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3rd Sunday After Pentecost

Updated: Jun 14

Proper 5B: 1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15

Psalm 138; 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Elaina LeGault

June 9, 2024

I grew up in a large family where the titles of aunt, uncle, and cousin often fell outside the literal translation of these terms. As I grew up I remember having quite a few memories of learning that someone wasn’t actually my aunt, uncle, or cousin in terms of my family tree. But this never seemed to matter. My Aunt Sue was still my Aunt Sue and although she wasn't directly related to me I could count on visiting Aunt Lou at Halloween. This extension of family terminology was even more pronounced when I worked with the Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes in Montana. Grandma Nellie was everyone’s Grandma, and my Auntie Deb was always there for me to give me a ride home after a long night.

At the end of our Gospel passage today, we hear Jesus redefining the idea of family. When Jesus is told that “his mother and brothers and sisters are outside” Jesus looks at those sitting around him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” It might be easy to jump to the conclusion that Jesus is rejecting his biological family, but I think we can read the passage a little more generously. When Jesus says whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother, might we consider this as an invitation rather than a condemnation? We certainly know that his mother, Mary, had already done and was continuing to do the will of God, and so why not imagine Jesus offering an invitation for the rest of the family to join his mission? Perhaps we too are called to hear this invitation to consider if we can count ourselves among the family of Jesus?

When I think about the terminology of family in the context of both our Gospel and it being Pride month, I can’t help but also think about Jesus’s acknowledgement that many of us have what we call “chosen family.” Our chosen family are those people who although might not be related to us biologically, they show us the love and support we associate with family. And although I believe Jesus offers an invitation to embrace both our biological and chosen families, he makes it clear that we must prioritize those who are willing to do the will of God. From personal experience, I know how hard it can be to feel the loss of losing both biological and chosen family because of my desire to follow the will of God, as a queer woman, owning and celebrating my queer identity.

It can be hard to hear Jesus say that we must put God before our family. In fact, nothing can be more important than giving ourselves totally to the will of God. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to discern in my life was that in order to truly follow the will of God I had to leave the Catholic Church to follow my call to ordained ministry. When I hear Jesus turning to the disciples around him and identifying them as his mother and brothers and sisters. I hear Jesus identifying women, women disciples, called just like men to follow him and be leaders in his mission.

In our Gospel Jesus is fighting both the devil and those who would claim that he himself is an agent of Satan. And in standing up against those who would try to hinder his ministry he claims those who follow him as his family. We live in a time so different from the time of Jesus, and yet we are still called to hear Jesus ask “Who are my mother and my siblings?”

So what is it that we are being called to do as we discern the will of God in our lives? If we look at our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinithians we see that we are called to do the hard work of looking inward. We are called to continue to daily work on renewing ourselves even as we face the hardships and struggles of our lives. Paul says “Do not lose heart.” Even though we know this life will end, and the struggles in it may be many, we are called to be a people of hope who believe in a world and a life beyond the one we experience now. This does not mean that we are called to ignore what is happening in the world. Rather we are called both to hope in eternal life, and to do the work here on earth that will allow us to enter our eternal home with God. When we are called to renew ourselves day by day we are called to cast aside the things that would pull us away from God.

One theme that comes across both our Gospel and our reading from the First Book of Samuel is the human desire for earthly power. In our Gospel, the Scribes are seeking to cling to their positions of power and authority and in our reading from Samuel we hear the Isralites asking for a king. God makes it quite clear that trying to institute a monarchy is the wrong choice, but as a parent letting their children learn from their mistakes - God allows them to move forward with this plan. This story exemplifies God’s commitment to both being in relationship with humanity and allowing humans the free will to make their own choices. But the mistake that the Isralites make is the desire “to be like other nations.” Their desire to mimic the worldly structures of power they see in other nations, will eventually lead them to division and exile.

It can be so easy to fall into the mindset of wanting to “be like other nations” or as we might think of it “why can’t I be like those people.” Why can’t I be more positive, or more popular, or successful. In a world where we are inundated with news and social media images of what is seen as “normal” or “desired” it can be easy to forget our spiritual needs. We can forget Paul’s message that we must renew ourselves day by day. We are called to ask ourselves what practices we can put into place to find our spiritual center - to seek moments, even small ones, where we can turn to God in our daily lives. Perhaps it is taking a moment for gratitude when you wake up before you reach for your phone. Or maybe it means take ten minutes to walk outside and enjoy a small piece of God’s creation.

We can also find this renewal in community - as we seek to identify our sacred siblings in those who like us are seeking something greater than in our lives. We do this when we come together each Sunday, but we also do it when we listen to the struggles of others with compassion, or when we celebrate both the joys and sorrows of life with our family and friends. We lean on one another as we work together to do the will of God both in our own lives and in the lives of our community. As Jesus invites us to explore a more inclusive understanding of family—one that is built on love, support, and shared purpose - we are invited to reflect on who we may be called to invite into our sacred family - a family that transcends all earthly divisions or expectations. Let us stand together as a family of love - as we embrace God’s call to be ever renewed as God’s expansive family. Amen.

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