Outcasts, Unite

Scriptures: 1 Samuel 8:4-20; 11:14-15; Mark 3:20-35

Guest Speaker: Aimee Goldmeyer

One of the folks that I follow on social media posted a graphic this week, offering to the family, for those who might have been cast aside out of the family, suggesting things like “Eat your vegetables, take care of yourself, I will be your family.”

In a commentary this week, I was reminded of a story by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who was the lead pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints. It began as a gathering of those who those who might be deemed on the outskirts of society. At one point in time, there were folks that they thought were more representative of what society says is normal who began to attend worship services.

It was a gathering, a meeting, to try to figure out what to do about these folks who were coming. One teenager spoke up and said, “It is important to me that they are coming, because it is as if they are the parents that mine could not be, and support me for who I am fully in the eyes of God.”

I wonder, who are the people in your family? Are they the folks that you grew up with – your brothers, your sisters, your parents, your cousins three doors down, your extended family? My family, growing up, was never closer than four hours to the nearest relative. And while I am very close to my family, there are also those along the way who I have chosen to become part of my family for one reason or another.

A friend of mine, who when I was living overseas by myself, adopted me as sort of a little sister, who made sure that I had a place to go for holiday meals, who would check on me occasionally at our place of employment, and who made me feel at home, who went to church with me and challenged my ways of thinking.

There are women in this presbytery that I meet with on a regular basis, who ask how am I doing, who offer to pray, especially at those times when there are no words that I can come up with, when the Holy Spirit is on full alert.

Our families are not always the folks that are related to us by blood. Sometimes they are folks that we have chosen to be part of our family. I wonder this morning, as you hear these stories, who are your families?

Who are the ones that you deem beyond acceptable in society? And when have you rued what you have wished for, when it came true?

The Israelites in Samuel’s day were struggling. They did not feel that they had adequate leadership. Samuel was growing old, and his sons were not fit to be rulers. They were corrupt. They were taking advantage of their power.

The people looked around, and they said, “I know how we can make this better. Let’s have a king.” Samuel is not pleased with this. He wanted his sons to be rulers, to be judges in his stead. God was the only real ruler. And yet they still wanted a king, even after they were warned about what would happen.

Armies would be formed, and the best of what they had, that would normally be given to God, would be given to the king, and their sons and daughters would become servants. It still happens like that sometimes, you know.

Think about folks who were drafted into the military during the last draft. They didn’t have a choice. Those who left the country to avoid being drafted, and folks who could not join the army but stayed home, working to make sure that the country would run and the army could be supported.

Be careful what you wish for. It just might come true. Although I imagine that, for Jesus, “be careful what you wish for, for it might come true” happened on a regular basis. Jesus’ popularity was growing. We are only in the beginning stages of his ministry in the third chapter in Mark.

He has been baptized. He has resisted temptation. He has called his first disciples. He has healed folks. He has freed them from what folks in his time would have called demons. He has put people’s needs ahead of what those of religious authority thought were appropriate ways to interpret the Law. He has appointed twelve as apostles to be with him, to help in his ministry. And now he has returned home.

His popularity is clearly growing, because the crowds are so vast that he and his disciples have no time to eat. When was the last time you got so involved in a project that you forgot to eat? Frankly, it doesn’t happen to me very often.

There are certain symptoms that tell me I need to stop, and fuel my body so I can continue and serve God in the best way possible. I imagine there have been times when we were tempted to skip a meal, to stay and work and rely on a simple snack bar to get us through to the end of the day, just that there’s no time to eat.

Already, authorities are plotting to destroy him because he is challenging the status quo. There are people who are saying he is out of his mind. He is not holding the values that society says are normal. He is cuckoo. He is out of his mind.

And for those of you who grew up in my era, I wonder how many times you looked at someone and did this [makes a circling motion with index finger at the ear]. They are not normal. They are professing things that cannot possibly be sane.

I avoid using the word crazy because it has become a demeaning expressing, especially in light of folks who have made some hard choices this week, because the pain they have been carrying has proven more than they could bear. I don’t know all the harm that happened in the world this week. I have been in and out of places where I have been paying attention.

Who are the people that you have decided are not in their right mind? For one reason or another, perhaps there are folks you have said are out of their mind because they are promoting a point of view, theologically, politically, that is miles apart from your own point of view, whose vote in the last election canceled out your vote, who may even root for different sports teams than you do – although I can’t imagine that holding us back from relationship for very long. I never have been an avid sports fan except when it comes to a national team.

Perhaps the folks that you think are out of their minds whose interpretations of Scripture don’t seem to line up with the traditional interpretations that have been spoken over and over and over again, and in some places have caused harm. Perhaps they are folks whose lifestyles are different, who make different choices, or, like Jesus, are willing to stand up, cross those boundaries, put people’s needs ahead of the rules, and buck the status quo.

People were willing to destroy Jesus because he was speaking truth to power. He was willing to offer healing to people, even on the Sabbath, because he saw a need and he had to fulfill it. His family, perhaps, was right to come and try to reclaim him, because he was putting his life in danger. He was not very far into his ministry, and already plots were afoot to destroy him.

I wonder how many of us have put ourselves in that position. I confess it is not always easy to leave my comfort zone and go out into the world and learn new things and be in community with folks I am uncomfortable being around. And yet sometimes I have managed to do just that.

To learn to speak another language, to better communicate with those who are experiencing difficult times, to stand up and share stories from people whose experiences are different than ours and who some in society today say are not worthy of full inclusion, and all of the opportunities that may come our way simply because of the privileges that we have come to expect.

Jesus didn’t let the rules stand in his way. It’s not that he didn’t think they were important. He certainly followed God’s law. He was faithful to God. He just felt that people’s needs ought to come first, and anyone who did God’s will was his mother and brother and sister, and perhaps his father too.

Who are the people that you call your family? Who are the people who are in, and who are the people who are out? I’ve been reading a book, The Hate You Give, about a teenager who witnesses a friend being shot and is trying to figure out what role she could play in order to bring justice for a friend. She is grieving. She is in shock. The testimony that she has offered in giving a statement has not been used in the way that she wants it to.

She seeks to try to navigate two different worlds, the world of the neighborhood in which she lives, and the world of the private school that she attends, where she is one of few minorities. I don’t know how the book will end, but it’s eye-opening to reflect on how differently the justice system might work for different people.

Our families, our values, our traditions, and many other things are things that we hold sacred. What things do you hold sacred? Are you willing to make adjustments to meet the needs of your fellow human beings, who are ill, who are grieving, whose voices get silenced and ignored over and over and over again? Do we know differently now? I’m not always one to hear all the voices. There are voices I’d rather not pay attention to. And yet, if we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, they are important.

Be careful what you wish for. It just might come true. Are you wishing and pointing out places of hope and justice and mercy and forgiveness? Are we paying so much attention to what happens in the world around us, and wanting to uphold current values, that we put the letter of the law ahead of the spirit of the law, and fail to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans and those who are in prison?

Jesus was struggling. He was called to do things differently, to be a friend to everyone, to speak truth, to promote a new way of life. And those in power didn’t like it. They did everything in their power to shut him down.

But the crowds grew. And he continued to reach out and heal those whom society said to ignore, those who had illnesses that lasted for years and years, folks outside the Jewish family, folks who touched his clothes in an effort to be healed, folks with questions, folks whose physical disabilities kept them from full participation in the community, all sorts of people.

He didn’t let what society said was OK stop him from reaching out, from noticing. He was bound by forces beyond their control. People needed to learn to see it in new ways, and be free of an illness that society decided made them spiritually impure and unacceptable in social gatherings. For those who had made mistakes that people failed to overlook, Jesus gathered a family around him.

The fishermen, the tax collectors, and thers in society who did not necessarily run in the most privileged levels, and yet went out and talked about Jesus, and healed people, and freed people, and offered love in new ways, new possibilities.

Who are the folks in our communities that need to be loved and cared for, even when society says Thou shalt not have anything to do with this group of people, for whatever reason, because they don’t fit society’s understanding of what is moral?

What effort are we making to make sure that buildings in our communities are fully accessible to all people, to make reasonable accommodations in our workplaces so that everyone can make a contribution, to use their gifts and talents in ways that make the world better, to ensure that children do not go to bed hungry, and learn in all sorts of different ways, and that opportunities can be extended to all people and not just a certain few?

Are we willing to be seen as out of our minds, if it means that we are following Jesus, crossing boundaries, offering words of healing and hope and justice and peace, and walking in solidarity with those whose voices need to be heard? Are we willing to buck the status quo, so that God’s love can spread, and we can fully live into our calling as followers of Jesus Christ?

Who are the members of your chosen family? And how are you inviting others to participate in the work that God has given to you, to love God and your neighbor as yourself, and bring God’s kingdom just a little bit closer each and every day?

Amen.

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