This is the second week in a row when the gospel reading (Matthew 10:24-39) mentioned families. Last week on Father’s Day, brothers, fathers, and children turned against each other. This week, daughters are turning against mothers and mother-in-laws. The two readings are from Jesus’ instruction to his disciples before he sends them to do his work. Jesus tells his followers that this journey will not be easy. Jesus’ followers will not always be welcomed and loved. The message they are bringing will challenge and confuse the wider Greco-Roman culture. There’s something about Jesus changes the bonds we have with each other. And sometimes, the bonds inside our own families will break.
This message doesn’t seem to jive with the message we also hear in Jesus’ words today. Jesus tells his followers that God cherishes them. God knows each of them in a real and authentic way. These words are filled with a theme of inclusion and welcome. Through their relationship with Jesus, the disciples are brought into a new family. This family is centered around a Jesus who will live and die for each of them. The people included in this Jesus-generated family are not perfect. Nor can each individual invite themselves into this group. Instead, Jesus calls them by name and loves them because that’s what God does. God is creating a new family while the bonds of other families fall apart.
We have many examples in our lives of broken families. Entire communities know what it’s like to be abandoned. Too many friends of mine have been kicked out of their families for coming out as LGBT. Others have watched as broken promises, abuse, and addiction have destroyed the trust and love we believe all families should practice. When Matthew wrote down these words from Jesus around the year 75 C.E. (A.D.), the Christian community was very small. New converts to the faith were sometimes disowned by their families and friends. The experience Jesus described here is an experience the author of Matthew knew well. It’s also an experience that is still too common today. Yet Jesus’ word promises a new family that has, at its center, someone who will never break a promise of fidelity, love, and trust. This family is centered around someone who doesn’t call the perfect to be his friends. He doesn’t leave space at the table for only those who act and think and look like he does. Jesus points to a bond and love from God that transcends the bonds of human family. And this bond, even when threatened with the Cross, will not be broken.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 3rd Sunday After Pentecost, 6/25/2017.