watching Days of Our Lives. These folks would have fit right in with mama’s “stories”. In the middle of all the drama that having two wives could cause, God saw Leah’s loneliness and unhappiness and gave her sons.  God saw. That is a comfort right there. In the end, even though the brothers went their separate ways, Jacob and Esau reconciled. 

We all know the story of Jacob (Who God renamed Israel) and his boys. How Joseph was his favorite and the other brothers decided to get rid of him.  Joseph may have been a bit of a stinker and if this had taken place today in one of our families, the others probably would have dog piled on him and beat the snot out of him, warning that if he tattled, it would be worse next time. But it happened in a time and culture that we are completely unfamiliar with so again we make assumptions. Not only did they eventually reconcile, but Joseph prospered and became the powerful person who had the means and the desire to save them from starvation and he was even able to be with his father when he died and took him home to be buried. 

Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus didn’t run him off. He asks the question “Do you love me?” three times and establishes his place in the family by giving him a job to do. Peter is family.

Families are complicated and I left out a lot of unsavory details! 

Jesus doesn’t ever say we have to all lock arms and sing kumbaya and like every single thing about every single person. But He does remind us that we are adopted sons and daughters of the One who created us and as such, we are all family. Warts and all. He reminds us that assumptions can get us into trouble.  He reminds us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. He invites us to reconcile with each other as family, in our little corners of the world and as the world wide family of God. One definition of reconcile is “cause to coexist in harmony”.

So as we read about these people that just seem to be a hot mess we have to keep in mind that they were the beginning of the nation of Israel and they were the people God chose and some of the people of the old testament who seemed to be the hottest mess of all hot messes, made the list of ancestors in the family tree of Jesus Christ!

Scriptures can teach us that making assumptions on what we see on the surface can cause us to interpret a text in a narrow way while Jesus over and over through parables and His actions toward others turns those assumptions upside down. His message to the Pharisees is to look past the law and see the person. His words to his family say look beyond our house into the greater community and even more, to the rest of the world!  

These scriptures give us hope. Hope for reconciliation with individuals and hope for reconciliation with nations. They challenge our little perceptions and assumptions and our need for answers right now and show us that sometimes, whatever is a challenge right now, may be a piece of a plan with a much larger scope, that we may not even live to see come to fruition, but that does not mean that we don’t have an important part. We repeatedly read about a kind of person that we might help out in a pinch and pat ourselves on the back for our generosity to someone we secretly feel is undeserving but turns out to be someone God uses in a mighty way that will have huge future ramifications. 

So we are to love each other. 1st Corinthians 4:8-13 “8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away;” (what you hear from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, no matter who is speaking, you probably will not remember a month from now. You may have forgotten it by the time you have had lunch and napped in your recliner. 

“as for tongues, they will cease;” (The hurtful things that someone said and caused the relationship to be broken will one day be forgotten)

 “as for knowledge, it will pass away.” We can read our bible every day, memorize texts, quote scripture, but unless we have let Jesus have our heart to work on, it will not mean a thing eternally.

 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

God sees past the outside and knows the deepest part of us. The part that wants to grow in love but messes up because like the people in biblical times, we are just trying to figure it all out and He fills all the cracks and broken places with grace, if we let Him.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The greatest of these is love because we are part of the divine family, sons and daughters of God, and He knows we are flawed, make bad decisions sometimes, get tired and cranky and hangry and give away something precious of the future for a bowl of stew right now. But God works through us in spite of or maybe because of who He knows we are. 

Paul talks about the outer wasting away while the inner is being renewed. We gather to worship The One who is turning our focus from what we see on the outside to something much better, much deeper, more profound. Something that will never waste away, something eternal. 

So Sunday when we come to worship our God, we not only come to our church, in a way, we come home… to family. Welcome home. You are loved! Welcome to the family! Warts and all! Amen!

Prayer

Holy and gracious Father, help us to see how in need of your grace we are, and how we need to extend that same grace to others. We love you because like the good father You are, You loved us first  and see beyond what the world sees. You see who we are meant to be, who we can be and we need to draw closer to you so that we can have that kind of vision when we look at each other. May we always be aware of the depth of your love.  We ask all of these things in the name of Your Son, who died so we could be reconciled to you. Amen.