A Family Affair - Sermon A Family Affair Text Mark 331-35 Date by kala22

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									Sermon:      A Family Affair
Text:        Mark 3:31-35
Date:        May 9, 2010
Context:     WWPCCC
             Mother’s Day Sunday
By:          Rev. Steve Runholt



              He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!
      Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

                                             Mark 3:35



A couple weeks ago we had occasion to visit the ongoing and sadly
contentious relationship between religion and science.

As we noted then, this conflict is regrettable for many reasons, not the least
of which is that out on their leading edge, these two different ways of
conceiving of and understanding and describing the world are coming closer
and closer.

Regarding this convergence, I’m most struck by what the physicists have
discovered under the surface of the ordinary, observable world. There is a
point, invisible to the naked eye, where the orderly world of Newtonian
physics – a world in which the laws of motion are fixed and the behavior of
objects is perfectly predictable – where this orderly world gives way to a
chaotic realm where ordinary laws no longer apply, where the behavior of
particles in motion is unpredictable and the nature of reality is so
confounding as to raise questions to which science has yet to find answers.

And that’s where our worlds converge. Because we know that world well,
the world that sometimes feels like it’s swirling around us chaotically and
unpredictably, and where the theologians are just as confounded by the
questions we face, just as unable to explain what happens to us, as the
physicists are unable to explain what happens in the sub-atomic world.




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Sometimes this apparent convergence between science and religion can be
serious and unsettling. Einstein worked hard to disprove the theories
emerging from particle physics, because they were so disruptive to his
assumptions about God and the universe God had made.

But sometimes this convergence can be sort of funny. For example, the
physicist Erwin Schrodinger has coined the term “quantum entanglement” to
describe the relationship between two sub-atomic particles.1 I’m not sure I
know what that phrase means in the strict scientific sense, but it sure feels
like I’ve experienced a quantum entanglement or two over the course of my
life.

Here’s my best shot at explaining what it does mean. (Stay with me, now—
this is going somewhere!) Apparently, a given sub-atomic particle will
occasionally decay, and divide into two sub-atomic particles.

What’s so striking about this phenomenon – and what gives rise to
Schrodinger’s phrase – is that even if these two particles drift apart and
become separated by vast distances, they stay in relationship with one
another. Do something to change the motion of one, push it down, for
example, and the other particle is immediately affected, rising
proportionally, even if it’s on the other side of the moon.

And so you have a quantum entanglement.

I like that idea because sometimes it feels like a perfect description of what
congregational life is like. Or family life. Like we’re in a quantum
entanglement, a network of intertwined relationships connecting us to one
another, so that when something happens to one of us, we’re all effected.

This strong connection, a connection that can even link two people across
space and time, is well known to any of us who have had mothers, or any of
you who may be mothers.

Sometimes this connection can be funny – how is it that your mom always
knows when you’ve not finished your homework, for example? Does she
have a spy camera in your room?


1
    Quoted in The Luminous Web, by Barbara Brown Taylor, pg. 64.


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And sometimes this connection can be a little more serious. Probably every
mother that has ever lived has had the experience of waking up out of a
sound sleep in the middle of the night, only to discover that in that exact
moment something has happened to one of her children.

Of course this connection is not restricted to mothers and their kids. Many
of you have read Greg Mortinson’s wonderful book, Three Cups of Tea. In
it he tells the story of his relationship with his sister, Christa.

When she was three Christa contracted acute meningitis and was never the
same. Greg, 12 years her senior, immediately appointed himself to be her
protector. Despite the vast difference in their age and their abilities, the two
became inseparably close.

Some years later, Greg was mountain climbing in the Sierra Nevadas. After
summiting a peak he was descending a glacier at 4:30 in the morning, when
he unaccountably stumbled.

He tumbled down the sloping ice face a total of some 800 vertical feet,
before he was finally able to arrest his fall with his ice ax. He broke his arm
in the melee but otherwise he was not seriously injured.

Later, when he called his mother to tell her about the fall, and that he was
okay, he learned news that, in his words, hurt him more than did his long
tumble down the glacier. His mother told him that in the very same hour he
fell, his sister Christa had suddenly passed away. 2

Quantum entanglement.

So I like that phrase because it gets at this network of sometimes mysterious
connections that binds us all together.

But I also like it because sometimes these connections, these relationships,
can in fact feel a little tangled up. Maybe not entirely healthy, at times.




2
    As told in Three Cups of Tea; the news about Christa’s death is quoted on page 45.


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On this day, Mother’s day, I’m reminded that sometimes that relationship
with mom can be particularly tangled, and perhaps precisely because it is so
intimate. However hard you and your mom try not to, somehow you
invariably get all up in each other’s business.

Like this hilarious scene from ABC’s hit comedy Modern Family. A
character played by Shelly Long comes home to visit her adult children. She
had made a fool of herself at a family wedding, and she’s come to apologize
to her kids and to set things right with them.

When she arrives, she wraps her adult daughter in her arms. “Too long,” she
says in a pained voiced. “Yes, mom, it has been too long,” her daughter,
Claire, replies. “No, honey. I mean your hair. It’s too long.”

Sometimes this entanglement happens because the relationship is so very
intimate and sometimes it happens because it’s not.

Last week I mentioned Regina Brett’s new book God Never Blinks. In it,
she writes about what it was like to grow up the youngest of 11 children. By
the time she arrived, her mother had given up on making baby books to give
to her kids when they got older.

When Regina came along, nothing was special anymore. There were so
many kids in the family, she sometimes got wedged out of pictures, wedged
out of parties, wedged into her siblings’ playpens and strollers and clothes,
into their roles and into their histories.

She felt like she didn’t matter, that she had no place in the family, no unique
role of her own, and that her mom might actually welcome the reduction in
her workload, if Regina just disappeared. Her mother’s indifference was
taking a toll on Regina until she finally decided to do something to change it.

She writes: “Then one day, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and
create my own mementos. I bought a newborn’s size pair of silky white
slippers with pearly buttons…They were the dainty shoes I wished my mom
had bought and saved for me . . . As silly or strange as it sounds, it helped
close the wound a little and build some scar tissue over a place that kept
opening, a place I kept falling into . . . My parents gave me the best




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childhood they could . . . Now that I’m an adult it’s no longer up to them to
make my childhood better. That job is all mine.” 3

And so she took that job, and promptly began to mother the wounded child
buried deep inside her back into wholeness.

Quantum entanglement. I like because it’s a reminder that sometimes we
can, in fact, get a little tangled up in even our closest relationships, and that
it takes work and intention to keep those relationships vibrant and healthy.

But in the end, it’s the first part of that phrase that may be the most
important. The quantum part. The part that describes a jump from one stage
of development to another, a quantum leap to a level that is wholly new, one
that has perhaps even felt out of range until now.

“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.’”

Quantum entanglement. Walk through those doors at the back of the
sanctuary and you join a family that welcomes you just as you are, and
invites you to join this network of relationships that connects us all.

No, as you may have noticed, we’re not perfect. We have our own
entanglements from time to time, like any family. But when you’re part of
this family, you’ll never be alone again, never without a mother, never
without a father, never without brothers and sisters.

And in the process of living out this shared life, we become something more
than we ordinarily are, something more than we can be living alone, by
ourselves.




3
    God Never Blinks, Regina Brett, pg. 88.


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We become not just someone’s brother or sister or mother or father, we
become members of God’s own family, mothers and fathers and sisters and
brothers to Jesus himself, the living Christ who unites us all.

Thanks be to God!




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