Things get dicey as we enter the long season of “ordinary time.” First off, there is the odd RCL practice of offering two different Old Testament reading tracks, which puts preachers in the position of choosing, presumably at the outset, whether to hear lessons based on an overarching weekly theme or to work through the story of the Hebrew people in some sort of logical order. That’s hard enough, but here on Proper 5 we also stumble upon a very works righteousness Jesus in Mark 3.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
So we become brothers and sisters of Jesus by doing the will of God? That doesn’t sound quite right. I thought it was all about faith and grace. I thought that we couldn’t pull off good works outside of the grace of God. Article XIII puts the fear of God in us quite elegantly, “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace…” (BCP, 870). We seem to have a classic “chicken and the egg” theological scenario brewing in Sunday’s lesson. Are we brothers and sisters because we do the will of God or can we do the will of God because we are brothers and sisters?
The “chicken and the egg” problem ends with a tasty farmer’s omelet and some spicy wing sauce, and this theological quandary follows a similar path. The end result of works righteousness and sola fide is ultimately the same thing: adoption into the household of God and the pursuit of the Kingdom. The question isn’t so much, “how’d we get here,” but “now what?”
In this brief interaction between Jesus, the crowd, and his family, we learn that the relationships of this world aren’t nearly as important as the relationships of the kingdom. Following the will of God affords us the opportunity to build kingdom relationships no matter where we find ourselves: at work, at church, in the school yard, in the car, or serving at a soup kitchen. When we treat others as brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God, i.e. beloved children of God just like we are, we are following the will of God for our lives by loving our neighbors as ourselves.