Welcome to this online service of worship for Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial churches. After the high emotion of Easter, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, we return to our reading of Mark’s Gospel. Today we give thanks to God for all our blessings and consider what it means to be ‘family’.
Call to Worship
We come before you, God,
We come before you, God,
We come before you, God,
We come before you, God,
Hymn 180: Give thanks with a grateful heart
You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong, you are great.
You are the Most High,
You are almighty.
You, Holy Father, are
King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One,
Lord God, all good.
Lord God, living and true.
You are love, you are wisdom, you are justice
You are humility, you are endurance,
You are rest, you are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are beauty, you are gentleness.
You are our guardian and our defender.
You are courage.
You are our hope.
You are our faith,
Our great consolation,
Our eternal life.
Great and wonderful Lord,
we give you thanks.
Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, we pray as our Saviour taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.
I will bow down towards your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me. The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures for ever –
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Mark 3: 20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’
He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’
‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’
HYMN 624 In Christ there is no east or west
Grant, O Lord, that in these words, we may behold the living Word, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been involved in a family dispute? I suspect we all have, to some extent. Perhaps not a serious breach, if we’re lucky, but there can hardly be a family in the land which has not seen quarrels, misunderstandings, jealousy or grudges. Even the Royal Family, it appears, from recent news stories. If you’ve been unlucky there may have been a temporary estrangement or even a complete breakdown in family relationships – not always a bad thing if your family experience has been bad. It is undeniably hard to live and work together with our fellow human beings, even those closest to us. Our lives can sometimes seem to be full of divisions, at home or at work; and that’s before we even start to look at the differences of opinion in our nation and in the world. Some people seem to enjoy such discord – we sometimes find ourselves wondering if our family or our neighbours have indeed taken leave of their senses.
The story Mark tells here still seems strange to us though. Mark talks of Jesus’ family thinking that he, their beloved son and brother, had taken leave of his senses, setting out to restrain him and then finding themselves apparently disowned by him.
What is going on? Do you think that the family had good reasons for thinking that Jesus had taken leave of his senses? Remember that this episode comes at the start of his ministry. As far as we know, a precocious childhood episode in the temple notwithstanding, Jesus had led a quiet life in a quiet corner of Israel, presumably working in the family carpentry business and, as the oldest child, looking after his mother and siblings, a very real family responsibility in those pre-welfare state times. But now he had given up the family business and become a wandering preacher, with no place regularly to lay his head and presumably no income. To make matters worse, he was consorting with a rather unusual bunch of people – strangers, fishermen, tax collectors. Crowds of people were flocking around him. He was attracting enough attention that important people had travelled all the way from the capital to, what? Accuse him, trap him, even arrest him, perhaps? He had rejected society’s expectations, thrown away his security and was risking even his personal safety. No wonder that the family decided to try to ‘restrain him’. I think I might have done the same thing. What would you have done?
And what was Jesus’ reaction to his family’s stance? He asks who his mother and brothers are. Have you ever questioned your relationship to your nearest and dearest? My children, at least in their teenage years, occasionally wondered out loud if they really were related to their parents as we seemed to have quite different interests and priorities from their own. Luckily, that stage passed. But Mary, his mother, and his brothers, must have been infuriated by these comments of Jesus. He pointed to the people sitting around him and claimed them to be his nearest relatives.
What did he mean? Was he being as cruel to Mary and his family as it seems? Clearly not, since there is no record of a long-term break with his family; we know that Mary stood at the foot of his cross and that he arranged for the beloved disciple to take care of her. They must have realised that this message was not aimed at them so much as at his listeners. Maybe that means the message is also for us?
Jesus was redefining what family means. He was describing ‘true kinship’ as William Barclay says in his commentary on this passage. True kinship lies in common experiences and common interests. The disciples were all from different backgrounds and perhaps had very different interests and experiences. But they shared a deep interest in what was to become known as Christianity and they had decided, individually and as a group, to devote their lives to Jesus. They also had a common goal, to win people to faith in Jesus Christ. Those shared interests and goals should be what also define us as the people of God in this area. Do they?
Jesus was calling his followers and his family, was calling us, to a new way of being human. He invites us to think about what it means to recognise, to know and to do God’s will. He was not abandoning his own family or asking us to abandon ours but he did set out to shake our deep-seated beliefs, our cultural traditions. If this passage disturbs you and makes you think, that’s because Jesus meant it to. He was making it clear that Christians should let go of anything that gets in the way of complete devotion to God and should prepare to take risks, to be uncomfortable, to be accused, perhaps, of having taken leave of their senses. The prize for that is the fellowship we find in God’s family, the greater love that we are urged to show for our neighbours, the joy of rebalanced personal relationships with our own family and friends and, of course, the promise of eternal life.
In Christ shall true hearts everywhere
their high communion find,
his service is the golden cord
close-binding human kind.
Come, brothers, sisters of the faith,
whate’er your race may be:
whoever does my Father’s will
is surely kin to me.
Lord, we approach you in prayer in thanksgiving for your unfailing love and your faithfulness. We thank you for the gift of your Son and for the promise that we are children of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ and soulmates of the Holy Spirit. We commit anew today to doing our best to discern your will and to fulfil it.
We commend to your care all those who need your help.
You had to leave your home and family to fulfil your ministry and you travelled and died far from home. We bring before you now all those who have been driven from their homes through war, famine, natural disasters or fear. Especially we remember those in Palestine, the Rohingya from Myanmar and the Uighurs in China. Shelter the refugee in your arms.
We remember also economic migrants to our own country, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and other places – help us to make them welcome in Scotland, in your name, extending the hand of Christian fellowship to those who need our understanding and sympathy.
You were mocked, humiliated and degraded, condemned to a shameful death on a rubbish heap. Extend your pity then to those victims of human trafficking, condemned, even in this beautiful city of ours, to slavery and degradation. Forgive us for permitting this to happen, show us how to end the evil in our midst and be with those unfortunates in their torment.
Lord Jesus, you lived on earth as one of us and you understand the challenges we face in life, and the fears and frailties that make us vulnerable. We ask also in our intercessions for those known to us who need your help:
We remember the key workers who have played such a heroic role in keeping us safe in the last year. Health and social care workers; food growers, suppliers and shop workers: water and energy suppliers; police, firefighters and other emergency responders; local authority workers, faithfully collecting our rubbish week by week and keeping our roads safe; teachers and all in education, throwing themselves into learning new skills in order to safeguard the future of our children and young people; politicians and leaders who have worked harder than ever to master a new brief and to make the right decisions. Be with them all as they cope with the stresses of an extraordinary year and help them to feel our love and our support.
We remember the sick and those who are unable to share our fellowship this morning. We remember the lonely, those who have no close family or friends and who do not know that you love them, and that we do too. We remember those who are dear to us, who need our prayers – our own families, friends with whom we have lost touch, people struggling with financial, work or relationship problems. Grant that they too may experience the comforting touch of your love.
In silence now, we name in our hearts the individuals who matter to us and who need to experience the reality of your love today.
May all those we have named find in Your family, the family of faith, acceptance, support and courage to face another day.
We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ
Hymn 685: For everyone born, a place at the table
Jesus came down that we might have love.
Jesus came down that we might have peace.
Jesus came down that we might have joy.
Let us go forward with hearts comforted by the promise of our faithful God.
Let us live knowing that we are beloved members of God’s family
and that love and peace and joy will be ours.
This service was prepared by Pauline Weibye, Session Clerk at Craigmillar Park
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayer of thanksgiving is based on a prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Reflection based on William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark (Edinburgh, 1997)