We Are Family!

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on June 7, 2015, the Second Sunday after Pentecost.  The gospel lesson is Mark 3:20-35.


(children’s message)

Boys and girls, I want you to meet someone special to me.  This is Igor, my troll.  He always has something to teach me.  What do you see when you look at Igor?  (big nose, green skin, a tail, wrinkly skin, peeling paint, he’s bald).  Uh oh!  Now we’ve made him feel bad.  Can you help me make him feel good again by looking and seeing what is beautiful and special about Igor? (pretty eyes, nice clothes, good smile, nice long nose).  Now he’s feeling better.  Thank you for your kind words.  This is something that St. Paul says in the Bible:


            Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)


(slide show)

Here are a few slides to let you know a little about me and how I see God’s blessings on my life from the very beginning.


            Slides: infant…8 years…family in Latrobe, PA…family in Glendale, CA…day of confirmation in 8th grade…seminary graduation…ordination pictures…Carol and Jim and our San Diego family…PC and Dan Kuckuck and PJ


Today’s gospel reading from Mark is about family matters.  We read that very early in his ministry, Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth.  Already he was famous in the land because of his miracles.  Here in sleepy Nazareth crowds of people surrounded him. 


We learn something curious about the reaction of two particular groups to Jesus.  One group is the scribes who have come down from Jerusalem to observe him.  “He is possessed by Satan,” they said.  “The reason he can do such miracles is that he is doing so by the power of the devil!” 


Jesus responds with some words that should be very familiar to us:


            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.


Jesus cleverly dismantles their accusation against him.  He is not of the devil, but of God.  The truism of a house divided is what caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War here in America.  The same truism applies to us at church whenever we have discord and fighting.  The cause of Christ and the extension of God’s kingdom are so much better served when we work together.  There is strength when a congregation really unites in serving God and neighbor.  I like what our speaker at the synod assembly told us yesterday.  He is the ELCA staff member, The Rev. Rafael Malpica-Padilla.  “None of us can do individually what we can do together.”  He lifted up the ELCA Malaria Campaign that has almost reached the goal of $15 million.  We were so very pleased to have one of our own, Eric Carlson, reporting at the assembly on the Malaria Campaign and sharing the great news that here in the Virginia Synod, we have together surpassed our goal of $230,000 and are at $250,000+, and now we are going the extra step to collect another $25,000 to buy mosquito nets for people in our companion synod in Papua New Guinea.  This is a great illustration of what happens when we work together.


The other particular group that reacted to Jesus during his hometown visit was his family.  I hope you didn’t miss what Mark tells us.  When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”  Mark records a bit more about the family:  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.”


What do you think that Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters wanted to do on that occasion?  Most likely they wanted to whisk him away, get him out of harm’s way, and perhaps relieve their own anxiety that he was embarrassing them with his behavior.  It’s a good thing that Jesus understood his mission and his call from God.  How about you?  Have you ever had to make a decision between  following Christ and doing what your family expects?  It would be so much easier if you and your family at home were in sync with loving and serving God, but that may not be the case for some of us.  In my own family I had lots of support for being a pastor.  I also remember the difficulty my parents had when I received a call to serve a church 1500 miles from them.  I remember too the difficult choice of accepting the call here to Resurrection, knowing that my father’s health was fragile and that he was in an assisted living facility in southern California.  He’s the one who told Pastor Carol and me:  “You need to go.  I’ll be okay.  I have your brother 15 minutes away.”  I’ll always remember that I got to visit dad in October 2001 and he died in early December. 


The words of Jesus that come next in Mark’s gospel are so very important in helping us understand our relationship here in the Body of Christ, the Church. 


            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.”


Dear, dear, friends in Christ.  This is how I feel about you.  We are family.  We are a church family.  These past 14 and ½ years, you have been as much family to Pastor Carol and to me as our parents and brothers and sisters and our son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. 


I hope and pray that you have this very same feeling for your family here at Resurrection.  It has been a joy to be a member of this church family and to have the privilege of being one of your pastors.  May God continue to shower blessings upon you in the days ahead.