Sermon Seeds: Kin-dom

Sunday, June 9, 2024
Third Sunday after Pentecost| Year B
(Liturgical Color: Green)

Lectionary Citations
1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138 • Genesis 3:8-15 and Psalm 130 • 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 • Mark 3:20-35

Focus Scripture: Mark 3:20-35
Focus Theme: Kin-Dom
Series: Here I Am: Listening (Click here for the series overview.)

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

The incident occurs relatively early in his ministry. Jesus has achieved notoriety quickly and crowds form whenever his location becomes known. The gospel writer positions the ministry of Jesus as powerful, immediate, and disruptive. As Mary Ann Beavis describes this text, “The structure of Mark 3:20–35 replicates the structure of the larger section, which it concludes (1:16–3:19), in that it brackets a controversy (3:22–30) within an incident bearing on the nature of discipleship (vv. 20–21, 31–35).” In Mark’s account, Jesus remains on the move; he does things. There’s less emphasis on his teaching and preaching with more attention on his demonstration of the kindom. The words that accompany the action serve as commentary and framework for disciples to replicate the work and ministry of Jesus.

Still, the text reveals the startling truth that even Jesus had family problems. The dynamics that happen within familial relationships are part of the human condition. Evidence of this can even be found within the gospel passage highlighted this week. Family may be defined by blood lines of ancestry, secured by formal and informal adoption, or expanded to include ties voluntarily bound to be like family. “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” as an expression gets disproven by groups of people in small and large units as well as the biblical witness.

The humanity of Mark’s depiction of Jesus is poignantly conveyed by the evidence of strained relations between Jesus and the members of his biological family here and elsewhere in the Gospels (e.g., 3:21, 31–35; 6:1–6; Luke 2:48–49; 11:27–28; John 2:1–11; 7:3–5; 19:26–27), which seems to fly in the face of contemporary notions of Christian family values (see D. Petersen 2005). It is helpful to see the “relativization” of family relations in Jesus’s teachings (cf. Mark 10:35–37; 13:12–13; Luke 14:26; Matt. 8:21–22; 10:37; 19:29; 23:9) in the broader historical context of ancient philosophical movements such as Cynicism, and the Jewish utopian communities of Essenes and Therapeutai, all of which eschewed normal family ties in the pursuit of the good or blessed life together with like-minded persons analogous to the “new family” of disciples (see Barton 1994; Ahearne-Kroll 2001; Beavis 2006, 54–68). As Ahearne-Kroll (2001, 1) observes, “Mark challenges ancient notions of traditional family ties and uses the metaphor of family to construct his notion of what it means to live the life that Jesus advocates, presumably a ‘good’ life.” However, Mark’s Jesus later criticizes those who use tradition to circumvent the commandment to honor one’s parents (7:10–13; cf. Exod. 20:12; 21:17; Deut. 5:16; Lev. 20:9), and the house of Simon and Andrew (Mark 1:29–31), presumably accommodating other family members such as Simon’s mother-in-law, seems to serve as Jesus’s “home base” in Galilee (cf. 2:1; 3:19b). Peter’s wife is not mentioned in the Gospels, but 1 Cor. 9:5 implies that she travelled with him on missionary journeys, as did the wives of other disciples. According to Catholic legend, the early Christian martyr Petronilla was Peter’s daughter (Lev 2007).
Mary Ann Beavis

Family relationships are significant connectors for human beings, and the gospel writer does not dispute that. At the same time, when necessary, those connections may be subordinated when in conflict with the gospel mission. Conflict and opposition also serve as predominant themes in the Markan account despite the seeming popularity Jesus gains. As Racquel Lettsome notes, “The crowds from Galilee are joined by those from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan (Perea), and the area of Tyre and Sidon. Although mentioned cursorily, the expansion of Jesus’ following by people in these locales is significant in that it foreshadows the continued antagonism toward Jesus.”

It is not just the crowd that gathers during Holy Week that holds a suspicious composition…a mixture of friends and foes. As his reach increases and expands exponentially, Jesus attracts the curious, the needy, the hopeful, the doubtful, and the resentful. The crowds are like fish caught in nets, the haul contains more than what the fisher wants to bring home or take to market. It’s a mass movement, and that is a rarer path to lasting and meaningful discipleship.

This story begins by noting the impact of the crowd, but it is not the participants in the large gathering who prove to be problematic at this juncture. The challenge comes from those who presumably should be closest to Jesus and moves to the usual suspects—religious elites. Both groups seem to be in shocking agreement as they independently attempt to curtail Jesus activities and message:

Mark notes the size of the crowd (3:20). What follows is a Markan inclusio—one story “sandwiched” between the beginning and end of another story—that highlights the opposition. The first conflict comes from an unexpected place, Jesus’ own family. They believe that he is no longer in his right mind and are on their way to get him. Mark then turns the narrative lens to the “scribes from Jerusalem” who accuse Jesus of demon possession. They attribute his power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. The story shifts back to Jesus’ being told that his family is looking for him. Jesus redefines his family as those who “do the will of God” (3:35), which is precisely how Mark has depicted Jesus’ ministry. Howard Clark Kee argues that this new eschatological family is a break from the actual family unit that allows followers of Jesus to form a new kinship group. It represents Markan “eschatological existence,” which “involves the acceptance of present opportunities and obligations in view of the age to come” (Kee, 109). The opposition to Jesus has arisen from every possible vantage point. He is confronted by his family and will soon face betrayal from one of his handpicked apostles. The spread of his fame and the increasing number of people drawn to him potentially threaten to exacerbate the tensions between him, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the supporters of Herod. Eventually, Jesus’ ministry will catch the attention of Rome.
Raquel S. Lettsome

The gospel is disruptive to human systems of power and oppression. Some would insist that demonstration of great power is only the work of “demons” because power is recognized from that frame of reference only. When only exposed to the misuse and abuse of power, it is easy to consider power a bad thing. Yet, the Holy One sources power. Its use does not automatically imply manipulation, greed, or marginalization. Power can heal the sick and transform broken relationships. Power creates and recreates. Power brings God glory and benefits God’s creation…when employed for God’s purposes.

That power is at the center of the kindom of God. It presents as the agency of disparate people to come together and declare “Here I Am” at the call of God. It proclaims Jesus, neighbor, and stranger as sibling and friend. It recognizes that the connective tissue is not forged through DNA and that family traits transcend facial features and vocal tones. Rather, the Spirit does the work of nurturing the “kin” in kindom.

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
I had forgotten that feeling of well-being and sisterhood that pervades those meetings. This is not to say that the usual intercourse among people competing for office, attention, and power wasn’t taking place, but something larger was happening as well. It struck me that Black women may be among their freest, their happiest, and, in some ways, their most fulfilled when they are together in their organizations. A psychologist whom I once interviewed, Kathy White, used the term “beloved organization” when we discussed this dynamic; and it is the sorority, I am convinced, that is the most beloved of all. These feelings are even true, I have found, of many of those who are inactive, or have been disappointed or hurt by sorority life.
The challenge of the sorority, one made all the more difficult by the pathos of the Black women’s experience in North America, is to maintain that sense of sisterhood while striving, organizationally, for a more general purpose: aiding the Black community as a whole through social, political, and economic means. As one can see from the rules that govern the social movement organization, this idea can be a difficult one to realize. But the effort to resolve the tension between the goals of the organization, and those of the sisterhood, through strengthening social bonds within the context of social action has been an interesting and engaging experiment. One that can be seen as a model for Black organizational life, and which adds contour and dimension to the history of Black women in this country.
Paula Giddings, In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement

For Further Reflection
“Nothing is lost that we do not first see as lost. Visions born of fear give birth to our failing.
Visions born of hope give birth to our success.
What is possible lives within us, and it only remains for us to discover it.” ― Terry Brooks
“If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.” ― Confucius
“When we are caught up in the limitations of our human conceptions of kingdom, it means that we will perpetually struggle to remember that the whole reason that we say “Jesus is Lord,” is because by doing so it means Caesar is not. And if we forget this and forget that the gospel invitation is into a family then we will keep on ordering our lives in response to earthly powers and imaginations and will give away our power to the kings of this earth who promise to fortify our egos and keep us from having to awaken to the seashore kin-dom family. For God’s kingdom is a kin-dom where we’re invited to take up the responsibility to love and lay down our lives.” –Sara Wilheim Carbers

Works Cited
Beavis, Mary Ann. Mark (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
Lettsome, Raquel S. “Mark.” Gale A. Yee, Ed. Fortress Commentary on the Bible: Two Volume Set. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.

Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection
This sermon series invites us to explore the call to Christian discipleship and to examine our response. Invite the local church to consider the relational dynamics that move us toward the kindom of God and those that resist it.

Worship Ways Liturgical Resources

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (, also serves a local church pastor, public theologian, and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments on our Facebook page:

A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.