“All in the Family”
Mark 10:2-16, Genesis 2:15-3:21
World Communion Sunday
October 4, 2009
First Christian Church
I can remember the date well…it was January 4, 1978. I was seven years old at the time. I remember on that evening, my Uncle Pablo came to the door and my mother answered. Pablo announced that he had come home from work to find his wife and his children gone. He found out that his wife of seven years had left him.
That night was the first time I had come face to face with divorce. For the next few years, Pablo, his wife and my three cousins dealt with all the lows that comes when a relationship ends. They divorced officially a year later, but the scars remained, and in 1982, Pablo’s ex-wife moved along with the kids to California. Being an only child, my three cousins were like my sisters and brothers. Now, they were gone. For Pablo, the pain was worse: his children were hundreds of miles away in another part of the country. While he would see them on occasion over the years, it would never be like it was.
I don’t have to tell many of you about the pain divorce can bring, especially when children are involved. Many of you have experienced it either in your own life or in the lives of your children. Sometimes the divorce is needed, such as a woman leaving an abusive relationship. But there is always sadness of the promise of love that ends in heartache.
Today is World Communion Sunday, a day when Christians around the globe celebrate the Lord’s Supper together as one. It is a reminder that in a world where there is division and barriers, we are called to be a people that communes together, that strives to live for others.
In the Scriptures we heard today, we hear a lot about the importance of relationships. In Genesis, we hear the story of Adam and Eve, where God creates a mate for Adam who was lonely. In Mark, Jesus makes a strong case against divorce and the destruction of relationships. He also adds in there that we are to come to Jesus as a little child or we can forget about understanding the kingdom of God.
It would be easy to use these verses to support some practices that are not very helpful to the wider community. For example, one could say that divorce is against God and force women to stay in relationships where they are being abused. The story of Adam and Eve can be reduced to a statement for heterosexual marriage and against same-sex marriage.
But I don’t think that is what either of these verses are talking about. What both passages seem to be saying is the importance God places on relationships. When you read the Genesis text, you see Adam in good relationship with Eve and both are in relationship with God. What has been commonly called the Fall causes the bonds of relationship to be broken. Humans would find it hard to care for each other and to have a relationship with God.
And that’s why Jesus isn’t so gung-ho on divorce. Jesus is not saying that divorce is a sin and should never be done, but that it is a reminder of the brokenness of humanity, that we frequently break our bonds and commitments with each other.
So what in the world do these verses have to do with those of sitting here today? Well, it has a lot to do with us especially in the arena of what I like to call “evangelism without words” or hospitality.
Hospitality is an important theme in the bible. Part of that comes from the fact that living in a desert meant that that treated strangers with kindness was a matter of life and death. If a guy living out in the desert and he refused to give water to some strangers who happened to stop by, you were basically digging their graves.
In the gospel text for last week, Jesus says that if anyone causes the little ones to stumble, they should start cutting off parts of their bodies or drown themselves. For Jesus relationship was important and the gathered community was doing things that caused others to lose faith, well, that was a serious thing.
Hospitality is a strange thing in that it asks us to be form a bond with people we have never met, or think less of. Jesus got annoyed when the disciples were shooing away the children. He welcomed the kids. He wanted a relationship with even children who can be, umm, kids at times.
How hospitable are you? How hospitable is this church? How we welcome the stranger tells speaks volumes about what we believe. Do we welcome kids? Do we welcome gays and lesbians? Do we welcome those who speak a different language or are of another race or background? What about those dealing with a disability? Some of you might be tempted to say that we do a good enough job, but I want you to really think about that. Look around you here at church. Does the layout of the church, the signage and other parts of the church welcome the stranger or do they say, “go away?”
I am reminded of the work of Deb Murphy who wanted to do something for children. I am excited to see her use her passion of the arts to tell the story of God and God’s creation to a new generation. That’s show hospitality to the little ones.
I want to end this with another story. During the summer of 1990, I had the chance to intern with the congressman that represented my district in Michigan. That meant that I got to spend the summer in Washington, DC working on Capitol Hill. I can say that summer rocked. Along the way, I met a few people that became friends. One such person was a guy named Dan who hailed from Arkansas. I remember one Sunday trying to figure out how to get to specific church in the Virginia suburbs, since I didn’t bring my car. Out of the blue, Dan allows me to borrow his car. I was kind of surprised that someone would trust me with his car, but he did. I was amazed by his hospitality. What I found interesting was that about twenty years prior to this meeting, we might have never met. He was a white kid from the South; I was a black kid from the North. And yet, here we were, and he was letting me borrow his car.
I never forgot his act of hospitality. Maybe that’s why we still are friends 20 years later.
Then there is the recent experience I encountered during my trip to Puerto Rico. We went to visit my mother’s cousin, Laura. She is in her late 80s and has some severe health issues. We had a good time visiting. After a while she wanted to offer us lunch. A neighbor lady had made some pastels, a Puerto Rican dish and she wanted to serve them to us. Now pastels are made up of plantain, which is a banana like plant as well as chickpeas and usually pork. They get wrapped up in banana skins and then frozen for later use. To serve them to us meant that Laura had to boil water to defrost them, a lot of work for a woman not in good health. My mother kept saying that she didn’t have to do this, but Laura insisted. In the end, my Mom and Dad, my partner Daniel and myself were eating the pastels.
Laura did not have to do this. She is not a healthy woman and all we wanted to do is just say hello. But hospitality was important to her, even in her state. She sacrificed her comfort to make us feel at home.
God calls us into relationship, even with those that we don’t know. God knows we will fall short, but we are still called into making friends with strangers.
So as we go back into our offices, schoolrooms and cubicles, let’s show some kindness and hospitality to others. As we come to church every Sunday, let us remember the stranger and make them feel at home. Let us welcome them to the Table, and let us invite them to the Feast. Thanks be to God. Amen.