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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Are You My Mother?

2015-06-07 Mark 03 20-35 

Are You My Mother?


And Jesus replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Makes me think of Are You My Mother? the P.D. Eastman book my mom read to me. It's still popular at bedtime. Not mine. Here's the condensed version.


A mother bird sat on her egg. The egg jumped.

"I must get something for my baby bird to eat!" she said.

So away she went.


Inside the nest, the egg jumped.

It jumped and jumped and jumped. Until…


…out came a baby bird!

"Where is my mother?" he said.

He did not see her anywhere.

"I will go and look for her," he said.


Out of the nest he went.

Down, down, down! Plop!

The baby bird could not fly, but he could walk.

"Now I will go and find my mother," he said.


"Are you my mother?" the baby bird asked a kitten.

The kitten just looked and looked. It did not say a thing.


"Are you my mother?" the baby bird asked a hen.

"No," said the hen.


"Are you my mother?" the baby bird asked a dog.

"I am not your mother. I am a dog," said the dog.


"Are you my mother?" the baby bird asked a cow.

"How could I be your mother?" said the cow. "I am a cow."


"I have a mother," said the baby bird. "I know I do. I will find her. I will. I WILL!"


Just then the baby bird saw a big thing.

"You are my mother!" he said.


The big thing said, "Snort!"

"Oh no!" said the baby bird. "You are a scary Snort!"

The Snort lifted the baby bird up, up, up.

Then something happened. The Snort put the baby bird right back in the tree. The baby bird was home!




So, the baby bird is born, and immediately, the mother leaves to get food. Yet another working mother forced to choose between staying with her child and maintaining her employment. Eastman's books raised so many issues. Don't even get me started on Go, Dog. Go!


I reread Are You My Mother? last week, many times. Sentimental and secular, I wondered how it would sound if it were written with Christian Family Values. Specifically, I thought of the values of Jesus in today's scripture.


A mother bird sat on her egg. Out came a baby bird! "Where is my mother?", he said.

The mother bird said, "Here I am."

The baby bird said, "Who are you? You are not my mother. I will go and look for her."


OK. Is anybody else thinking, "That's just rude!" Feeling kind of weird about reading this version to your child?


"Are you my mother?" the baby bird asked a kitten.

The kitten did not do a thing.

The bird said, "Good. You have resisted your fallen nature and your sinful urges. You did not eat me. Therefore, I declare, you are my mother."

The kitten was confused.


Any of you finding this confusing and just wrong? Good. That means you're getting how upsetting Jesus was being.


The baby bird went on. He met a hen, a dog, a cow, and a sentient bulldozer. He declared, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."


While P. D. Eastman spins in his grave, if we apply Jesus's ethics and morals to the story, everything spins upside down. I'm pretty sure that was Jesus's point.


"Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?"


If you think Jesus was simply being rude to his family, think again. Jesus was being downright sinful. Because family was everything. This wasn't just a good idea, this was the law. Deuteronomy 27:16: "Cursed be anyone who dishonors father or mother." Jesus has just committed a grave offense.  No wonder his family pleads insanity on his behalf. The Bible says, "When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."


"Yes, yes, that's it. He's off his meds. We'll take him home now. Thank you."


But Jesus is defiant. He keeps on showing utter disregard for the Bible. He insults his family, most especially his mother.


(You may be wondering, "Where is Joseph during all this?" You're not the first. Some have concluded that, life expectancy being what it was, Joseph must have died young. At any rate, that Mary would come out of the house to publicly corral her male offspring is, best case, awkward.)


Jesus insults his family, and disrespects his mamma, and breaks the law, and is just generally embarrassing.


I know he's just trying to make a point. YOU know he's just trying to make a point, but couldn't he have made it more nicely?




Have any of you ever had your life turned upside down by a defiant child? And by ever I mean, this morning.


We had Vacation Bible School last week. I was super fun. Except, sometimes, the morning drop-offs. Now that our girls are past this stage, it's really entertaining to listen to grown-ups using logic to convince a 4 year-old to let go of their leg.


"Look [insert crying child's name]. There's your friend, little Obediah. And look what fun: Grapes! Mmm. See if you can catch one from over there."


Our girls are old enough that they don't cry and cling during morning drop-offs. The trick now is getting them to wait until the car has come to a complete stop. They don't embarrass us nearly as much as we embarrass them, which is really fun.


I look at Lily, and Chris and Katie, and think, "Fasten your seatbelts."


There will come a day, when Lily rolls her eyes and shouts, "You just don't understand me!" Door slams.


And there may come another day, a day when Lily sits down and says, "Mom, Dad, we've been talking. And by "we" I mean, of course, my 18 brothers and sisters. And we've decided it's time for you to download your brains into these robots we like to call, "Brad and Angelina."


Parent-child relationships are complicated. Sometimes we say things that sound small-minded and hurtful because we've got bigger goals to achieve beyond the nest.


Sometimes we have to go figure out who we aren't, in order to know who we are. And that's true of our religious family, as well as our nuclear one.


I always loved that: Nuclear Family. Yes, we produce energy, but we're also THIS close to a meltdown, or an explosion. Which was evidently true for Jesus and his nuclear family, too. What he said sounded small-minded and hurtful, even sinful. But by separating himself, he was generating power to achieve much bigger goals, strength for a way bigger spiritual family out beyond the nest.




Just then the mother bird came back to the tree.

"Do you know who I am?" she said to her baby.


"Yes, I know who you are," said the baby bird.

"You are not a kitten.

"You are not a hen.

"You are not a dog.

"You are not a cow.

"You are not a boat, or a plane, or a Snort!"

"You are a bird, and you are my mother."


The goal is NOT for our kids to leave the nest because we aren't there, but because we are. So that someday, they can come back and know, "You are my mother, you are my father, you are my sister, you are my brother."


The goal of Jesus was NOT to cling to his family, but to go out into the world and find us, wandering around and trying to figure out who we are. The goal of Jesus was and is to find us, and to tell us,


"You are not only a creature.

"You are not some machine.

"You are not a boat, or a plane, or a scary Snort!

"You are my mother, my sister, my friend.

"You are a child of God, and I am your brother."


That's a story we love to tell at church.

And it's an old, old story worth telling again and again.

The End. The Beginning.