God’s True Family
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
February 6, 2011
So which is God’s true family? On the cover of your bulletin are a couple of choices, each of which appeals to a particular segment of the church as the likely candidate. First we have the Cleavers. This well known and well scrubbed family represents the classic American ideal. Father who works. Mom who stays home and mops with her pearls on. Two kids who always learn the right lessons in life. This family is backed by the more conservative end of the Christian spectrum as those who are the ideal family of God. Next we have the Pritchert family. We have the patriarch who is divorced and married to a much younger woman from Columbia. His daughter is the mom in a classic family while his son is gay. His gay son and partner have adopted a child from Vietnam. They are the modern family; inclusive and multi-racial. These candidates are backed by the more liberal end of the church. So which of these would we choose as the perfect family of God?
Before we answer let’s go back to our scripture and see if there are some clues we can glean from them. As our story opens we meet Jesus’ family. It is Mary and the kids; Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Joseph is gone and so we assume that he has since died, or perhaps is at home working to pay the bills while Mary and the kids go on this road trip to find Jesus. Matthew does not tell us why they have come to see Jesus, but if the Gospel of Mark is any indication, they have come to ask Jesus to return to his family and take up the mantle and duties of the eldest son. My guess then is that if had to vote for the true family of God, the Cleavers would get their vote. After all, there are traditions that must be followed. Now this is not to say that all Biblical families looked like the family of the fifties. There were men with multiple wives and concubines. Jesus himself, if we believe the Gospel of Luke, was adopted by Joseph. The Apostle Paul never married at all. So now it is time to discover the answer…which Jesus will provide.
And the answer is….well we are not really sure. We are not really sure because Jesus’ answer throws everything into confusion. Jesus’ answer is one that has caused the church great distress whenever they have taken it seriously. When Jesus is informed that his family is outside looking for him, he responds with these words. “Who is my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers (pointing to the disciples). Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” My friends this was a jaw dropping response. It was jaw dropping because the nuclear family was the foundation of first century Judaism and Jesus was implying that idea needed to be rethought. It was jaw dropping because it implied that God’s family was wider than the Jewish people. Most Jews would have been willing to extend the idea of family to those descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but Jesus extends it further. It is jaw dropping because the church has always limited the true family of God to those who hold to a particular set of beliefs about God and Jesus. Yet here Jesus has clearly said any who follow and do the will of God are part of God’s true family.
What this says to us is that God’s true family is not defined by its relational structure. It doesn’t matter to God how the family constitutes itself; traditional, non-traditional, single, single parent, gay or lesbian couples, blended or any other configuration. What defines the true family of God is how we live; what we do. The central question is, “Is our life together one that honors God through acts of love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation?” In other words regardless of how are family is composed are we living the kind of communal life which shows the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ to those within and those without of our family structure? As we look at the cover of the bulletin there should have been one more box we could have checked which said, “it depends.” It depends on how each of these families lives its life…which makes sense. The Cleavers could be a family of God if they showed the love, grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. The Pritchert family could be a family of God if they showed the love, grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. It makes sense because in the end what God is about is the renewal and transformation of creation into a worldwide community in which all persons care and share compassionately with all others.
The challenge before us as we come to the table this morning is this: are we living as those who show the love, grace and compassion of Jesus Christ? Regardless of our family structure, are we doing the will of God in heaven?