The Lectionary Readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost are found here.
It is a small world. When my son was born while I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, a neighbor we had not met yet saw the “welcome baby” lawn sign our friends had put in our yard (on top of the 8 feet of accumulated snow) and brought a meal to us. Their grandchildren lived far away and they wanted to celebrate Ike’s birth with us. As we talked we discovered quickly that they had grown up in the same area as my dad in small-farm-town-Texas and knew my dad! When I lived in California and worked for a major bank, one day a teller walked over to my desk and asked if I recognized him. Embarrassed I said no and he said we had gone to the same high school in New Mexico and that he had been in the class two years behind me. As an Episcopal priest, I’ve discovered that, despite what Kevin Bacon may say, we rarely need more than two or three degrees of separation to find a connection. It is a small Episcopal world!
We all have ‘Small World’ stories like this. What we really mean with the phrase isn’t that our world is tiny but that we are surprised by the specific and unexpected connections we find in this great big amazing world. And these connections actually make our world so very big!
In the Good News story we read today, we have two statements from Jesus that at first glance can seem disconnected but actually explain each other. The crowds have begun following Jesus to hear him teach and to be healed and the religious leaders are getting nervous because they perceive Jesus as a threat to their own usefulness and power. Instead of seeing and experiencing the power of God in Jesus, they accuse him of being from the devil.
Jesus tells them that a house divided against itself cannot survive so why would the leader of the demons send him to cast out demons and he finishes with a curious statement about blaspheming (which means to show contempt for) against the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ mother Mary and his siblings were there and had tried to stop him from speaking, presumably in an effort to protect him from the religious leaders who wanted to catch him blaspheming. Jesus’ own family, it seems, was letting their fear overpower their trust in what God had sent Jesus to do.
When they send word to Jesus that they are waiting for him, he turns to the crowd and says, “this is my family. My family is big enough to include everyone who seeks to keep the house of God together and to help it grow larger and wider.”
Every human being is created in the image of God; it is the Spirit of God that from the beginning of creation breathes life into us; by the power of the Holy Spirit we are bound together as the Body of Christ. To follow Jesus is to recognize this unity, this community, this family of every human being.
If we seek to divide God’s Kingdom by using Jesus’ teachings to decide who we will exclude, we are denying the power of the Holy Spirit to bind us all together.
When Jesus cautions against dividing God’s Kingdom, he is teaching of the importance of recognizing our unity. When Jesus says these are my mother and brothers, he isn’t discounting Mary and his siblings. He’s including them in something bigger than themselves. He’s including them in the household of God just as he includes every one.
When we put on the lens of who’s in and who’s out, our world can only grow smaller, not bigger. When we seek to prove who’s worthy of The Kingdom, we aren’t participating in building God’s Kingdom but shoring up our own kingdom to keep others out – the very opposite of what Jesus teaches and preaches.
When we define our group by who we exclude, our world can only get smaller because we can always justify excluding more.
When we define ourselves as Jesus does, recognizing we are all created in God’s image, bound together by the Holy Spirit, our world can only get bigger and bigger because that’s how love works. The more love we offer the more we have to give.
It is a small world after all because we are all connected and bound together because we are all beloved children of God. Amen.