Sunday, June 6, 2021

2 Pentecost/Corpus Christi Sunday

June 6, 2021

 Mark 3.20-35


+ On June 18, I will commemorate the first anniversary of my brother, Jason’s death.


As many of you who know me well, know that I have been quite honest about the bizarre, not always pleasant relationship I had with my siblings. Actually half-siblings.


And of my siblings, my relationship with Jason was…complex to say the least.


We were the closest in age.


He was 10 years older than me.


So, as you can imagine, we had a complicated, often unpleasant, relationship with each other.


Still, the death of a sibling, even one you may not be close with, is a hard to thing to

Jason Gould with his half-brother, the future Fr. Jamie, 1970



And Jason’s death, I will be honest, jarred me.


It was a hard one.


Now, something good came out of it.


My sister Michelle and I ended up reconciling after many years.


And I am very grateful for my relationship with my sister.


And, as I said, I will be remembering the first anniversary of my brother Jason’s death with deep sadness.


Sadness that we were not able to have a better relationship.


Sadness over the years were lost.


Sadness over the fact that there simply are situations in which reconciliation is not possible.


So, when I hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus saying,


“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.”


I really understand it.


It is a statement that resonates with me.


And I am able to fully understand it.


Now for Mary, his mother, and to his brothers and sisters, it was no doubt a jarring statement.


But, I’ve always loved that scripture for a probably not so nice of a reason.


Many of us know full-well that family is not always those who share our genetics with us.


Family is often those we chose as family.


The Church reminds us of this again and again.


Those of us who follow Jesus, who are the sisters and brothers of Jesus, we are also sisters and brothers to each other, are, hence, family.


It is true of our church and it is true of our own community here at St. Stephen’s.


What does it mean to do the will of God?


Do I honestly need to even ask this this morning?


We know what doing the will of God is.


It’s peached and lived out in this church every single day.


Doing the will of God is loving—radically and fully and completely.


Doing the will of God is accepting all people radically and completely.


Doing the will of God is being radically and fully inclusive.


Doing the will of God is doing things that others say shouldn’t (or can’t) be done.


Essentially, it is being a family to those who need families.


That is what the Church does best.


Certainly, when we look around us here at St. Stephen’s, we do understand what a family is, and what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel reading for today.


Yes, we are an eclectic, eccentric bunch of people.


That may truly be THE understatement of understatements.


But, when we look around, we also realize we’re very much a family.


Now, by that I don’t mean we’re all happy and nice with each other.


When we get this kind of variety together in one place, there are going to be differences.


There are going to be people (or priests, or deacons) who drive us crazy.


But, in the end, we always come together and do what we are called to do as followers of Jesus.


Of course, one of the things we endure in our lives is Christians are other Christians-Christians who delight in embracing a false Christianity==a Christianity that is at direct odds with all that the Jewish, Middle Easter Jesus taught and professed.


Jesus, I hate to break the news to you, was not white, was not American and would have major issues with almost everything people who claim he was hold dear.


We have to deal with Evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians who tell us we’re not “real” Christians because of the stances we make, because of the people we choose to include in our church.


Because we don’t exclude the people those denominations think Christians should exclude.


On this Corpus Christi Sunday, we remind ourselves that we don’t deny people the Body and blood of Jesus here just because they think differently, or believe differently than us.


After all, we are not the special “keepers” of the Body and Blood of Jesus.


And the Church is not some exclusive country club made up of only “good” people, who all follow the rules perfectly.


The Church is a hospital for all of us who fail, and sometimes fail miserably.


And the altar is a table to which ALL are invited, not just those who have followed all the rules and believe all the right things.


Often those same churches are committing some serious infractions themselves, they like to look for the slivers in others eyes without seeing the great big old log in their own as they bow down to the idolatrous Jesus they have formed in their own image and cow tailing to the insidious heresy of Nationalism.


Well, as I say quite often, the Jesus I follow is not that idolatrous Jesus.


I do not follow a white, blond, American  Jesus.


The Jesus I follow was not a Christian.


The Jesus I follow was a kosher-keeping Jewish, Middle Eastern man who was murdered by a government that claimed it was the most powerful nation on the world and worshipped its leader as a god.  


And that the people he included were the same people the religious authorities of his day said should be excluded.


We, here at St. Stephen’s, are the one who shrug our shoulders at those in authority who tell us we shouldn’t do what we have done here.


We are the ones who snub our noses at those other denominations who exclude people from their church, who exclude people from Jesus’ altar, who exclude people from the Church.


We are the ones who include everyone at this altar because we know it is not our exclusive altar, it is not MY exclusive altar—it Jesus’ altar, it is Jesus’ table.


And no one is excluded from that table.

No one is excluded from Jesus' Body and Blood.


We are the ones who, back in the early 1970s, gave women a place in leadership when others said that can’t be done.


We are the ones who say again and again that peace is always an option and that justice is a Christian obligation even while wars and rumors of wars raged around us.


We are the ones who welcome all people in these doors in the name of Christ, receiving them as Christ and including them as one of us.


We are the ones who enthusiastically welcomed gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual queer people to this altar for decades.


We are the ones united under the overarching love and acceptance of God to include all people here, because we are a family under the overarching love of God.


We are the ones who stand up and say we cannot abide when those in  authority tell us we cannot do this or that.


We are the ones who, on good days and bad, who in the face of life’s storms or in the sunshine of our youth, who even at the grave, are able to rejoice and sing and say, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”


We are the ones who gather here, at this altar—at Jesus’ altar—again and again, to break bread with each other, to share the Body and Blood of Christ, and to then go out into the world to share Christ with others.


This is what it means to do the will of God.


And by doing this, we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.


And sisters and brothers to each other as well.


As you hear me say, again and again, especially in the wake of this pandemic, the church is changing.


If you want to see the Church of the future, this is it!


It is a church filled with music and poetry and art, but it is a church centered squarely on God and God’s Christ.


It is a Church supported by the saints, both those who are alive and present right here, and those who, like my brother Jason, are singing their praises this morning in the Presence of the Lamb.


It is a Church that is radically different and yet radically the same.


“Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters?” we are being asked today.


We are!


We are being Jesus’ sisters and brothers in this world by doing what we are called to do as followers of Jesus.  


So, let us be the siblings of Jesus in this world.


Let us reflect God’s Light and Love to others.


Let us, as Jesus’ siblings, shine!


Shine in all we say and do.


Shine in conveying the Light of God’s love and acceptance to all.


Today and always, let us SHINE!  


Let us pray.


Loving God, help us as we seek to do your will and be the sisters and brothers of mothers of Jesus to those who need sisters and brothers and mothers in this world. Help us love fully, welcome radically and shine brightly with your Light. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.


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