Jesus inaugurates his ministry. Preaching, teaching, healing, miracle-working; exciting the crowds and inciting the animus of the authorities who consider him unobservant of the Sabbath, an unholy, ungodly lawbreaker.
Jesus goes home, his presence creating a ruckus, “the crowd (coming) together again” clamoring for his attention. I almost can hear them: “More preaching and teaching, Jesus, more healing and miracle-working!” The scribes, those knowledgeable, vigilant keepers of all things lawful, give voice to their equally raucous accusations, “He’s a spawn of Satan! Only by the devil’s power does he do what he does!” His family, Mary, his mother, and his siblings, alarmed, fearing for his safety, perhaps, too, his sanity, “(go) out to restrain him” (the Greek verb being the same to describe Jesus’ arrest before his trial and crucifixion), to force him into protective custody from those who would do him harm and from himself.
Amid this intense encounter, aflame with familial fealty and fear, we hear one of the hardest to understand or accept Jesus-sayings, on par with “Whoever does not hate (family), even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Jesus, when told, “Your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside asking for you,” replies, seemingly dismissively of them, “Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters?”
For all who assume Jesus always favors the family, perhaps recalling that poignant moment filled with eternal meaning when, dying on the cross, he lovingly commended his mother Mary into his beloved disciple’s care, “Woman, here is your son…(son) here is your mother” and for all who preach “Christian family values” of whatever definition, this Jesus-saying ought give pause long enough to consider other gospel vignettes. Jesus, age twelve, gone missing, then found in the Jerusalem temple by his frantically searching parents, responds to their anxious concern with seeming indifference, “Why have you sought me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus, at the Cana wedding feast, reacting to his mother’s request that he fix the problem of the lack of wine (though, yes, he did!), initially resisted, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” Jesus, in response to a member of the crowd giving honor to his mother, “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” answered, “Blessed rather are those who hear God’s word and obey it!”
Now, God forbid, I don’t believe Jesus hates his mother. Nor is he acting out some filial rebellion, which, given Adam and Eve’s disobedience to the Divine Parent in the Garden of Eden, seems to be the course of all maturation from the dawn of time! (Anyone who has raised, tutored, or mentored a child knows this!) But, no, something is deeper, greater at stake here. The call of God on one’s life. A call to a new life. A call that immediately, insistently challenges every other allegiance of one’s present life; even that fundamental, formative basis of all human social structure, the family. A call that one must choose; not necessarily once for all, once-and-done (as was true of the one Jesus called who answered, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father”, to which Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim God’s kingdom”), but always and in all ways.
Jesus testified to God’s call to him in his inaugural preaching, the first words out of his mouth following his baptism and wilderness temptations: “God’s kingdom has come near” – God’s nature, God’s life, who God is, the way God is has entered time and space. In another translation Jesus says, “God’s kingdom is at hand.” In Jesus, his words and deeds, his sacrificial life, his unconditional love, the kingdom, God is that close. This message, this gospel, so compelling, so all-consuming, is the life of Jesus, which, therefore, he cannot choose not to share. Verily, the sharing of this good news he must choose over all other allegiances.
So for Jesus, so for his first disciples. Responding to his call, “Follow me,” they came to learn a new life. At times, they fretted about the cost of that choice. When Jesus declared salvation solely within God’s providence and having nothing to do with human effort, Peter decried, “But we have left everything to follow you!” Nevertheless, those disciples became apostles sent out to proclaim God’s kingdom.
So for the first disciples, so for us. We, in our baptisms, have answered his call, “Follow me.” We, in our continued profession as Christians, gather this day for communal, spiritual refreshment and, in that strength, to go out as present day apostles to proclaim God’s kingdom. Every Sunday we pray: “Gracious Father…Grant us growth in understanding and willingness to be your Body in this world…to preach, teach, heal and make disciples….shar(ing) you with everyone we meet…” And before we depart this day, we will pray: “Eternal God, heavenly Father…you have fed us with spiritual food…Send us now into the world…to love and serve you with gladness and” (as this is our only allegiance, with) “singleness of heart…”
We live in the twenty-first, not the first century. This, ostensibly, is a more complicated, confusing time; daily involving countless calls and commitments, many more choices than faced Jesus and those of his era. Still, one thing has not changed. We, with our forebears of two millennia ago, are human. All of us with points of view, preferences, prejudices; our lenses through which we perceive the world and make our choices. Therefore, I ask and I invite you, me to ponder this question in the coming week: To what do I, do you choose to give greater allegiance that restrains, restricts our sharing God with everyone we meet and, with singleness of heart, proclaiming to all in our words and deeds that God’s kingdom is at hand?
 Luke 14.26
 John 19.26-27
 See Luke 2.41-50
 John 2.4
 Luke 11.27-28
 Luke 9.59-60
 Mark 1.15
 Mark 10.28 (my emphases). See Mark 10.23-31
 From the Prayer for Spiritual Growth, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC. The prayer in its entirety: Gracious Father, we ask spiritual growth for ourselves, our families and friends, and especially for our family St. Matthew’s. Grant us growth in understanding and willingness to be your Body in this world. Empower us to live the mission of Christ: to preach, teach, heal and make disciples. In joyful thanksgiving for the blessing of your presence in our lives, compel us to share you with everyone we meet. May our numbers increase, our commitment deepen, our lives be joyfully yours. Make us a God-centered people. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
 From the Post-Communion Prayer, The Book of Common Prayer, page 365