Being Jesus’ Family, by Pastor Noel

June 17 & 17, 2018   Proper 6B   4 Pentecost


      I would say that Mark’s gospel is like a roller coaster ride, but roller coasters have proven to be unsafe and too scary.

      Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the 4 gospels in our Scriptures. There are several others that didn’t get into the Bible, by the way.

      Mark starts his story with “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

      There are no tender, or even frightening, nativity stories. No mystical introduction like the Gospel of John.

      Mark just starts us off and, zoom! We are on our way with Jesus.

      Already Jesus has taught and healed.

      He has stretched the boundaries of the law to show that human law is not always in accord with God’s law of love.

      In our gospel for last Sunday he drew a figurative line in the sand. On Jesus’ side of the line are those who live by God’s law of love and recognize that Jesus is showing them God. These are Jesus’ family.

      On the other side of the line are those who live by the world’s laws. As we can see even today they are not always loving and compassionate.     

      These are not Jesus’ family, he says.

      And God who is compassionate and forgiving will welcome them on Jesus side of the line when they turn away from the world’s laws for God’s.

      Now Mark shows us how to live as members of Jesus’ family.

      Mark says that Jesus taught in parables, and this chapter in his gospel is filled with them.

      In his rush to tell Jesus’ story, Mark gives short, pointed, parables, some just a sentence or two. Not the longer, and still pointed, stories we hear from Luke, Good Samaritan, The Man with two Sons….

      Parables are little puzzles. If you are in Jesus’ family, you understand them. Maybe they take some pondering, but they make sense.

      If you think the way of the world is the way of life, parables will confound you.

      Do you think that the rich and famous are more important to God than others? If so, you won’t understand why Jesus spent so much time with the poor and hungry and sick.

      One theme of this gospel is hearing. Those who are in Jesus’ family hear and understand and follow.

      Those who are not in the family don’t hear what he is saying. Their hearts are set on other things, and Jesus’ words make no sense.

      This doesn’t mean that they will never hear. We are now the ones to tell Jesus stories with our own words and our own lives to help them hear.

      Jesus often compares the kingdom of God with things that seem insignificant, not worth thinking about.

      Farmers put little seeds in the ground and, almost by magic, they grow and give food. We don’t know exactly how this happens, but we see the growth and rejoice in the harvest.

      Jesus is not talking just about farming. Parables compare. “The kingdom of God is like…..”

      He is talking about God’s kingdom, and the way we can make it sprout and grow. Even if we don’t know how it’s happening.

      The seeds of love we scatter in the world give folks glimpses of the kingdom.

      This parable was told to give hope and help to folks who lived in a repressive political regime.

      Each little thing we do to share God’s kingdom is like the seed that grows and produces fruit.  We may not see the results, but they are happening all around, with God’s help.

      The other parable about the mustard seed is probably more familiar. Who else remembers the necklaces of tiny mustard seeds encased in plastic?

      They were all the rage back when I was in high school.

      In using this example, Jesus is being both humorous and prophetic.

      The mustard seed is tiny, but what it grows into is not a huge tree, as I learned as a child.

      It becomes a bush. An invasive, hard to get rid of bush. Like the kingdom, it prevails.

      Those who listened to Jesus would have also heard in his words the words of Ezekiel that were read earlier.

      The tree that God plants will be a haven for everyone. The mustard bush that Jesus gives us will shelter even “birds of the air.” This, I recently learned, means Gentiles, us. Jews and non-Jews alike will be gathered into God’s kingdom.

      Like Jesus’ hearers we can rejoice and be glad that God has this in mind for us.

      We also know that the full reality of God’s kingdom is far from what we have now.

      For example, tomorrow/today is the third anniversary of the shootings at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston.

      If the terror that event planted a seed in us, may we work for laws that may prevent another such attack. And all the other terrors out there.

      If we hear God’s call to care for the earth, may we work to be good stewards of the planet. If nothing else, we can pick up trash as we travel around. That could plant a seed in others to be more careful.

      Mark’s gospel is the most political of the gospels. Jesus continually confronts and challenges the leaders to live by God’s law, not human law.

      Mark is trying to plant seeds in us to be aware of what’s happening in our world.

      The urgency of his story telling reminds us that there is no time like the present to listen to Jesus and be his family.

      We are constantly being called by the world to live on that side of the line Jesus drew. It’s hard to ignore that call.

      May we hear instead the call of Jesus to live in God’s love. May we plant seeds of God’s love and compassion, of the justice that cares for all people.

      May we feel the harvest in ourselves, even as we wait for the full harvest of God’s kingdom that will come in God’s time.






The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details