Sermon – June 7, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
“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.” Mark 3:34-35
Please be seated.
Throughout my life I’ve had many mothers. Yes, I had the mother who birthed me, loved me, and always cheered me on (and also was frustrated by me sometimes!) But seems like I always had a collection of others who were in the generations above me.
When I was a child, I had aunts and great-aunts who served this function. My mother’s parents lived 300 miles away from us and each summer, we’d travel there to spend at least a week.
The week was filled with my visits to these mothers – Aunt Mary next door, my grandmother’s sister, who’d invite you into her lovely gingerbread-trimmed home for a cookie or some watermelon, or take me to bingo or to see my great-grandparents and get some ice cream.
Then there was Aunt Mary around-the-corner, my great-great Aunt, who’d appear on the steps at her back door, beckoning me in for a visit, which always included cookies. Sometimes Uncle Angelo, her husband would stop by, bringing a piece of Mary Jane or Bit o’ Honey candy from his little grocery store across the street.
And then at least one day, my grandmother’s older sister, Frances would come by in her big blue car. Aunt Frances was short and squat. She had to sit on a pillow to drive the car. She was married at 15 and had 11 children, some only 10 years older than me! She’d yell at my brothers and I to get in her car and come to her house for the day. Can you imagine a house that had 11 children growing up in it? The house was huge, with a wonderful attic. Lots of toys had been left behind, including a nearly junked truck go-cart out back. And Aunt Frances had a mangle iron, one of those larger irons that can even iron the sheets.
Each of these women loved me and cared about me throughout their lives. As you can see, I have so many fond memories of them and I miss them so much.
And so the pattern continued through to this day. Dr. Harper writes me notes and takes me to my favorite restaurant when I’m in DC. She makes sure I buy new clergy shirts a couple of times each year. Miss Penny has moved and doesn’t call as often and I know she’s praying for me.
Jesus asks, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus is challenging us to get out of our ages old patterns of family making…of looking only at our own blood family or our own group, however you define that group. Throughout Jesus’ life and teaching here on earth, he told us to go past those human-created boundaries. Today he says, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” What! Oh my, that could include so very many people, even ones I don’t particularly like or feel uncomfortable around. That’s a pretty tall order to expand my definition of family.
I had the worst time finishing his sermon. Just seemed like if I didn’t finish it, I wouldn’t have to say good-bye. Because, you have expanded my understanding of family. You have shown me new ways to live my life.
You have shown me the church of the future, which is truly the church of old. There weren’t priests available every Sunday in the early church, were there? The faith was kept alive by small groups gathering, sometimes in each other’s homes. They shared their experience of Jesus and God. They cared for and loved each other. They kept the faith alive during terrible persecutions.
And you here at St. John’s have created a warm, welcoming, loving community. You work hard to keep the particular faith we share alive in this region. It’s not the most popular understanding of God, however, you know it is an essential understanding of God.
You’re doing God’s Will and you are family.
Now, we all know family can be messy. None of us are perfect and neither is St. John’s. I think The Rev. Cecelia Williams-Bryant says it well:
“We often romanticize the table as something pristine. We must recognize that the table in which we rush to was a mess. There was conflict at the table. There was betrayal at the table. The table was very dysfunctional. But what does Jesus do? He keeps passing that cup, keeps passing that bread; keeps encouraging hospitality, keeps encouraging us to go deeper. He doesn’t leave. We have to wrestle with staying at the table.”
So, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters of St. John’s… thank you for your hospitality; thank you for welcoming me into your lives; thank you for allowing me to be your priest; thank you for letting me love you; thank you for loving me.
Keep doing what has been done in this place for over a century. Keep passing the cup. Keep passing the bread. Encourage hospitality. Wrestle with staying at the table. I may be leaving and all of us leave eventually, but one thing is for sure: Jesus doesn’t leave. Jesus never leaves us.