To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. I continue to miss all of you and remember you so much in my prayers. Let us remember whose family we are in as we read today’s lectionary passage:
Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” …Mark 3:20-21, 31-35
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “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.”
I worked with a team today where we decided to close our church facilities for three weeks. If you read my note last night, you know it is a decision that is so antithetical to who I am; it doesn’t feel like Bethany at all, let alone any church following Jesus. I feel like I am going out of my mind.
It’s surprising to see Jesus’ family accusing him, “He is beside himself.” Of course, Jesus is not out of his mind. Yet his behavior towards his family is so shocking in first century Jewish standards. All the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) mention this Jesus event, although only Mark includes the amateur mental health diagnosis.
New Testament scholar Lamar Williamson Jr. makes this comment:
Jesus’ family had ample reason to think Jesus was eccentric, or “beside himself” because his life revolved around another center than that of his immediate relatives or of humankind in general. For Jesus, that center comes to expression in verse 35. It is doing the will of God. For most of us, most of the time, life consists of the struggle to do our own will. The difference between us and Jesus in this regard is striking. Someone is in fact off-center, “beside himself.” Either Jesus is or we are. The issue is what it means to be truly human and how the self is most fully actualized. Jesus was and is fully human. The gospel, with all its promise and demand, is that whoever does the will of God is not only the brother, sister, and mother of Jesus, but by that very fact, is also his or her own true and deepest self. The promise is real selfhood in kinship with Jesus. The demand is that we do the will of God.
Whose family am I in? Can I be off my center enough to center myself around doing the will of God? What does it mean for Bethany in all her places of exile to do the will of God?
Lord God, we continue to lift up our beloved Seattle and pray your will be done in the decisions and efforts of city and health leaders. Use us for the kingdom and center us on living your will. Through our Lord Jesus who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.
Peace in Christ,