Third Sunday after Pentecost

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 3:20-35

A reading from the Gospel of Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus went home;] and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Family is a common experience for many and a common theme in media. 

Some people have biological families, others adoptive families, others chosen families, and yet, all are family. Sports teams talk about one another as families, especially in times of trial. TV shows often focus on the antics of characters navigating the different personalities that other family members’ bring.

This emphasis on family, however, shouldn’t make us think everyone else has a family just like ours. Just because our family relationships are normal to us doesn’t mean that they’re normal for everyone. Family is unique in its expression, and research shows, in its value during trying times. Not all family trees are defined by the same biological, legal, or emotional connections. Yet, they’re all families.

After the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of our lives, Emory University began to research how that crisis impacted people’s interactions with family members. The results show us something very interesting. When facing difficult situations, people are more likely to reach beyond their resident families—the people with whom they live—and to seek connection with a more extended familial network. In other words, in troubling times, people often look beyond their immediate family for support.

When we think about family, and the importance they play in our lives, this research suggests we shouldn’t just think about the people with whom we live. They’re vitally important. Yet, no matter how you define family, there are others within our family networks that play pivotal roles and share valuable wisdom as we weather the storms of our lives.


Now before we get into talking about the lessons let me tell a story about my family that makes me feel for Jesus’ situation.

My senior year in seminary I was serving 2 congregations. 3 weeks I was serving a congregation outside my hometown, and 1 week I was serving my home congregation. Every week that I came for my home congregation my mom would ask me “what are you preaching about?” to which I’d answer “Jesus” with a twinkle in my eye. She would finish every conversation by saying “remember, you get to go back to school; but we live here.” Always reminding me they would have to deal with the ripples.

I think of this every time I hear our Gospel lesson. There is a lot happening in this week’s Gospel. While many readers and preachers may focus on the idea of “unforgivable sin,” it’s just as striking for some to see Jesus challenge the notion of family. After all, his mother and brothers probably overheard him pose this question as they stood outside! That must have made for an awkward meal at the next holiday.

What Jesus does, though, doesn’t deny that his biological famlily are a part of his family. Instead, he redefines the notion of family away from biology and toward two interrelated things: faith and function. When the people who gather to hear his teaching name the importance of family, Jesus agrees. Yet, he agrees by telling all those gathered in the circle with him that, despite their lack of shared biological parents, those gathered together were his family. Why? Because they gathered around faith in God and they gathered to do God’s work. According to Jesus, “whoever does God’s will” is one of his family members. His biological family was a part of that, but they weren’t the only family, because Jesus was surrounded by a growing movement of people committed to knowing and doing  God’s will.


We are used to the picture of the family of Jesus that we see at Christmas time: the brave, young Mary, ready for whatever God has in mind for her. Kind Joseph, who stays beside a pregnant fiancé. The couple fleeing the murderous Herod. In some lectionary years, we see Mary imploring Jesus to save a wedding where the wine has run out; Jesus says he’s not ready, Mary persists, and Jesus puts aside his own plans and transforms water into wine. Or maybe we’re used to the Mary that we see around Easter, particularly the weeping mother at the foot of the cross.

We’re likely not familiar with the Mary that we see in today’s Gospel, the Mary who hears the rumors of her son’s madness and comes to try to get him to change course. What’s going on here? Is she embarrassed? Did she not know that being the mother of the Messiah might mean some embarrassment when the neighbors started talking? Those of us who have ever loved someone who took a different path that the world doesn’t understand may feel some sympathy for Mary. Those of us who have watched children grow up and go their own way may feel sympathy too. 

When Gabriel appeared to Mary and gave her an outline of the plan that God had for her, she probably didn’t envision the Jesus that appeared some thirty years later. Her whole culture trained her to look for a different Messiah, perhaps a Messiah who cleansed the Jewish homeland. She probably thought of that cleansing in military terms, the ejection of the Romans, perhaps. She likely wasn’t thinking of a spiritual revolution.

After all, there were plenty of people running around Palestine leading spiritual revolutions, all sorts of people, some legitimate, some deranged, who were happy to tell first century people how to cleanse themselves and purify their religions and make God happy.

Or perhaps Mary was upset because she saw her son was on a collision course with any number of authorities. Even if Mary understood God’s plan thoroughly, she still might want to protect her child. That’s what good parents want, to save their children from harm and destruction. She still might protest the fact that the salvation of the world required the precious life of her beloved child.

For those of us struggling to chart our own course, we might take comfort from today’s Gospel. If even the family of Jesus didn’t fully embrace his path, we, too, can expect a bit of resistance. For those of us struggling to live an integrated life, where our weekday selves don’t contradict our Christian values, we can take courage from today’s Gospel. It’s not an easy task, this living an authentic life.

Of course, the Gospels don’t promise us a happy ending. Even if we live honestly, we may find ourselves on a collision course with the larger world, with the forces of empire, with the culture that shoots other messages at us and infuses our surroundings with poisonous values.


But we have safe places, outside of our sanctuaries too. Across the country this summer, campers from very different backgrounds will come together at Lutheran Outdoor Ministry sites. For some, their ancestors will have attended the same camp. For others, it will be their first time. Some with groups of similarly aged children, while others will be intergenerational camps with youth and adults together. 

At camp, you’ll often find people sitting in a circle with fellow campers, just like Jesus was doing in Mark 3, though they’re often around a campfire or singing tree. At all of the LOMO camps across the country, there’s faith and there’s function. And if we believe Jesus, then there’s family too.

Of course, this happens at other places beyond camp, like our DayCamp coming up. In this summer season, camp simply shows what’s possible when God’s people gather in faith around shared activity. Through that holy work, God’s family grows. So who are your mother and brothers? Who is your family? Ultimately, our families are the ones God calls together in faith for sharing works of love in this world.