Grace Presbyterian Church
April 2, 2017, Lent 5A
Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 12:46-50
The Unbounded Family
Previous sermons have revealed the hardly-secret fact about me that I’m rather a sports fan. Now I reveal that I’m also something of weather geek. If I’m at home with time to spare and access to the remote, if there’s not a baseball game or such to be seen I’m as likely to have the Weather Channel on as anything else.
Earlier this week, though, tragedy struck the Weather Channel and the folks who watch it. During an episode of severe storms out in the Plains, a pair of “storm chasers” who worked with the Weather Channel were killed in an auto collision with another storm chaser.
Not surprisingly, when the news finally came out, a number of expressions of grief and shock began to appear on various social media outlets. Speaking of the deceased, one such post expressed regrets and condolences “to his blood family, and to his Weather Channel family,” meaning not only the staff and on-air personnel who would have worked with them, but also the viewers and fans of the channel who, after seeing so many reports and chase segments featuring the two, had come to consider them part of their lives in some small but meaningful way.
The comment reminded me that, even though we live in a society that treats the so-called “nuclear family” as something almost like an idol, we are in fact familiar with the idea that “family” sometimes forms itself in ways that don’t necessarily relate to that “nuclear” or “blood” family. We form bonds that take on the role of “family” for us in various ways that we don’t necessarily plan or expect, but that become important or even indispensible for us over time.
Perhaps as a result, Jesus’s words in today’s reading from Matthew are maybe a little less shocking for us than, say, the words from Matthew 10 a few weeks ago, where Jesus warned that following him would divide father from son, mother from daughter, and so forth. Still, we shouldn’t be too quick to smooth these over; being taken in and called “family” by no less than Christ himself should make us pay attention to exactly what this means for us.
Note that it not about beliefs or being able to check off a list of some sort. Doing the will of God is not a thing that can be accomplished once and for all. You can’t finish doing the will of God. We have so absorbed various teachings and rules about “how to be saved” and how to “get right with God” that we – even without realizing it – have imbibed the idea that we can simply assent to the right Bible verses, say the right prayer or say “yes” to an approved set of questions and – voila! – we’re “saved.” All of which, in the most important ways, misses the point.
Signing on as a follower of Christ is a life change. Being brothers and sisters of Christ, not just brothers and sisters in Christ, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” as Paul describes in Romans, is far beyond a walk down the aisle.
We are compelled to live the live Christ lives in us. We are compelled to be guided by the Spirit, which means learning the patience and discernment and utterly submitted mind that is needed to be able to understand where exactly the Spirit is guiding or leading us. It means being so immersed in the life and teaching of Christ that we, at our best, have maybe a tiny little bit of instinct as to what the Spirit is saying to us in the challenging moments. It means we’re not trying to live by a predigested package of selected verses or sayings, but by nothing less than the life Christ showed us, and the life Christ taught us.
This family is bound not by blood, except if one counts the blood of the redeeming Savior who would stop at nothing to claim us and bring us into this family, to make possible the “spirit of adoption” that Paul describes.
It’s a short passage, and a relatively brief introduction, but ultimately this is no less than what it’s all about to be the church. And it’s not something we solve; it is what we are confronted with and challenged to do every day anew, to wake up and learn what the challenge will be this day, where the Spirit is leading us this day.
The family – mothers and brothers and sisters of Jesus – gathers around Jesus, gathers around this table, gathers together to be mothers and brothers and sisters to one another that we might be able to be disciples, to be the followers of Christ this desperate world needs.
So, what does it mean to be Jesus’s family today?
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymns (from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal):
#401, Here In This Place (Gather Us In); #637, O Sing to the Lord; #506, Look Who Gathers at Christ’s Table!; #736, I Want to Be As Close to You