Giving a helping hand. Hands of man and woman on blue sky background. Lending a helping hand. Solidarity, compassion, and charity, rescue. Hands of man and woman reaching to each other, support.

The Work of the Family of Christ


I’m not sure how many of you get reminders on your phones – or maybe you simply saw something in your morning news feeds – but today is actually one of those holidays that’s been declared by presidents to be celebrated, and other countries also celebrate this holiday. Anybody know what day it is?

I have to confess, I’m not a big fan of these Hallmark holidays, Children’s Day is obviously not one of our truly recognized federal holidays. We don’t get a three day weekend out of it, but I found it ironic that our scripture reading for this weekend finds us hearing reports in our gospel of Jesus’ family – including his mother – seeking him out because they’re worried about him. And Jesus responds to this concern by his family of birth by more or less discounting their place in his life. Not exactly the dutiful son in this moment, is he? But as frustrating as it is for those of us who are parents to see someone else’s kid be so dismissive of their own family, Jesus is actually being consistent in the words that he is speaking throughout our reading in our gospel today.

For Jesus, it’s obvious that words are just that – words. And the words of the Scribes who claim to have knowledge on who Jesus is, and by what authority he is able to cast out demons, do not carry any weight. For Jesus, it is the actions that are taken that define who you are. Because of that, he is able to confidently declare that an agent of Satan would not be casting out Satan. The casting out of demons is a sign that Jesus is opposed to the forces of the devil that have held sway in the world. And because a house divided cannot stand, Jesus knows not only where he stands, but also where those who support him also stand. Jesus knows who he can trust. And this isn’t claiming that Jesus can’t trust his mother and siblings who seek him out. But it’s apparent that Jesus’ priorities are not perfectly aligned with the priorities of his family of birth.

It’s apparent that Jesus knows he has a divine mission at this point.

Not only has he been healing the sick and casting out demons, but he has a singular focus about it. Nothing is going to draw him from the path that he is on, including his family. The good news of God doing something new in Jesus is too important to slow down – even for the sake of Jesus’s mother and siblings. This is a common theme in the gospel – the work of salvation slows down for nobody. In fact, one of my favorite features in the gospel of Mark is how everything happens with urgency. There’s no time to slow down and explain things to Jesus’ family. Everything happens suddenly and immediately. There is no time to discuss things in a committee.

And when there is urgency of action, it seems the true priorities and intentions of those who are involved become known. For Jesus, it’s to continue the work of sharing God’s saving work through the healing of the sick and casting out of demons. For the Scribes, it’s to try to minimize or slander those who would threaten their authority. For the crowds, it is to experience something greater than their own every day world, where they have experienced the burden of sin and occupation for generations. And for Jesus’ relatives, it’s to protect the family – both the family reputation and the physical self. Jesus as the eldest child would have traditionally been the heir to the vast majority of the inheritance, if there was any, as well as the one who had primary responsibility to carry on the family line. If the family thought there was any chance Jesus was delusional, they needed to slow things down and check in on him – to make sure he was protected from any further harm to his reputation – and by association the entire family’s reputation.

So that raises the question for us – when it comes down to us, when the gospel is urgently present and needing to be shared, what is our priority? What do our actions say about who we are, and what our priorities are in the world? Truth be told, our priorities as individuals tend to look a little different. They vary based on our experiences in life, the different gifts we bring to the table, and the people who we consider family – either by blood or by choice. But the Holy Spirit should still be pointing us all in the same direction – toward love and peace and caring for all people. Corporately, in our worshipping community, we see the priorities lived out every week.

Our cart of food for the food pantry refills regularly, to help people who don’t have enough have just a little bit more to get them by. Throughout the school year we welcome young children onto our campus and we equip our preschool with the gifts necessary to shower them with love. Out of this love we welcomed almost eighty children onto our campus for Vacation Bible School less than two weeks ago. We recently refreshed our affirmation notes to kids who attend elementary school not too far away, so that as they return to school in less than two months they will be greeted with reminders that there are people cheering them on. Just yesterday we held a cleanup day for the stretch of road that passes that elementary school. We’ve been collecting cases of water for the homeless in the East Valley who desperately need the gift of water in our parching Arizona summers. All these are ways that we show who we are as a community. But more than that, we show that who we are is a people who are called by the Holy Spirit to do the good works that God puts before us.

Let’s be honest – we see the things we’re doing, and there’s a temptation to pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve done enough. If we keep doing the things we’ve been doing, we’ll be good to go. But the funny thing is, the Holy Spirit keeps moving. Our priority is not simply about the things we are doing, it’s also about keeping ourselves open to what God might be doing next. What God has done through us is to be celebrated, but more than that, we are called to recognize that the work continues. There’s always more to be done for the sake of the gospel, and as we come together in common mission, we too are members of one body of Christ, one holy family called to live and work together. And today, as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we know that we too are called to be members of Christ’s eternal family, who do the work of the Father in heaven. And the truth is, we will be who we are called to be, and who we are will be known – for we are the family of God at work for the sake of our community and our world. And as we are known, we are all claimed – children of God, beloved of the Father, and united with Christ for the sake of the world, trusting in the promise of eternal life.