The Principle of Priority
In the early 70s two psychologists at Princeton University did a fascinating experiment. They called all the students at Princeton Seminary and scheduled them to come into their office. When they came in, the seminarians were given some tests, and they were asked to prepare a little talk. Half of them were asked to prepare a talk on the rather bland topic of employment at the seminary. The other half were asked to prepare a mini-sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan. You’ll recall that the story of the Good Samaritan is about helping strangers in need. This will become very relevant in a moment.
When their preparation time was up, each seminarian was asked to walk to a separate building. They were told that when they arrived at the other building, they’d give their talk and be evaluated on it. This is where things get really fun. These are the kinds of experiments you could get away with 50 years ago, but they’re not allowed anymore.
Because to get to the other building the seminarian had to walk through an alleyway, and lying in the alleyway was a person (played by an actor) who was coughing and moaning and clearly distressed and in need of some kind of care. And just to ratchet up the stakes a little bit more, the alley was only four-feet wide, so the seminarian would literally have to step over this person in order pass by to get to the other building. It’s almost a little sadistic, right? What are they going to do?!
Well, I’m sorry to report to you that only 40% of the seminarians (training to be ministers) stopped to help the person lying in the alley. The other 60% literally stepped right over them. And get this, there was no significant difference between those giving a talk about jobs in the seminary and those preaching on the Good Samaritan. 60% of those preaching on the Good Samaritan (a story about not abandoning an injured stranger) stepped right over the injured stranger without offering any help. The content of the preparation they did made no difference.
So, what did make a difference? What’s the difference between those who stopped and those who didn’t? Well, the psychologists had given them all kinds of spiritual personality tests as a part of the experiment. And they couldn’t find any correlation between how the seminarians believed or what they believed in and whether they stopped to help or not. So, beliefs and personality traits made no difference. What else could it be?
Well, there was one other diabolical little wrinkle in the experiment. Before the psychologists set the seminarians off down the narrow alleyway, they told them one of three things. Some of the seminarians were told, “It’s time for you to walk over to the other building now, you should have plenty of time to get there.” This was called the “low-hurry” condition. Some were told, “They’re ready for you now, please go right over.” This was called the “intermediate-hurry” condition. And some were told, “Oh, you’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You better get over there!” This was called the “high-hurry” condition.
And don’t you already know where this is going to end up? You know, right? It wasn’t what they believed in. It wasn’t how they believed. It wasn’t even the content of the values that they espoused and that they were actively thinking about that made the difference. It all came down to that ubiquitous and tedious ticking of the clock—how much of a hurry they thought they were in. 63% of those who had plenty of time stopped to help. But that dropped down to only 45% of those who were expected right now. And for those who believed they were late and in a rush, only one in ten stopped to help.
Jesus, in our scripture reading this morning, has been going back and forth across the Sea of Galilee and he’s had all sorts of trouble. He’s gotten into arguments with the religious authorities and even his own family thinks he’s lost it. He’s had particular trouble in the synagogues where he’s aroused a lot of anger from some of his detractors by healing on the Sabbath day. But now Jesus seems to have caught a bit of a break. A man, a leader of the synagogue, a man of such unusual significance that his name is actually recorded in the text—Jairus—has fallen down at Jesus’ feet and is begging him urgently to heal his dying daughter. What a change in fortune. What an opportunity for the mission!
As they make their way to Jairus’ house, a woman, a woman with a gynecological condition which was considered to be ritually unclean, which would have excluded her from the synagogue and from the life of her community, a woman who had been socially and spiritually marginalized and who had suffered physically without relief for 12 long years, a woman who had been bankrupted by her medical bills, a woman of such little importance and consequence that her name is not remembered at all touches Jesus’ robe as he passes by her in the crowd, and she is immediately healed. Jesus’ power has flowed into her, the healing she hoped for has miraculously occurred, it’s the happiest ending imaginable, and there is no reason for Jesus to interrupt his urgent trip to save the beloved little daughter of Jairus, the local dignitary, whose name has been remembered for thousands of years.
And yet even though Jairus must have been desperately anxious and rushing Jesus along as fast as he could, and even though there was no physical need that required Jesus to delay, and even though she was just an unclean nobody, Jesus performed the miracle of making time for her.
“Who touched my clothes? Who was it?” The disciples think he’s nuts. “What do you mean who touched you? It’s a crowd! Literally everybody is touching you! Let’s keep going.” Can you imagine the state that Jairus (understandably—his daughter is on the verge of death) the state that Jairus must have been in as Jesus stopped and started talking about his clothes? Can you imagine the pressure just to step over her and keep going?
The text doesn’t remember her name, which is all the more unfortunate because Jesus stops the crowd, in part, just to know her, to learn her name. Jesus could have let her sneak off unnamed and once again unnoticed. He had every reason just to let her fade into the background and to rush past her. He even could have made himself feel good about it—about being able to help her without needing to slow down. Isn’t that the modern ideal? But Jesus makes the time to know who she is, to look her in the eyes, to speak with her, and to remind this outcast woman that she was a human being, a child of God, and that she mattered to him.
Speaking of reminding people who have been thrown out that they are indeed God’s beloved children, we should all note that today the 51st annual Pride Parade is being held in NYC, and today is our denomination’s, the United Church of Christ’s, National Open & Affirming Sunday, which celebrates the incredible ministry of the more than 1,500 churches within the UCC who have passed an Open & Affirming resolution upholding the full humanity and the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life and leadership of the church. Glen Ridge Congregational Church has not passed an Open & Affirming resolution, but to those of you who are a part of our church and who are LGBTQ, allow me to remind you that God loves you just as you are and that you are an important and valued part of this community, not despite your sexual orientation, not despite your gender identity—you are valued and loved because of who you are.
Author Steven Pressfield’s Principle of Priority simply states: “(a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” Jesus makes a decision about importance and urgency on his way to Jairus’ daughter. Jesus shows us that nothing is more important than intimate human connection—nothing. Nothing is more important than making time for someone, for taking the time to let someone who has been pushed aside take the center of your attention and concern. Nothing is more important than addressing the specific needs of someone who has been told that they do not belong. Jesus shows us that a kind word, a human connection, and a welcome into community are more important to him than just rushing by. Jesus makes time. And where he makes time, he makes relationships.
On Wednesday we held a powerful community gathering here in our sanctuary—Jeb Burke’s Celebration of Life. There were hundreds of people here in person in the church and hundreds more watching online. This was in part because Jeb was taken away from us too soon—he was only 61-years old. But it was also more than that. I heard story after story after story about Jeb from some of you, and from his family, and from many of the hundreds of people gathered in this sanctuary on Wednesday, and they said that Jeb Burke was so special to them because he was a person who knew how to make time for others. He had hundreds of friends and he made time for all of them. I heard from a man who said that even though he wasn’t Jeb’s oldest friend, or the friend who lived closest by, or the one who got to see him most often, Jeb would still send him text messages just to say good morning and to brighten his day. He told me this with tears in his eyes. It meant so much to him that he had a friend who was made the time for him. Jeb, I learned, lived with a philosophy of owning each day as a new opportunity to live the best day of your life. And he filled his days as much as he could with being there for other people, brightening their lives, and making time for anyone who needed it. And so Jeb Burke leaves behind him a beautiful legacy—we remember a man who was never in too much of a rush to offer his love.
More than half of the seminarians in the low-hurry group, who were told that they had plenty of time, stopped to help. But in the intermediate-hurry group, who were told they were expected right now, less than half stopped to help. And only 10% of those in the high-hurry group, who believed they were late and in a rush, stopped to help.
Beloved, in the 50 years since these seminarians were experimented on, our world has only gotten itself busier and in a bigger rush. Many of us have plenty of everything we need, except for one thing: We live in a time famine. We’re over scheduled, over worked, over committed. Our day-to-day lives are drifting deeper and deeper into the chaos of the high-hurry existence all the time. Rushing is a constant state. And it is cutting us off from what should be our biggest priority—one another.
When we live overwhelmed lives, in which we don’t feel like we are in control of our time, Jesus and the psychologists tell us, it is difficult for us to find the time for human compassion and connection. If only being a Christian were all about avoiding sin! Wouldn’t that be easy? Who has time for any funny business nowadays anyway? But instead, being a Christian is actually about making time for what is most important and actually doing it. And how often do we really make the time?
As we rush from urgency to urgency, let’s keep in mind that there is something that is always more important—a core human value of connection to God and to neighbor, and through them to our true selves—to the lives we want to actually live, to the legacy we want to actually leave behind. Jesus was getting at this when he said to Satan in the desert, “One cannot live by bread alone.” We must make the time for that which is most important even it if takes some urgent “bread off the table.” You have God’s permission to be less good at just about anything in your life if it gives you the time and the energy to be a better friend.
Beloved, let’s remember that our allegiance is not to the clock or to the to-do list or to any other worldly thing. Our allegiance is to God. And our calling is to one another. It’s not a calling to go whooshing past one another, maybe making things better, but never making a connection. We are called not just to cure, but to heal, to pay attention, to smile, to touch, to connect, to learn a new name, to slow down, to claw back from our taskmaster world the minutes, the hours, and the days for the most important endeavor we will ever undertake—our love for one another.
The Church in the East
Rainer Maria Rilke had this to say about fathers:
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
Rilke’s poem comforts the father in me, the parent in me really, because it reassures me that there’s nothing wrong with being an exhausted father. Fatherhood should be exhausting at times because raising a child is a pilgrimage of our own self-discovery in order for us to model to our children a life that knows how to journey from the ordinary world of mundane comforts to the sacred center of life that God is calling us to. So, happy Father’s Day to all of the dads who strike the right balance between the dinner table and that far-off church in the East. It's not easy. It’s hard work. And you deserve a day to sleep in maybe and be appreciated certainly.
And there’s a truth here that goes beyond fathers and goes beyond children. Pilgrimage—a spiritual and physical journey from one place to another—reminds us that clinging to the places where we feel most safe is not always what’s best for us, or for our children, or for a world that needs the energy and, frankly, the risk of our movement—our pilgrimage, our perilous passage across the sea.
Ms. Opal Lee is known as the grandmother of Juneteenth. She is 94-years old. At 89 she undertook a 1,400-mile walk from Forth Worth, Texas to Washington D.C. to raise awareness and to gather signatures for a petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday. This was not some corporate–sponsored, cushy, comfortable trip. For much of the journey she slept at night on a mattress in the back of a Ford Explorer on the side of the road. But now, thanks in no small part to her work, Congress and the president have enacted a bill which recognizes June 19th, long celebrated in many Black communities as a day marking the end of slavery, as a public holiday.
So, I imagine that yesterday Ms. Opal Lee celebrated Juneteenth as never before, with her whole country behind her. And I pray today, after all her walking, her advocacy, and her organizing, that she has her feet up in some comfortable place where she can rest from the demands of her work. I imagine there is no better tired than the tired Ms. Opal Lee is feeling this morning.
And, so, we come to our scripture reading and Jesus asleep in the boat. We feel a little offended that Jesus might go to sleep on us, don’t we? Especially when we need him most. The disciples are certainly put out by it. They don’t just wake him up with a good shake or a friendly kick. Instead, they say, “Don’t you even care what’s happening to us? Don’t you even care we’re perishing here?” Which hardly seems fair. Doesn’t Jesus deserve his rest too?
Up to this point in Mark’s gospel Jesus has had a busy schedule—lots of travel, lots of people and crowds, lots of needs, and healings, and exorcisms, lots of disagreements with local authorities and even with his own family. It all leads to this striking line, “And leaving the crowd behind, they took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was.” Just as he was.
And how was he? He was exhausted. And (much like Ms. Opal Lee’s mattress in the back of the Explorer) all he had for comfort was a cushion in the back of a friend’s boat. Jesus was, after all, at the end of a long day, a human being like any of us. So, why should we resent his much needed and well deserved sleep?
And yet, while this sleep seems to be ordinary and expected, there is also something very not-human about this particular little snooze, isn’t there? I mean, can you imagine? The wind is gusting! Lightning is flashing and thunder crashing! The boat is being tossed on the storm! The rain is pelting his face and the waves are swamping the boat! The disciples are howling in terror! How can someone, anyone sleep through something like that?
There is something a little troubling about it, isn’t there? Exhaustion accounts for why Jesus falls asleep, but it can’t account for how he stayed asleep. How can you stay asleep at a time like this? Don’t you realize the danger we’re in? Don’t you see the danger you’ve put us in by commanding us to sail across the water in the dark of night when even the best of fisherman can’t watch out for a change in the weather let alone navigate around a squall. The risk you’ve asked us all to take, and you’re sleeping through it?
Antonio Machado remarked:
Humankind owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars,
and the fear of going down.
When the disciples wake Jesus up, he rebukes the storm! And then Jesus turns to the disciples and rebukes them. But he doesn’t say, “Hey, what’d you wake me up for anyway?” He simply asks, “Why are you afraid?” Don’t you know that fear is no good at sea? Why are you afraid?
Why are you afraid? Well, how much time do you have? Political unrest, nuclear proliferation, international warfare, gun ownership at record highs, gun violence exploding, culture wars, the rise of white nationalism, global climate change, mass extinctions, and a global pandemic that may very well have started in a lab just to name a few of the headlines I was scrolling through in my mind when I couldn’t get to sleep last night.
We think that the miracle is that Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind, and said, “Peace,” to the sea, and the storm was over. “And they feared great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” But maybe there’s another miracle that we miss—that Jesus was able to sleep through that storm. What is it like inside of Jesus’ mind that he was able to do that? The text says that Jesus brings a “great calm” to the sea. But before Jesus externalized that great calm onto the wind and onto the water, he first contained that great calm within himself—lying in a bath of cold water tossed around on a cushion in the back of a sinking boat, and sleeping like a baby.
Why are you afraid? I’m afraid because my boat is so small, the sea is so big, and the storm is so fierce, that’s why I’m afraid! I’m afraid because I’m a father, and I have a little boy to protect—it’s like my heart is running around on the outside of my body. And how will I keep my heart safe from forces and powers far beyond the ability of any one person to anticipate or control?
And so I’m afraid! Because I’ve got big responsibilities. And so I’ve got to play it safe. I’m a father. It’s only reasonable I play it safe. I’m not going to cross the sea at night. Are you kidding me? I’m not going to go looking for that church in the East. No way! I’m not going to walk from Texas to D.C. Forget it! I’m going to stay right here where I feel safest.
We think that the antithesis of faith is doubt. But I think the antitheses of faith are things like despair, pessimism, selfishness, and fear—the emotions and tendencies that we use (or perhaps that use us) to close the doors of our house and make small the circle of our connection to world. Listen again to what Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Jesus brings a heaving sea to a standstill with one word: Peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he says in the sermon on the mount. At the last supper he says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” When he returns to the disciples in the upper room after his resurrection, his first words are, “Peace be with you.” But how many of us have claimed our fair share of Christ’s peace? And how many of us have lived up to its implications?
How could Jesus have slept through that storm? I think the answer is that there was no distance—none whatsoever—between Jesus’ supper table and Jesus’ “church in the East.” Jesus had aligned the sacred center of his life with God. Jesus knew he was on the path that God had created for him and was calling him to. He knew that there would be storms all along the way, but he didn’t need to fear them—not because his boat would never sink, but because, when Jesus slept on that cushion, he did it as a human being exhausted by his calling on a pilgrimage to his destiny. If we want inner peace, we must also (as Howard Thurman often put it) turn the nerve centers of our consent over to God. It won’t make us invincible. It won’t even make us entirely fearless. But here is Christ’s peace—the deep peace of recognizing that your safest space and God’s biggest risk are one in the same!
Beloved, imagine an ending with me. Close your eyes and imagine a journey by boat from your safest place to that place which God has been or may be calling you to—to the church in the East, or to Washington, D.C., or to whatever “other side” it might be. You’re sailing through the dark of night, with just enough light that when you check back over your shoulder you see that Jesus is in the stern of your boat sleeping peacefully on a cushion.
A storm begins to brew. The waters get choppy and the wind blows. Then rain begins to come down in great, big sheets. Soon, the cold waves break over the rail. Of course, you’re afraid.
Now, imagine yourself crawling into the back of the churning boat and curling up on the cushion with Jesus. Imagine spooning Jesus for a little extra warmth, being careful not to wake him up—he’s sleeping so peacefully. Imagine taking his hand and holding it tight. Up in the sky, the lightning illuminates great towers of dark cloud, and thunder shatters the air all around you. You squeeze Jesus’ hand in yours and whisper up to the sky, “Peace. Peace. Peace.”
We Are Family
I love the month of June—the gateway to summer. And on June 1st, if it’s not up already, I put up my rainbow pride flag to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus Pride Month. So, I was putting out my pride flag on Tuesday and a guy was walking down the street and he said, “I like your flag!” And I said, “Thanks!” He said, “I grew up on this street, and the guy who used to live in your house was a minister, so I don’t think he ever would’ve flown a flag like that!” And I said, “Oh really? Well, I’m a minister.”
And he looked at me with a little bit of shock, and then he laughed, and then he looked at me again, and then he just kept on walking, and I could tell he couldn’t quite decide if I was joking or not. Now, I have no idea if our rainbow flag is the first to ever grace the front of the parsonage or not, but this fella just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a minister (or probably any Christian for that matter) in outspoken support of the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
That happens sometimes. We think we know how the world works, we think we’ve got people pegged, we think we’ve got everything figured out and ordered, and then God sends along a little spiritual wind and blows our assumptions all over the place. Sometimes when that happens, we go find the biggest paperweight we can and we drop it right down in the middle of our assumptions so that no wind, holy or otherwise, will be able to budge them and make a swirling mess of our ordered world.
You will remember that two weeks ago on Pentecost Sunday, when the wind came and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit many in the crowd shouted, “Oh, they’re just drunk.” And this morning we see that the Holy Spirit is at work again. This time the accusation is not drunkenness, but some are saying that Jesus has lost his mind. He’s crazy! Others say he must be possessed. But as we said two weeks ago, the intelligence of the Spirit doesn’t see any essential animosity between wildness and wisdom, between “craziness” and virtue.
All of us have felt dismissed and maligned at some point in our lives. At some point, there was some gift, some joy, some calling, some essential, important, beautiful part of you that you were given that somebody else either by cruelty or by ignorance stepped all over. Maybe they even shattered a few of your dreams—it does happen:
You showed the picture you drew to your teacher, and she told you that the sun is supposed to be yellow not green, and a little bit of your artistic voice got quiet. You tried out for the baseball team and the other kids laughed at you because you were too small to swing the bat, and you never went back out on the field. You got straight A’s in the sciences in high school, and you graduated valedictorian of your class, but no one would send you on to a university because you were just a girl, and some of the joy of your intellectual life turned to dust. You loved God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and came to feel a calling in your life to be a minister, but then somebody told you that because you’re gay, you’re not fit for ordination, and it felt like your spiritual home was pulled out from underneath your feet.
She’s just drunk! He’s just crazy! You’re just a woman! It’s just a phase! Whatever it may be, we all know to a lesser or greater extent how it feels to have this kind of pejorative thinking aimed at us. And we know that when it happens, we are in the best of holy company because Jesus faced the same kind of slander from people who saw the good he was doing and who just couldn’t accept that it was really good. They saw beauty and couldn’t accept it as beautiful. They saw faith and couldn’t accept it as faithful. They saw healing miracles and exorcisms and said, “It’s just by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, that he commands them.”
Maybe this is what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is. Part of the reason that people have worried so much about this particular sin—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—is that Jesus says it’s unforgiveable—which is troubling. The other part of the reason we worry about it so much is because no one can figure out if they’ve done it or not. It’s a little ambiguous. And to be clear, no one really knows what the sin against the Holy Spirit is. It’s all interpretation. Even the Gospel writers can’t agree on exactly when Jesus said this, how he worded it, or what he intended to mean by it.
But maybe it’s just this—dismissing the dreams, the calling, the movement of the Holy Spirit within someone else or maybe even within yourself. Last spring, we planted some seeds at the edge of the yard and the neighbor’s landscaper got confused about where the property line was and just came and weedwhacked their little heads off just as they were lifting their faces to the sun for the first time. Because anything that tries to stick its nose up above the grass, must be “just a weed.” To try to kill God’s new thing, to look at a good thing and to assign it the worst motivations, to become a fundamentalist about the height of the lawn and to mow down anything the Spirit might be raising up—maybe that’s the sin against the Holy Spirit.
This brings me back again to that Rainbow Pride Flag I put up at the beginning of Pride month. It’s seems to me that human sexuality, in all its beauty and diversity, is a good gift of the Spirit. We’re often taught that sexuality dwells at the other end of the moral order of things—that’s it’s low, base, dirty, bestial, shameful, the very opposite of holiness. But this is so deeply pessimistic and dualistic and ultimately spiritually harmful to us. The intelligence of the Spirit sees no necessary animosity between human sexuality and human spirituality, between incarnation and sacredness. In fact, there is between them an intimate connection.
Human sexuality is not just an ailment to be corrected, an urge to be denied, or a distraction to be overcome. Our sexuality is a part of our very soul, a part of the good way God created us, a gift (in part) for reproduction but also for art, for culture, for dance, for pleasure, for beauty, for family, and, obviously, for love. When I say that I am a child of God, and I believe I am, that identity doesn’t erase the gifts that God has given me in my creation, I believe it highlights them. I am child of God! And I am fearfully and wonderfully made—gay, straight, male, female, cisgender, transgender, black, white—these are the marks of the children of God, these too are gifts of the Spirit!
When we pathologize human sexuality in general or when we pick on the consensual, mutual, loving sexuality of some individual person or group of people, we do great harm—a harm that is born out in depressing statistics: a survey by the Trevor project recently reported that 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously contemplated suicide in 2020, as just one example of the pain of being rejected at the soul level.
If blaspheming the Holy Spirit and her gifts and works is an “unforgiveable” sin (and just to be clear, I think Jesus is being hyperbolic when he says “unforgiveable”), but if it is an “unforgiveable” sin, then what is it when we’re silent in face of bigotries and oppressions like homophobia that mow down the precious and developing gifts of God within a human soul?
It’s not enough, in my opinion, for me or for any Christian simply not to participate in the social denigration and spiritual abuse of LGBTQ+ people. We cannot appear neutral. We must raise our voices and raise our flags and raise our children in ways that assures the LGBTQ+ community inside and outside our walls that they too, just as they were created, are the beloved children of God. Silence on this topic is a sort of quiet blasphemy.
There are some individuals and some churches who fear that being outspoken on this point will earn them the scorn of their neighbors. Or they’re afraid if the rainbow flag goes up, what kind of people might show up at the door looking to join the family? What if queer people and queer families really show up and everyone says, “Oh, that church? They’re just the gay church.” How could we live with ourselves if some of our neighbors thought we were all a little queer? At times like this, I think it’s important to remember how queer and strange and crazy people thought Jesus was. He earned himself those badges of honor, in part, by hanging out with those who were considered outcasts and by welcoming them into the family with open arms.
Some people describe Jesus as the defender of conservative Christian family values. Other people say that Jesus fully rejected the tradition of the family. I don’t think either of those positions is quite right. Jesus certainly had family values, but they were odd family values. He appears to have been unmarried and unencumbered by a family—same for his disciples. Jesus encourages the disciples to leave their families behind. James and John abandon their father in the fishing boat to follow Jesus’ call. When another follower’s father dies, Jesus advises him not to go home to attend to the burial—follow me and let the dead bury their own dead, he says. Jesus says that he has come to set family member against family member and to make families into foes. And he says you cannot be a disciple if you do not hate your parents, your siblings, your spouse, and your children.
Certainly, Jesus is challenging allegiance to the family as most of us know and define it. But Jesus isn’t rejecting family. He’s upending it and expanding its boundaries. Who are my mother and brothers and sisters, he asks? You are. We are. Jesus offers us a new definition of family not limited by blood or tradition that offers a home to those who like him, have been misunderstood and rejected by their families of origin. This to me is the ultimate of Jesus’ family values—not the white picket fence, not heteronormative marriage, not the 2.1 children or whatever—but the idea that we as Jesus’ followers are a family by choice, open to all. That’s a wonderful thing! But it comes with a caution as well: Woe to us, if as representatives of Jesus’ chosen family, we try to dismiss, to restrain, to suppress, or to dodge what the Holy Spirit is doing in our community and who she brings to our doors.
As the Sledge Sisters recorded it in lyrics that have inspired chosen families of all kinds for the last 40 years:
We are family!
I got all my sisters with me!
We are family!
Get up everybody and sing!
All of the people around us, they say,
“Can they be that close?”
Just let me state for the record,
We're giving love in a family dose!
We are family (hey, y'all)
I got all my sisters with me!
We are family!
Jesus the Imagination
Thoughts and dreams, musings and meditations