The Gene Pool is Real

The gene pool is real.

I never really thought so when I was a young—all babies looked the same to me.

But when my sister-in-law had her kids, and we had ours

it all became clear to me.

I knew in an instant that the picture emailed to us of baby Zoe, first born to my sister-in-law

could not be mistaken for our child;

She didn’t look like me or my husband, but we could see in her moments’ old face the looks of her parents.

The gene pool is real.

My son, Joel, laughs at one of his own jokes with a little ‘hee-hee,’

just like my brother whom he rarely sees.

My cousins stood at my grandmother’s funeral exactly the same way:

holding themselves, cross armed, slightly hunched forward.

One side of my family has an affinity for religion and music;

the other is populated with educators and nurses.

Certainly some family traits are acquired through nurture, preferences learned over time

But others are so stoutly ingrained that it seems only nature could be responsible.

Some of these are the undesirable family traits and baggage that gets carried from one generation to the next.

It’s the perfectionist streak, or a quick temper that crops up even when you swore you wouldn’t do that.

It’s the addiction, abuse, and secret keeping that you work every day to overcome.

Oh, the gene pool is real!

And on top of this, most families have a tendency to meddle,

thinking that a blood relationship equals knowing what is best for others.

Knowing all this about families, I look with interest into Jesus’ family in our Gospel lesson this week.

Now Jesus’ gene pool is a little sketchy, given that the Holy Spirit got in there,

but he did have a mother and siblings.

And in our story for today, they are worried about Jesus.

They have heard stories that Jesus is sick, mentally deranged, perhaps even possessed by a demon.

So, like good family, they came to rescue him, bring him back to the safety of home.

Except that Jesus will have nothing of it.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Looking around at the crowd, he said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

He did not go home with them.

It seems like a classic teenage confrontation:

The child defies the parent, refusing to obey their rules or submit to their judgment

I’ll choose my friends! I’ll decide what I do, where I go, what time I’ll come home!

The psychological term is ‘individuation,’ the process by which a young person differentiates herself

from family and parent, and becomes her own person.

But Jesus is not a teen. He’s 30 years old.

This is not a rejection of family or Jesus becoming his own person.

Instead Jesus is creating a new definition of family.

Jesus’ idea is that family is bound by common mission rather than common blood.

Anyone who does the will of God, no matter who they are or where they’re from, is Jesus’ family.

It is a valuable distinction, because we often talk about the church as a family.

And though we haven’t got the same gene pool, we function like a family:

we support each other, share joys and sorrows, work together for common goals.

Sometimes churches function like families in not so good ways, too:

bullying, keeping secrets, being social clubs no one else can enter.

But at our best, we are family the way that Jesus talks about it:

as people who are brought together and held together by doing God’s work in the world.

That is what I saw at Synod Assembly, the gathering of Lutherans from around NE this weekend:

people brought together doing God’s Work with Our Hands.

It’s the folks from Grace, Hartford, who noticed that so many of their Friday night meal community

had a hard time getting jobs—

and at the same time, had an artist in the community was creating outdoor furniture of old wood pallets.

Through connections in the neighborhood, they have hooked up with a contractor and a carpenter

and now have a small business providing both the furniture and meaningful work for people who need it.

It’s the report from camp Calumet, which,

in the midst of the same cultural forces that cause congregations to shrink,

has had the busiest winter ever.

They are doing God’s will by welcoming kids from tough urban areas, families looking for renewal,

clergy doing continuing ed.

It’s in the meals shared and homes repairs in Charlestown, RI through Neighbor to Neighbor ministry.

Folks from St Andrew Lutheran church get paired with community needs

like painting a home or building a handicap ramp.

It’s in the 15 new congregations that are in the pipeline in NE, 2 of which were received at this assembly.

It’s in the $468,000 given to world hunger NE this year—the highest giving year ever.

Our church family is not perfect—it has its share of narrow vision and selfishness.

We had quite a bit of discussion at assembly about just compensation for clergy

and the concern of the impact of rising costs on congregations already stressed financially.

It wasn’t an easy conversation.

The church is a human institution, filled with people like you and I, subject to mistake and error.

And yet, when you go to assembly, you realize despite all of this:

we have an incredible family of faith in the New England Synod.

God is doing amazing things through this human institution of the New England Synod,

making us into a new kind of family

as we join together in Jesus’ mission of healing and justice in this time and place.

It was perhaps Bishop Younan of the Lutheran Church Palestine, our synod’s mission partner,

who summed this up best for me.

In a place where blood lines have devolved into a tribe mentality

that turns prejudice and violence against those of other religions or ethnicity,

Bishop Younan said, no church is too small to carry the gospel of love to the world.

He said this speaking from a church that shrinks every day as Christians move out of the Holy Land

worn out by the check points that keep them from school and work

afraid for their safety in a land of hostility.

Brothers and sisters, we don’t have to look to the Holy Land to know that the gene pool

as the basis of community is too limiting.

We know the blessings and the burdens of family.

But we have been washed in another pool; the waters of baptism.

This is the place where we are chosen, named and claimed as members of God’s family.

No matter what we do, the mark of this family never washes off.

In this pool we become part of a people with a mission: to follow the example of Jesus,

and to work for justice and peace in all the world.

In this pool we become empowered by the Spirit to do it.

We have a congregational meeting today,

and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to that vision that makes us part of Jesus’ family.

Our mission is putting “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” into action

Along with Bishop Younan, let us say,

no church is too small to carry the gospel of love to the world.

We are part of Jesus’ family, here to love with God’s love all of the human family.

Children’s sermon:

What was the fruit on the tree that Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden?

It actually doesn’t say, but commonly it is pictured as an apple.

But what if this is what grew on the tree? (Show apple Iphone)

Would that make sense?

The fruit stood for temptation: how is the cell phone/technology like temptation? (every year come out with a new one, temptation to use it at wrong times)

IS there anything inherently wrong with the fruit/technology?

Why might God put limits on something good?

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