Family Ties

Key Text:  Mark 3:31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.


A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”


And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”


And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!


Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Way back in the 1980’s (I know that is ancient history to some of you dear readers) there was a TV sitcom called “Family Ties” that starred a very young actor named Michael J. Fox.  Anybody out of there, of a certain age, that remembers that?

It was a very popular show – with a catchy premise.  The character played by Fox was an intelligent, attractive, extremely conservative young man – who happened to have a couple of intelligent, attractive, ex-hippies for parents.

Let the laughs begin, right?

It got at the heart, in a very light-hearted way, of how family ties somehow survive, even in the midst of lots of mayhem and disagreement.

Well, it may seem a little irreverent of me to compare this episode from Jesus’s life with a sitcom from the eighties but, so be it, I am – for better or worse – a child brought up on television.  I couldn’t help but make the comparison here.

Jesus’s family ties are strained, to stay the least, by his new found calling.  No more carpentry work for him – now it is preaching, and teaching, and healing, and casting out demons – that’s the order of the day.  No wonder his own family struggled a bit with his new found calling.  Only Mary and Joseph could fully appreciate that this was his destiny.  After all, they were there in the beginning, when the angels announced what was to come.

Still, even they perhaps struggled a bit with facing the harsh reality that Jesus was meant to live, and die, for the whole world.   Mary especially knew what it was to have the prophecy unfolding that her own heart would be “pierced” as it all unfolded as it should.

It must have been difficult in some ways to hear Jesus say, when told his family was waiting for him, that the crowd was his “mother and brothers” and that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

In some ways, it was as if he was turning his back on his own “family ties.”

But – little by little – they would come to understand and so must we.

The family of God extends far beyond bloodline.  We are all God’s children – we are all part of the family – in a way.

And the way we most deeply express that particular “family tie” is by doing God’s will.

It isn’t always easy.  In fact, in rarely is.  But it is our destiny… if we choose to accept it.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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