Who's Standing Outside the Nest?
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 7 June 2015
Proper 5 Year B: 1 Samuel 8:4-20; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
What do birds & squirrels have to tell us about today's Gospel?
As we gathered outside church last Sunday, fanning away a couple of inquiring gnats, Charlie commented on how few gnats we have had. This led to speculation about our indebtedness to God's wonderful creature, the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which looks like a Mockingbird, flits around to catch insects, & makes high-pitched sounds like baby birds1.
That bird & others flitted in my mind last week as I studied our scriptures for today, especially Jesus asking “Who are my mother & my brothers?” I spotted an insight into this familiar Gospel one morning when singing birds distracted my thoughts as I read Morning Prayer.
The birds reminded me of a time at Honey Creek when I wished I had my bird book as I went outdoors from the Chapel. My bird book tells what a bird looks like, where it lives, its eating habits & its sounds.
I can recognize birds such as the Blue Jay – it's blue, easily seen & noisy
the Cardinal – it's cardinal red all over
the Brown Thrasher – it's brown & thrashes stuff around on the ground.
I know a Red-headed Woodpecker's head is red. The Red-bellied Woodpecker confuses me: ITS head is red. Its belly is NOT.
At Honey Creek, I couldn't remember some birds' names. Although I didn't have my bird book, I was strolling with a knowledgeable resource: The Rev. Peter Ingeman (some of you will remember his supplying here in 2013). He was commenting on some of the birds nearby & identifying birds singing. I remember:
I see a bird & ask him. He identifies it. I can't call to mind the next bird I see & ask: “What is that black bird that has bright red on its wings?”
He says: “A Red-winged Blackbird.”
I hear an interesting chirping I've heard often & ask: “What bird is that?”
He says: “A squirrel.” ! ! !
All my life I'd not noticed squirrels making sounds. What I thought was a bird is a 4-legged mammal. With my narrowly focused mind, I made some assumptions.
We hear assumptions in today's scriptures. In our Gospel people assume what sanity is & what makes a family.
We hear assumptions in our lesson from Samuel about what makes life easier & secure.
Our lessons remind us how we humans tend to narrow our perspective. We want to be like other people. We want other people to be like us. We want a king like everybody else despite the freedom it will cost. The people with Samuel reject God. Some people around Jesus reject Jesus.
Jesus does not reject his family: he expands his family. Jesus is like my bird book: he helps us recognize our brothers & sisters by their behaviors, their living habits. Their habitats help us know where to find them.
While his mother & brothers wait outside, Jesus challenges our assumptions. Jesus broadens our perspective so that, as Paul says to the Corinthians, grace may extend to more & more people to increase thanksgiving to God's glory.
We hear grace that extends to more & more people to God's glory in the biographical sketch of Pope John XXIII which you can read at the Mission Saint Clare website (link at Calendar June 4 Commemoration):2
Elected pope when he was almost 77, many expected him to serve as a place-holder, like we might expect of an interim university president. “(H)e astonished the church & the world...”
With his energy & reforming spirit, he not only expanded & internationalized the College of Cardinals, he called the first ever diocesan synod of Rome, revised canon law, & called the Second Vatican Council to revitalize the church, to renew the church's life & its teachings with the goal to reunify Christianity.
In his openness to Christians not in obedience to Rome [that's us], he he invited Protestant leaders as observer. This astounded many. “(O)ne horrified conservative said to the Pope: 'But Your Holiness, Protestants are heretics!'” Pope John XXIII replied: "Do not say, 'heretics,' my son. Say, 'separated brethren.'" The man replied: "They are in league with the devil!" "Do not say, 'devil,' my son. Say, 'separated angel.'"
The prayer for the commemoration of Pope John XXIII says: “Almighty God, whose will it is to heal all division & discord among those who call upon the name of your Son: We thank you for the good will shown in your servant John, & we pray that we may always be ready to hear our fellow Christians with humility & a willingness to learn, & may also speak the truth in love, to the healing of faction & the renewed witness of your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord...”
- What healing of division & discord is the Holy Spirit calling us to do?
- What “separated brethren" do we see in our neighborhood when we look down Broughton Street?
- Do we see “those people”, “those poor people” or do we see brothers & sisters in God's family whom we do not yet know?
What if our separated brothers & sisters are like Jesus' mother & brothers, waiting outside because there seems to be no room for them to squeeze in here?
Who are OUR mother & brothers?
Who is it we look at without identifying
as a brother or sister in Christ?
What do we hear so that we think of them like I did that non-bird? Do we assume a totally different species lives here rather than the 2-footed mammal, the child beloved by God as we are?
What new perspective do we need about our neighbors so that grace may extend to more & more people to increase thanksgiving to God's glory?
Alsop, Fred J. III. All About Georgia Birds. Birmingham, AL: Sweet Water Press. 1997.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Second Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Farran, John Jr. An Audubon Handbook: Eastern Birds. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. 1988.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Kiefer, James. “Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) 4 June 1963.” Accessed: 4 June 2015. http://www.missionstclare.com/english/people/jun4.html
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 10 April 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Expanded Ed. Revised Stantard Version. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.
Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. 4th Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1980.
La Sacra Bibbia Versione Riveduta. Dott. Giovanni Luzzi. Roma: Società Biblica Britannica & Forestiera. Libreria Sacre Scritture Roma. 1990.
1 Note re bird identifications in this homily: I mainly refer to Alsop, Fred J. III. All About Georgia Birds; Farran, John Jr. An Audubon Handbook: Eastern Birds, and Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America.
2 Kiefer, James. “Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) 4 June 1963.” Accessed: 4 June 2015. http://www.missionstclare.com/english/people/jun4.html