MORE THOUGHTS 11
Here we are again, with slightly heightened awareness of Covid19 again and with the ongoing arguments about what should be happening about vaccinations. Some will be thinking about family in aged care facilities, some will have family in Melbourne, some will have family overseas. While there is much that brings us together in these times, there are also things that divide us, not least because of our personal experiences and family circumstances.
What do we think of when we hear the word “family”? Maybe it is our family of origin: mother, father, siblings, if that has been our story. Maybe it is the family in which we are situated now, which may mean a spouse, children, or not. Maybe where we are now is awareness of being alone, having once had these relationships but having outlived them. Maybe, also, our idea of family is different to start with because we are part of a culture which doesn’t think just in terms of the nuclear family but which embraces a much wider circle of relationships, where terms like “aunty”, “uncle”, “cousin”, “grandparents” don’t carry particularly defined roles but which are all part of “family” together. In these cultures the individualistic “I” does not exist in the same way because it was, and is, about “we”. So there is not such a concept of “me” and “mine” but rather of “our”. Of course, this is not just about words but about the way in which we understand relationships and the things that make our society work. In the pervasive individualism of secularism, many of us may feel a yearning for the kind of community we see in cultures that display that more clearly, even though any kinds of familial relationships have their points of stress and challenge.
Jesus talked about family. In the lectionary, the reading from Mark’s gospel for this Sunday has Jesus’ family coming to try and take him home because they think “He is out of his mind”. He has just called 12 people to be his apostles so that they might help him in his ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons. He is a crowd attraction. He barely has time to eat. The authorities can’t take it. When his mother and brothers arrive, he refuses to go out to them even though the crowd tells him that they are there. He shocks everyone by asking “Who are my mother and brothers?”.
It’s a defining moment. We might see it as rejection, but Jesus is re-drawing the boundaries. He sits in the middle of a crowd of needy humanity, people who are prey to the powers of darkness and evil. Jesus takes his stand for the power of love and light and shows how it is God’s purpose that the family of humanity should know that power and find their true relationships flowing from that. The Church likes to think of itself as a family. It is a strong image but one that becomes true when its focus is not on preserving its own particular way of doing things but can be open to learn from one another’s experiences and include those who may have felt outside our own particular circles. Here again are Shirley Eirena Murray’s words:
Community of Christ, who make the Cross your own,
live out your creed and risk your life for God alone:
the God who wears your face, to whom all worlds belong,
whose children are of every race and every song.
Community of Christ, look past the Church's door
and see the refugee, the hungry, and the poor.
Take hands with the oppressed, the jobless in your street,
take towel and water, that you wash your neighbour's feet.