by Barbara Ambrose (Mark 3:31-35).
Last Sunday John and I attended a reunion of members of my late mother’s extended family. I have vague childhood memories of a handful of maternal relatives, but with few exceptions I was meeting most of the forty-some assembled cousins for the first time. It was a fun afternoon sharing reminiscences of long ago encounters with ancient aunts and uncles long since departed that connected us to one another’s parents and grandparents. I heard familiar threads of family lore that seemed to have evolved differently among the various branches. It was a joyful gathering, and we departed with the hope of reconvening in a year or so.
As I considered the common bonds I shared with this group of newfound relations I began to contemplate a passage I had recently read in Mark (3: 31-35). Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
What makes family, family? Certainly my mom and dad were my family growing up. I have an older half- brother named Frank who was raised in another state. He took on a larger role in my life shortly after our father died in my senior year of high school. Of course there is John who I was lucky and smart enough to marry. These are the family members whose love and influence I most cherish. Along the way there have been various relatives and in-laws who have provided a sense of belonging and identity, and now I have forty new cousins to add.
Yet, when I consider the people who have touched my heart and nurtured me throughout my life I realize that my experience of true family extends beyond the confines of blood and law. My family includes my closest friends, my diaconal classmates, and the congregations with whom I have grown in faith and call – St. Bartholomew’s and St. Andrew’s. Jesus seems to be suggesting this very thing in this passage from Mark. As his ministry is beginning to grow – his life’s work emerging – he looks around and sees the people who will be an integral part of spreading the Good News that he has come to share. Without this “family” to continue his ministry no movement would have grown to carry his teachings forward. As the Body of Christ – the family of Jesus – we continue his ministry to this day.
In each of our lives there will be people that we encounter who inspire our destinies with their love, encouragement and discernment. In Jesus’ own life this included his “blood kin.” We know Mary accompanied her son throughout his ministry right up to the foot of the cross, and James, the half brother of Jesus, was a leader of the Church that emerged in the wake of the resurrection. Mark’s story demonstrates that our family is to be found wherever we are surrounded by others who share in our desire live fully by discerning God’s call to us. As a church community we have the opportunity to live into this understanding of family as we lift up and support one another in our mutual passion to spread God’s love and healing in the world.