Find Your Tribe

Scripture:  Mark 3:20-35

Storytelling often relies on tropes.  These are well established set-ups, plot devices, and structures that get used over and over again.   The reason why tropes become tropes is because they work incredibly well and they often connect with the viewer or reader of the story.  Over the past several years there was one trope that has been growing by leaps and bounds in popularity with no signs of slowing down.  That is the found family trope.  Found family or sometimes referred to as chosen family is defined as a literary and media device where a group of unrelated people bond through shared experiences, mutual understanding, and interpersonal connection, forming their own family.   The notion of this trope takes the old adage “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” and says, that is not true.   This trope has been around for a while.  For a long time it was most common in TV shows.  It was pioneered by the Golden Girls where the four women became a family for one another, it was then perfected by Friends, and now it is a commonly reoccurring theme in any show with a core ensemble cast.  The found family trope is especially popular in young adult fiction right now.  It has been a popular theme in movies as well.  In the Marvel cinematic universe Guardians of the Galaxy is all about found family.  One of the most successful and ongoing movie franchises of the past 20 years, the Fast & Furious franchise is completely based on the trope of found family.  As the main character, Dom (played by actor Vin Diesel) states “I don’t have friends.  I have family.”

The trope of found family has increased in popularity and is encountered easily in all forms of media today.  Since it has become more common, it means that it is clearly a story telling device that connects with people.  our culture as a whole, especially younger people, seems to value the concept of being able to claim your own family.   Evidence of this is how popular Friendsgiving has become.  This is an alternate Thanksgiving celebration where people gather with their friends instead of their biological family.  A poll in 2019 found that among Americans 18-38, 70% of them prefer celebrating a friendsgiving with their found family as opposed to a traditional family thanksgiving.  A 2021 Collage Group report found that about 40% of adults 40 and under celebrate Friendsgiving annually.

While it is more popular now, the trope of found family is nothing new.  In fact, as this scripture illuminates it is biblical.   Jesus had his found family.   This scripture shows that Jesus faced a lot of opposition during his life and ministry.   However, he did not go at it alone.  We can learn from this, and like Jesus we can aim a little higher than found family.  By seeking to do the will of God we can find our tribe.

This morning’s scripture comes from the time in Jesus’ ministry was really starting to kick it into high gear.  At this point he had done some exorcisms, he had done a lot healings, and he had managed to attract some disciples.   The reputation of Jesus was growing and the stories of his miracles were spreading.   It is in this morning’s scripture that there are some consequences to this.  First, this scripture opens up with claiming that Jesus’ family came to take charge of him because he was out of his mind.  We do not really get a lot of detail upfront to the motivations of Jesus family , but it does seem that Jesus family wanted to tap the breaks and have a bit of a intervention with Jesus.  However, before we can resolve the issue with Jesus’ family, the teachers of the law show up.

I do not think we always appreciate how much opposition Jesus found himself up against.  We often frame it as the religious leaders opposing Jesus.  I know I am just as guilty of this as anyone, and it is true.  The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus day opposed Jesus.  However, that gives us the impression that the opposition between Jesus and teachers of the law was a simple difference of opinion.  We do not appreciate that the notion of a divide between church and state is really recent in human history.  In Jesus era the religious leaders were the political leaders.  There was absolutely no separating the two.  The religious leader in addition to having spiritual authority, had real political power, and legal authority.  This means when they accused Jesus of being possessed which is why he can cast out demons, then it is not just envious slander.  It means if they found any probable cause or validity to their actions they would have been within their authority to act, arrest, and silence Jesus.   Based on his answer they could have charged him with violating any number of laws from the Torah, because again these were not just religious rules-they were law for the Jewish people.

The ministry of Jesus was one that really set to upset the status quo, and the people in charge tend to like the status quo to be undisturbed (because that is what keeps them in charge).  So it makes sense that the leaders religious, political, and otherwise would seek to control or tap down on the movement that was growing around Jesus.   This also does give some insight why the family of Jesus would come to get him, and start trying to plead the insanity defense early.   It easily could be that they claimed Jesus is out of his mind in a misguided attempt to protect him.  It was not needed, because Jesus was able to out maneuver the teachers of the law like he usually did.

After Jesus does this, his family is left kind of awkwardly waiting outside and when this is pointed out to Jesus, we get his response in verse 33-35: “Who are my mother and my brothers? He asked.  Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” It is important to note that Jesus is not rejecting or denying his birth family here.   While he is on the cross, Jesus makes sure that his mother is going to be taken care, and James the brother of Jesus was a leader in the early church.   What Jesus is doing here is lifting up the importance of chosen family.  The statement being made is what defines the importance of relationships is more than blood relation.  What defines the importance of a relationship is being aligned in what is most important, which for Jesus is doing God’s will.

The movement that Jesus started and that continues today is one that goes a little beyond found family.   A family is solely defined by individual relationships.  A family is a web of connections that people have with one another, and people fulfill specific roles within that family.  While the depth of relationship that Jesus and his initial followers had was on the level of that of family, the movement that Jesus was building was more than a found family.   This is because what bound the people together was more than just an interconnected web of relationships, what bound the people together was the shared value of doing God’s will: Of loving God with their whole being, loving their neighbors as themselves, and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God.   In anthropology, a tribe is a group of people bound by shared values and culture.   Jesus was creating more than a found family, he was creating a tribe of people singularly dedicated to doing God’s will.  Peter was one of those people that was sitting around Jesus in this morning’s scripture when he said, “whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”   Jesus lifted up seeking to do God’s will as a unifying factor above traditional family or cultural lines.   Peter then passed this message on when he wrote to the churches of Asia Minor in 1 Peter.  In the second chapter Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. “

While Jesus did find himself alone during critical moments in the garden of Gethsemane, it is worth noting that Jesus’ found family, the tribe that he was creating, was there for him. Multiple times Jesus found himself being opposed by the leaders of his time, and his people stood by his side.  If Jesus was going to be charged of breaking the Jewish law, then those who were right next to him could be found guilty of the same offenses.  Despite the pressure from the authorities, Jesus’ tribe stood by him.  They followed him.  Even when they did not understand, even when they might have been a little slow to catch on, even when they did not know what was going to happen next they followed Jesus.  Not only did they follow Jesus but they provided for him and they supported him.  When Jesus would go head to head with the leaders of his day who wielded real political and legal power he did so knowing that he had people who stood behind him and had his back.  In the gospel of John Peter makes this clear.  After several people turn away from the idea of following Jesus, Jesus ask those who remain “You do not want to leave too, do you?”   Peter replied for the group and said, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy one of God.”

Today there are people who have built entire social media platforms around the idea of sharing encouraging quotes and ideas.  There is one particular one that really stuck out to me not that long ago that said “Find your tribe, love them hard.”   In his ministry this is in part what Jesus did.   He pointed people to the kingdom of God in a way based in grace and love.  This was different than the status quo, it went against the system, but Jesus still managed to find his tribe, and Jesus loved them so hard that he laid down his life for his friends.  Once Jesus left the tomb empty and returned to his Father in heaven, the first Christians did the same thing.  They shared the good news, the welcomed all who received it.  They found their tribe and the early church was defined by how they all loved one another and sought to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

To this day this should still be what binds us together.   The church should still be our tribe.   In our increasingly polarized culture, may we choose what connects us as more important that what divides us.   Our family, our brothers and sisters, our tribe are those who also seek to do God’s will.  This should be more importance than any potential difference.  We come from different backgrounds, and it is fair to say that some of us probably do not see eye to eye on quite a bit.  And yet we have a common purpose, a common mission, and a common savior.  On these things we agree, and those beliefs we hold together can bridge all of our differences.  What unites us is greater than anything that could divide us because we are part of one tribe.

I also know that it is really tempting to focus on who is not here, it is easy to focus on how the pews are not as full as we remember or as we want.   However, look around.  The people who are here are here on purpose.  Just like you.  This is your tribe.  This is where you belong.   Like the early church may we love one another hard.   Just like Jesus could count on the support of his tribe when things got a little heated we should be able to count on another to be there.  We should be able to count on one another to have our back, to support each other, to encourage each other, and to cheer each other on as we strive to do God’s will.

This morning’s scripture reminds us that Jesus faced stiffer and more serious opposition than we often realize.  This scripture also points out that Jesus could face this opposition because he usually did not go at it alone.  He had a found family, a tribe, to support him.  It is my hope and prayer that you have found your tribe here.   Now that we have found each other, may we love each other hard. May we commit as God’s holy people to seek with all of our being to do God’s will.  As a tribe may we continue to work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *