Proper 5B/Ordinary 10B/Pentecost 2
June 10, 2012
1 Samuel 8:4-11
Family is a thorny topic for many people. While family can be a supportive base and a font of happy memories for many, it can also be the source of rejection for others. While most artistic renderings of Jesus’ family show idyllic pictures of
love and harmony, even Jesus Christ had family issues! In the Gospel reading this week, a crowd gathers around Jesus’ home, having heard of His work curing the sick and exorcising evil spirits. The crowd was so thick that Jesus and his family could not even eat! When Jesus tried to go out to meet the crowd, “his family … went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.'” (Mark 3:21). Not only did Jesus have to deal with scribes accusing him of being in league with demons (vv.22), he also had to deal with his family’s shame at his “public image” as a crazy person.
Family is a particularly hard subject for many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Youth. Rejection – and sometimes violence – at home places LGBT youth at a disproportionate risk of homelessness. Even though LGBT youth make up an estimated five to seven percent of the overall youth population, they make up anywhere from 20-40% of the homeless youth population (Center for American Progress, On the Streets). For many of these youth on the streets, “family” is whatever caring group of people you manage to find.
Jesus knew how precarious it was to live in a way that went counter to the main culture. His ministry placed Him and His followers at very real physical risk – not only from the occupying Roman army -but also from the Jewish religious elites of that time. Even family, as we see above, could be less than supportive. When people in the crowd around His house told Jesus that His family was looking for Him (presumably to hide Him away), He exclaimed ““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.'”
LGBT youth are in need of people to do the will of God – that is, people who will personally stand up for them, befriend them, and love them as they would love themselves (Mark 12:31), without judgment and without shaming. While there has been a recent flurry of supportive statements and images in the media, these statements – while certainly helpful and needed – do not by themselves make real changes in the lives of LGBT youth. One Gay youth in Washington, DC said “Do we need a Gay president to make a point? To get society to let us be who we want to be? Those things don’t make it any easier for me to walk down the street, to be who I am” (Washington Post: Local Living, “A Little Help from New Friends,” 7 June 2012, pp.14). Click here to see a video of LGBT youth in the Chicago area talking about the importance of friendships and community in creating family in their lives: “I ❤ My Sexuality”, IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program.
In the LGBT community, the term “family” is often used as slang for the community itself. If someone wants to safely and discreetly ask another person if s/he is LGBT, s/he can ask “Are you family?” Someone who is not “family” will simply have no idea what s/he is talking about. For Jesus, the question “Are you family?” had a counter-intuitive answer, too: It meant anyone belonging to the family bound together by God’s unconditional, Covenant-backed love (chesed in Hebrew). Are you “family”? Maybe you can become “family” to someone today.