A friend of mine always used to say,
“If it’s ‘family values’ you’re looking for,
do not go looking in the Bible!”

I know that sounds odd.
It’s definitely incongruous
with everything you hear
in the modern-day culture wars
about “Biblical family values.”

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But think about it.
Think about the families
you’ve encountered in the Bible.

There’s Noah,
who saves his family from the flood,
but later gets stumbling-down, stark-naked drunk,
and ends up putting an eternal curse of slavery
on one of his sons
just for mocking him.

There’s Abraham—
the father of the world’s
three most predominant religions—
who couldn’t wait for his wife to get pregnant
and so impregnated his wife’s servant. instead.
Years later, he told her and their kid to hit the road
after his wife bore a different son and became jealous.

There’s King David—
still considered by many to be
the greatest king in the history of Israel—
who had an affair with the lady next door,
then had her husband sent into battle
to kill him off and cover it up.

There’s Isaac, Jacob, Esau,
Laban, Rachel, Leah,
Tamar, Judah,
Joseph and his brothers,
Lot and his daughters . . .
the list goes on and on and on.

The families in the Bible
are messed up,
and—news flash!—
so are ours!

No matter how much ‘fun’
your family puts in the word ‘dysfunctional,’
just know that when it comes to the Bible,
they’ve got you beat.

* * *

Of course,
they say that
all of this began
“in the beginning,”
in the story we heard
just a little while ago.

Adam and Eve:
the first family,
the perfect people,
the crown of creation.

They had one job. One job!
“Do not eat of
the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden.”

One job.

But then along comes that crafty serpent,
and the rest is history.

So when we pick up the story today
God has entered into the garden
only to find Adam and Eve
hiding in shame.

“Adaammm?” says God.
“Have you done what I told you not to do?”

You know what that’s like.
We’ve all gotten caught.
We’ve all felt our hearts pounding in our chests
as we’ve had to make the split-second decision,
“Do I tell the truth? Do I take the blame?”

And this is the moment
when it all fell apart.

“It wasn’t me, Lord!
It was that woman you gave to me!
Really Lord,
I hope she came with a warranty,
because don’t you see?
You gave me a defective model!”

To which God says, “Eeeeevve?”
“Have you done what I told you not to do?”

And again, blame is name of the game.
“It wasn’t me, Lord!
It was that snake that you put in the garden!
Now really Lord,
shouldn’t you have known better?”

And it all falls apart.
Just imagine how different things would be
if Adam had confessed his sin,
if Eve had owned up from the start.
“Yes, Lord, we did it.
We love you.
We’re sorry.
We need your help.”

But instead,
they blamed God,
they blamed one another,
they hurt one another,
and the pattern was set for all eternity.

You see, here’s the deal, y’all.
We’ve gotten it in our heads
that our families have to be perfect,
that our relationships have to be perfect,
or else nothing is valid or good.
But the truth is that
no family is perfect,
no relationships are perfect,
and that’s been the case
for a very, very long time.

* * *

So, is there any grace for us
when it comes to this hot mess?
Well, of course.
Enter Jesus.

Throughout Gospels,
Jesus takes the things that
we have warped and destroyed
and he brings them into new order.
That even includes family and relationships.

In today’s Gospel,
he’s teaching and preaching,
and the crowds are getting pretty huge.
People are watching him cast out demons,
and folks are even beginning to wonder
if maybe Jesus is in league with the devil himself.

And so here comes his family.
They see what’s going on,
they become concerned,
and they try to step in,
and restrain him,
and convince him to give it all up.
It’s just too dangerous.

“Hey Jesus,” someone says,
“Your mother and your brothers and sisters
are outside, asking for you.”

And here’s the million dollar line
that throws everything upside down:
“Who are my mother and brothers?” Jesus says.
“Here are my mother and brothers.
Whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

This may sound like Jesus is just doing away
with the idea of family altogether,
but I don’t think that’s true.

I don’t think Jesus is dismantling family.
I think Jesus is expanding family.

For, once upon a time, in a garden,
we didn’t want to take responsibility for ourselves,
so we used one another, and blamed each other,
and threw each other under the bus.

But here Jesus is,
taking responsibility not only for himself,
but for all of us,
and instead of driving the bus right over us,
he’s saying, “If you want to be part of my family —
if you want to come along—
get on board.”

* * *

This may all sound a little crazy,
but it’s exactly what we believe
every time we baptize someone.

When we gather around the water
and welcome someone into the fold,
we believe the family is being reordered.
We believe we’re becoming brothers and sisters.
And not because of anything that is our doing,
but because of what God is doing.
Despite the fact that we—like Adam ; Eve—
never really got around to saying “we need help,”
he’s provided the help anyway,
and is restoring us to the grand family
that we were always supposed to be.

Recently I sat in someone’s hospital room,
and despite the fact that they do have a biological family,
they looked at me through the tears in their eyes
said, “St. Anne’s is really the only family I’ve got.”

I tell you that
not to oversentimentalize all of this
(because that would be manipulative),
not to claim that we’ve got it all figured out,
(because that would be a lie)
not to pat you on the back
(because we’re not the ones who deserve the credit),
but simply to point to the action of God
who has given that person a people to call “family”
even when family didn’t feel like family,
and a place to call “home”
even when home didn’t feel like home.

* * *

If you’re looking for family values—
the kind that make you think
that you’ve got to keep up with the Joneses,
that you’ve always got to fit the right mold,
that you’ve got to be perfect all the time—
don’t go looking in the Bible.

But if you’re looking for grace,
if you’re looking for forgiveness,
if you’re looking for a place
where you and your dysfunctional family
might be loved by a perfect God
despite the fact that we are all very imperfect people,
well then I’ve got good news . . .

you’re already home.



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