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Mark 3:20-35
Finding Our Way Home

Preached at Christ Church in Creston, BC

“Then he went home.” 

After John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness, calling all to repent. 

After Jesus is Baptized. 

After the Spirit drives him into the wilderness living alongside wild beasts, tempted by Satan, entertaining angels. 

After his ministry begins, tending to the battered and broken, the neglected and the forlorn, the out cast, the abandoned, the scapegoats, those left behind. 

After Jesus calls the whole religious establishment into question, entering vulnerably into the vulnerability of the world; entering vulnerably into our vulnerability; entering vulnerably into the vulnerability of all who he encounters; after Jesus is raised up as a hero, as one who speaks with authority–unlike any teacher we’ve ever heard before. 

After Jesus brings healing to bodies, after he brings healing to hearts and minds, after Jesus does his best to weave the world-weary and worn together with wholeness and reconciliation. 

After all of this, then Jesus went home. 

“Then Jesus went home.” These four words–for whatever reason–are left out of the beginning of our gospel reading today. And yet these words, for me, hold the key to the whole gospel story proclaimed today. 

“Then he went home.” Having just invited a ragtag group of friends to share with him in God’s transformative ministry, Jesus goes home. Jesus goes home, yet this visit is no rest for the weary, no pilgrimage to his family’s ancestral Swiss Chalet restaurant to spend time with his parents and brother after a couple of weeks of church meetings. That's not his story. That’s what I was doing last Sunday. There’s no Chalet sauce on the menu for him.

When we encounter Jesus in his hometown, this is no meandering trip down memory lane. We don’t know exactly why he’s there, but we can tell right away that that there’s tension in the air. Jesus has been on the road proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

He’s attracted a growing following of people more hungry for this teaching than they are for a Quarter Chicken Dinner (although that would go a long way too).

And how does Jesus' family respond to his return? They try to get him to shut up about all of this Kingdom of God nonsense. He's getting political, and it's time to stop.

They, echoing the voices of the religious and political leaders, make a big deal about how he’s lost his mind. His family insists he’s gone mad, as a way of writing him off, distancing themselves from him, his teaching, and his followers.

And while we know they come around eventually, this is not that moment. In today’s gospel text, Mark is setting us up for yet another epic skirmish (and we’re only 3 chapters in!).

On the road, Jesus has already found himself in a fair share of conflict with the religious and political elite. Soon enough there will be escalating conflict with the state authorities. And right now? Right now Jesus’ clan, his people, his family, are demanding he turn down the volume of who he is, and his proclamation of God’s liberating dream, to preserve the peace. But Jesus doesn’t operate under the logic of don’t ask, don’t tell. 

In ways that are still at play today, in Jesus’ day, it’s the kinship system that determines personhood. Your relationships (and the strength of them) are what give you your identity. Your membership in community tells you–and others–what you are worth. It helps locate you geographically, morally, ancestrally.

I don’t know how it plays out in Creston, but not long after moving to Rossland, I realised that it didn’t matter what my house address was. When people asked me where I lived, the question they were asking was "who lived there before you?" It was a strange discovery for this city kid to find out that the place I live will only cease to be the Butler’s house after I move out.

Despite our society’s shift towards individualism, small town life, at very least, is still negotiated through its relationship to the familiar. In Jesus’ day under the kinship system, a person's location and worth is not so much about individual accomplishments, but who you’re connected to, who you are related to, how you fit in (and by the way, you’d better fit in).

In Jesus’ day, this system depended on each person playing a particular role in that community’s particular drama. And we’re not talking about the Footlighters’ latest performance. We’re talking the drama of life in the town square.

It’s one thing to join the local community theatre group, and quite another to bring this political performance art to the streets. This is probably why Jesus’ family is trying to reign him in. A generous interpretation is that they’re doing it for his protection. More realistically, they’re doing it out of self-preservation–to preserve their standing in the community long after Jesus and his band of merry men hit the road and head off into the ancient near eastern equivalent of Sherwood Forest. 

Jesus goes home in the midst of his journey towards the cross, confronting the powers of the status quo, confronting the powers of sin and death, confronting the powers that keep so many enslaved to judgment, shame, and fear. Jesus returns home to proclaim amongst his kin the same message he proclaims everywhere – that the kingdom of God is near, leaving no one behind.

And Jesus' message, in spite of the odds, and against the dominant forces of the time, is that you'll know God’s kingdom is near when all people have enough, and begin to know that they are enough. 


Jesus lives by faith, embodying a particular faithfulness to God in actions big and small. Sometimes it’s through healings. Sometimes through political debate. More often than not, it’s through small encounters, through intentionally going out to build relationships with people the dominant culture has condemned to the margins. Through building relationships across whatever divisions we have invented, reminding us that we are all invited to join in the liberating work of self-giving love. 

This week, I’ve been thinking about how this plays out in our communities. I’ve been thinking about those people I know in my local community who are getting older, who are feeling sad, or isolated, or alone. Those who aren’t sure if there will be housing for them when it’s time to downsize. I think about those who are excluded because of their disability. Or their access to resources. I've been thinking about folks who have been made poor by the way our society operates, and who don’t have access to adequate food or shelter.

This week, as friends have been posting about Pride month, I’ve been thinking about those who have been pushed out of their families or their religious communities because they have come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity, and there’s no place for them anymore. They’re told they’re crazy. They’re told to turn down the volume. They’re told not to make a scene. And if they won’t, they’ll be pushed to the side.

A little while ago, my friend Becca, a psychotherapist in Ontario, shared horrifying data about the links between coming out and increased rates of spiritual and physical homelessness. What happens when the church that nurtured your faith in Christ says it has no space for you? What happens when the house you called a home is no longer safe? Where is consolation to be found when there's no room in the inn?


In this week's gospel, we find Jesus calling his disciples – calling us – to a new way of relating, a new sense of homefulness. Jesus calls us to a way of relating that bumps up against typical family and community structures. A crowd is gathered around Jesus, and they hear his family clamouring to get his attention. The inner circle relays the message. “Jesus: your mom’s looking for you.”

Suddenly Jesus' attention is transported back in time, twelve years old, echoes of his mom frantically searching for him in the temple.  And in ways that I don’t think would have been too well received by his beleaguered mother, he asks: “but who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Who are my sisters?” When he asks this question, I find myself wondering: has he faced some sort of exile from his family? Some sort of break in the relationship that has set distance between them?

A hush falls over the crowd as they parse his words, trying to make sense of what he’s just done. Looking with love at each face in the silent crowd, he points to each and every one in turn and says “you – you are my family. You are my siblings. Whoever does the will of God; whoever lives for God’s dream of liberation and love, you are my relatives.” 

This isn’t the nuclear family, let alone the family structure of Jesus’ day. It’s much closer to that Queer notion of Chosen Family, something that’s been a lifeline for so many of my friends. A family that is brought together not by biology, but by mutual care and shared struggle. Sometimes we talk about the church as a family. But the question we have before us today is “what kind of family?”

If we’re to take Jesus seriously, it’s not just people who happen to share the same genetic makeup or wifi password. Instead, God’s family is united in God’s faithfulness, and responds to God and one another with embodied mutuality, transformation, and care. 

For Jesus, family is not a static thing. It’s not a box we’re born into. It’s a way of living that is faithful to place, yes, but is also faithful to God’s mission. “Whoever does the will of God,” Jesus says, “are part of God’s chosen family.” This is the kind of reality, the kind of family that Jesus embodies throughout the gospel, and most poignantly in his self-giving love on the cross. 

After today’s service we’re going to take some time to reflect on the kind of community we are, and the kind of community God is calling us to be. We’re going to start with appreciation for what God is already doing, and prayerfully, thoughtfully discern the unfolding invitation that God is placing before us. 

There are, in these uncertrain days, many congregations who are inward focused, who are looking only to take care of themselves, to preserve what once was. But that’s not the sense I get of you. That’s not the sense I get of this place. The sense I get of you and this community, is of a chosen family who God has called together to bless the world.

Through your ecumenical work, through prayer; Through creating place for difference. Through creating space in music and in liturgy, in your common life, and in the lives you lead in the world, for deep mutual care, to celebrate--absolutely--but also to offer places for questions, and worries, for wondering and lament. And this is brilliant and beautiful, for these are all a part of the Christian story. They are all part of the human experience. 

And so the invitation today, dear friends, is as it always is. The invitation is to join Jesus in his mission of reconciliation. Of taking two things that ought to be together, that have – for whatever reason – been torn asunder, and bringing them back together again. 

Jesus finds his way home.

And when he returns there, he stands in the centre of town, looking every which way, at all the people he can see, saying:

“You are my mother. You are my siblings. Let us go and make sure everyone has enough, and knows that they are enough, too.”