3rd Sunday after Pentecost Mark 3:20-35

Why baptism? For that matter, why membership?

One of the many ways in which today’s readings invite us to consider our journey with one another and our relationship with God is the way of community.

The way of community.

Consider the reading from Genesis (3:8-15). This is a passage we have heard and read many times. Other pastors and congregations have wrestled with the questions of temptation and fall, enmity and apples. There is no minimizing the very human choices that our first humans have made, not least because everything about our relationships with God follows from that disobedience, that first shared sin.

But consider the reminder that Phyllis Trible gives us: “Whereas in creation man and woman know harmony and equality, in sin they know alienation and discord. Grace makes possible a new beginning.”[1]

Grace makes possible a new beginning. Because of our first sin, we become mortal, fully human, and are cast away from the Garden. But even as He sends the first woman and the first man out into the world. God sends them out – together. The God of relationship and community sends Eve and Adam out to be in community and in relationship together. The God of knowledge and understanding knows that we must have one another, that we have been created, still fresh from the making, to be one another’s companions on the journey.

And when, several thousand years later, the psalmist cries, “Out of the depths have I called unto Thee, O Lord,” in Psalm 130, the beautiful and agonizing De Profundis, this is also a call to community. It is a call to community because it is a reminder that when we are in the deepest despair, when we don’t have any answers and when we don’t know what to do – we are never alone.

And what happens when we call on God: “Lord, hear my voice!” What happens? “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” Hope happens.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. He will redeem Israel from all its sin.” And we are back to the Garden with Eve and with Adam and with the promise that even when we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, God is present, and God redeems, and God forgives. Grace.

Grace happens. As Paul tells us: “So that grace … may increase thanksgiving…. So we do not lose heart.” Grace may increase thanksgiving, so we do not lose heart. So we do not lose heart. Paul is writing to the whole community, the people of God at the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1). We are in community not only with God, and not only with all the people God has created. We are in community with all the baptized.

What does it mean, then, to be in community?

It means that in a sense, we create community by choosing to be in a community. And where that choosing comes from, where that deep longing to belong arises in us, that is in our very natures, made and formed by God. God made us to be in relationship. God made us to be in community. And when we choose, when we say Yes, we are responding to the hope and the trust and the joy of the knowledge of God within us.

I believe that this is the Word that Jesus invites us to hear and to take to our hearts in today’s Gospel reading. “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”

“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.”

Today we welcome Byron into this community, into the community of those baptized. And we will also be welcoming Byron into the community of the people of God at St. Michael.

Here are your sisters and brothers. Here we are, part of the family of God with Adam and with Eve, who learned even as they were being sent out from Paradise that God would send them out together. Part of the family of God with the psalmist who reminds us that when we cry to God out of the depths, we hope in the Lord, who forgives all our sins.

Part of the family of God with the Corinthians who are told, “So we do not lose heart,” because grace. Because of the grace and forgiveness and welcome and community conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, where we are united with Jesus in a death like his so that we are also united with Jesus into a resurrection like his.

Here is the community. Of God, with God, in God. Join us. We are your sisters and brothers. Amen.

[1] Phyllis Trible, “Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 Reread.” © 1973, Andover-Newton Theological School.