Sermon: Christine Walzer
Dear Congregation, dear Sisters and Brothers!
Every Sunday there are four pericopes to choose from for the church service. The pericope order is a collection of excerpts from the Bible, the pericopes which are intended for use during the service as regular readings or to be handled during the sermon.Sometimes it is really difficult for me to to select a text, because I can’t approach any of the proposed texts. For me the texts are bulky. Other texts are very interesting as well as complicated. This also does not make it easy to write a sermon. Then there are texts which are complicated and have a topic which occupy me.
Our Gospel text today is a text. Suddenly I thought of an idea for my sermon: The family. A perpetual topic, noteworthy and complicated. A topic which will probably accompany me til I die. Probably there are many others like me.
There is the nuclear family, with all it’s facets and versions: the classical family, patchwork family, families with adopted children or foster children.
One can be grown up but there are good and bad memories of childhood that constantly follow us. It is not always easy with families. Siblings who grow up in the same family have „different“ parents and memories. The first child will be treated differently than the second. With the first child, everything is new, the parents have to find their roles and learn how to go about this. I was the fourth out of five children. My parents were not as strict with me as with my oldest brother. And on top of this, all children are different. All react in other ways and have different perceptions. My mother always said, „One family excursion, five different stories all about this excursion“.
Consciously or unconsciously we take the roles and actions from our nuclear family with us in adulthood. Many people, who are successful and independent fall back into their childhood patterns when they are back with their family. The insecure boy or the small silent girl suddenly appear again.
Or we meet a person who have the same strict voice as one of our parents during a rebuke. Suddenly we perhaps do not like this person anymore and we project our discomfort to this person. It might be that this person is nice but for us this is hard to see.
You probably know many stories which originate from the nuclear family and which have a negative influence in adulthood.
Of course, there are also positive influences. For me my Grandmother had a wonderful smile when I was not well. When she smiled at me, I had such a warm hearted and encouraging feeling. It went straight to my heart and I felt more courageous and better. A smile which strengthened trust in my Grandmother and myself. Today, when I see a woman who has a similar smile, my heart warms up. A smile shows, that one is ready to listen. A smile which does not stop with the teeth. One that goes internally and signals understanding.
Yes, the family. Loving, strenuous and in between complicated. For some of us a place of horror.
The first miraculous healings of Jesus preceded our text in today’s sermon. Eugen Drewermann describes the miraculous healings very well: It had happened that people had felt themselves all their life long as withered in their limbs, under the claim and call Jesus dared to straighten up and use their own limbs.
The people, also Jesus‘ family, felt that something special had happened. Back then there were miracle healers.But Jesus had an unusual aura. Something was different than the other healers. Everyone felt this and it made the people uneasy.
And then began a fairly heated debate amongst those involved. Those present meant, that he was either crazy or not doing the right things. Jesus does not want to bow to the constraints back then. He does not want to be touched by the opinion of the others.
And in addition his family wants something from him. They are unsure they want to speak to him. They probably are really worried about him. Talk about him is not friendly. Are perhaps the people right?
Jesus reacts to this like many of us probably could not imagine.
His family wants to speak to him and he says: „ Who is my Mother and who are my siblings?”.
Some of us have children. Just imagine, you are really worried about one of your children. You can’t understand your child’s behavior.You want to talk about this with your child and then this question is posed. Who is my mother and who are my siblings? How would we feel? Family is very important for many the most important.
What could he have meant by this?
Relationships are continuously changing. No one stays the same, we ourselves do not and also the people in our surroundings do not stay the same. Also families are subjected to continuous change. And therefore I think, that Jesus did not always want to deny his family. I am sure, that he did not mean that we want to make other people more important than our family. He does not want to separate anyone. He wants to expand the family.
Jesus does not want to snub his mother or withhold his love for her which he usually had for everyone. No, he wants to expand the circle of love, not to narrow it to just a few to whom the relatives of his blood belong. But expand for those who through the bond of love are connected to him. Jesus is not weakening the fourth commandment but expanding it and taking others in.
It is almost natural for everyone that when children are grown up that they move out. Parents are happy when their children are independent and viable. Children enter into new relationships and parents trust their children. Trust in being able capable of relationships. The children release themselves from their birth family. Letting go is necessary in order to lead one’s own life as an adult. In many cases, however, it is not a total separation. The contact remains and the family can get bigger.
This is the positive form of the family. There are, however, families, in which fear determines life. Unfortunately, there are many forms in which persons will be made submissive with the help of fear. For me, the most horrible types are sexual abuse, violence, psychological terror. People are made small in which they don’t trust themselves to say anything. Children must not be independent. They have to be and think as their parents want them to. Families can choke the personalities, bind them and not let them go.
When the family does not allow one to make their own mistakes in order to try and „spread their wings“ then it will be difficult.
In order to fly, one needs a base from which one can fly. To which one can return when one is tired. Assuming this is not possible in one’s own family, then one can go to the extended family, other trusting persons, sisters or brothers.
I think that Jesus had a vision from a sense of belonging, a family of people, which is founded with the love of God. This sounds beautiful but it is not always easy.
We can not choose our families. Also not the persons who come to our congregation. This can become a huge challenge. God wants to make his love visible and tangible. This needs other people even those we rub against. In Christian communities of course, there are many types of emotion and relationships. There can be friendships from warm hearted to dislike, jealous and envy. And everything in between.
Jesus dreams of an extended family, with freedom in thinking and being. In which one can learn to trust when one either did not learn this as a child or learned little about it. A family full of respect and appreciation. A respect which does not abuse freedom.
In this extended family it is possible to find someone who is willing to listen to be there. A person who knows when one is not doing well. Or also when one is glowing from joy. There can always be someone who is there with whom one can feel with and listen.
Then there must be no compulsion that everyone is equally great and infallible in their beliefs. That nobody makes a mistake in dealing with each other. We are human and sometimes overlook others. But there can be someone who is there for you.
For it is natural that such a love is also possible outside of the Christian community. A belief full of love is for me not just bound to the life in the congretation. I can not and do not want to renounce anyone elses belief and love because one is not a member of the church or because one belongs to another religion.
According to my opinion love does not have anything to do with piety. Misunderstood understood piety can lead to suppressing the unfair and difficulties in us because it should not be. It could also happen that because of so many rules we do not take notice of our neighbors. Because of so much correct theology we totally forget to live through faith. It may sometimes be less about what we theologically see if correct. Perhaps it is more about what is correct in God’s eyes.
It is then possible, to burst the borders of religious affiliation. The Good Samaritan is a good example of this. Also then country borders are not an obstacle anymore to stand by someone and help them.
To be full of love and empathy, tolerance for others is a way to be correct for others. Regardless from where we come and which faith we belong. For me the reason for this is God’s love. The certainty that God loves all people equally. Also those whom I do not like. He also loves me, regardless of how many mistakes I make. God loves us all. This certainty helps me to love others and to treat them more leniently. The reason for this is also God’s love. Love is not a one way street, it does not go in one direction. It is a type of belonging, which is not formed on anything else but God’s love. We are saved in this community of loving people. They connect us with all people in this community. Regardless where we are or who we are.
Our parents always remain our parents. Our family is always our family, and for many will remain something special for a lifetime.
However, Jesus created a new reality with the extension of the family. He showed us that we can see and love beyond our nuclear family. That people can love us, can go with us, who do not belong to the family. That we can look at people with love and perceive who they are.
Jesus brought a new quality of relationship into the world.