Queens, Demons, and a New Family

+ A sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Year B) / Proper 5B / Ordinary 10B at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on June 10, 2018 +

Texts: Mark 3:20-35

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

pose-key-art-2-768x960There’s a new show that premiered on TV last week called “Pose.”
It’s set in 1987 New York City and focuses on what was known as “ball culture.”
One of the main characters, Damon, is a 17-year old aspiring dancer who is kicked out of his house when his parents find out that he is gay.
He quickly finds himself living on the streets of New York alone and abandoned until a trans woman named Blanca Rodriguez invites Damon into her house.
In this sub-culture – a refuge for many members of the LGBTQ community at the time – these houses serve as families, shelters, sources of food, and support systems for people whose biological families had rejected them, rejected who they are for being too “sinful,” who didn’t understand what their child was going through and wanted to stop it.
“When you get rejected by your mother, your father,” Blanca tells Damon, “You’re always out there looking for someone to replace that love you’re missing.”
These are the families that they got to choose.
The families that would love them for who they are, see the wonderful new things that were happening around them, and be there for each other when no one else would.

“Healing” by Ivan Filichev

In today’s gospel text we hear how Jesus’ family didn’t understand what he was doing and wanted to stop him.
Mark tells us that Jesus, who has been traveling the countryside healing people and proclaiming God’s love for them comes home and his family go to restrain him.
They are worried about what people are saying about Jesus, that he’s different, maybe even crazy, maybe even possessed by a demon.
And the religious leaders, the scribes, they agree that what Jesus is doing must be sinful – that maybe he is in league with Satan.
And maybe the family and clergy are trying to help him, maybe they are truly worried about what is happening to the boy they once knew, but they are missing what God is doing through Jesus.
They are missing how God is working new things through this person that seems so different than everyone else to bring wholeness to the people around him.
They are missing how God is using this beautiful life to transform lives of the people he meets, how he is bringing life to others.
They so deeply miss what is happening that they think that Jesus may be possessed by some sort of demon rather than the Holy Spirit, that he may be falling into sinful ways rather that doing the will of God.
And rather than seeing the liberation and life that is coming from Jesus’ work, they seek to bind him, to stop him, to fix him.
And in the face of his family’s rejection, Jesus proclaims himself a member of a new house – a family of his own choosing – a family based on following the will of God, of seeing the world differently, of healing brokenness, of embracing and loving people as they are.


We know the importance of family, we know the love and support that can be part of the family structures, and we know why no one – especially children – should be forcibly separated from family.
But many of us also may know the pain of family – the hurt of rejection, the ache of disappointment, the sting of loss.
We hear today that Jesus knows this same pain and is giving us an alternate vision of what it means to be family.
Not at the expense of a biological family, because that is obviously still important, but Jesus tells us that whoever does the will of God is his family.

“Family”, stained glass in the National Cathedral, Washington, DC.

Family is more than biology, as any adoptive family understands.
Family is more than genetics, as anyone who gets along with their in-laws can see.
Family is about those who love you, support you, and see you for who you are.

And for so many of those who first heard Mark’s writings, who had been rejected and outcast from their biological families because they were following Jesus, this message is pure gospel.
For many of us today who feel alone or abandoned, Jesus is offering us a promise of belonging. That this place, this community, this church, can be a family where all people are loved and supported, accepted for who they are.
That this Christ-following community is part of a new creation where biology isn’t the determining factor, but relationships are formed through participating in following the will of God – as seeing each other as Christ sees us – as beautiful children of God.

Which is not to say that this family is perfect – we have our own failings and disappointments as well.
One well-known pastor in our denomination welcomes new members to her church by promising them one thing, “We will disappoint you, I will disappoint you,” she says. But then she asks them if they are willing to stay through the disappointment, to help make the community better, to see where God will come through the brokenness with healing and new life to make the congregation that much more beautiful.

Because while we might try to imitate a Christ-like community, a family like God wants us to form, the fact is that each of us is imperfect.
Each of us battles with demons within ourselves.
Demons of self-doubt, demons of addictions, demons of rejection or loneliness or self-image or whatever it may be.
Demons that we share, demons that are known, and demons that we hide within ourselves.
And while simply being in a community may not heal all our wounds, while this community may not exorcise all our demons, it’s helpful to remember that we are not alone in this. That we walk together with Christ and one another.

All too often it’s those who feel the most abandoned, the most alone that contemplate the most drastic of actions and even try to hurt themselves.
For trans people, queer youth, people in the depths of depression where the demons seem to control everything.
It can be hard to know where to turn, where a safe place may be, where someone can find love and support rather than judgment and shame – and for far too many, the church has been more of the latter.
And after the high-profile deaths of celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this past week, experts have noted a dramatic increase in the rate of suicide in the past two decades.
In a time where we take pride in connectivity and networking, so many people feel alone, forgotten, and abandoned.
It’s a place where so many of us have been, caught in the feedback loop of the demons that haunt us.

Cross by Salvadoran artist Christian Chavarria

But we can see that Jesus comes to the people living with demons.
These are the people that Jesus comes to heal and bring love and wholeness.
These are the people that Jesus proclaims to be his family.
His family is not just for people who have it all together but the people who need healing and a promise of new life.
He has formed this church community to be a refuge for anyone who feels lost, alone, rejected, or forgotten.
He knows our rejection, feels our depression, sees our brokenness, and embraces us in his life-giving arms.
He gathers each of us here – no matter our demons – around his table of love and plenty, to call us his children, to remind us of his love for us, to show us that we are seen and embraced as we are, and tell us that we are never alone.
He washes us clean of sin in our baptism and gives us a powerful identity with which we can stand up to the demons or those who would seek to demean you and boldly proclaim, “I am a beloved child of God!”
And that’s what this family is designed to do, to welcome those who feel abandoned, to love those who feel broken, to care for those who are hurting.
This is Jesus’ radical vision of family – a place where we can be who we are, broken as we are, but loved as we are.

Each one of us has brokenness within us that disappoint us and others, but so often it’s through these cracks in our lives that we can see the grace of God flood in.
And as a community of broken people, we can see all the ways that God is working in our lives and in this family life. The love of God for each of us.

So, to each of you this morning, hear Jesus say, hear me say, that you are loved.
Each of you, no matter your demons, no matter your brokenness, you are a beloved child of God and are not alone.
No matter your orientation, no matter your gender identity, you are a beautifully and wondrously made exactly as God intended.
No matter your skin color, no matter what others have said about you, you are welcome in the family of God and have a place here in this community.
And there are times you will doubt this – there are times I doubt this, but Jesus reminds you and me, that you are loved.
God loves you.
God cares for you.
God is doing new things through you.
And God will never abandon you.
And when you do doubt it, when your demons speak louder than messages of love, please remember this: the world is better with you in it – and this family is better with you here.

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