Luke 8:19-21 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
In this passage we can discern different ways of relating to Jesus, of being with Him.
I would like to suggest some different components of being with Jesus: worship, theology, intimacy and essential to each of these: honesty.
We are gathered here now to worship. We praise, adore, express love. In worship we acknowledge the supremacy of God as the source and summit of our life. Through a form of words and ritual we bring our lives and service to God. We acknowledge God’s action in the world and in our lives. We bring to God our own and others’ needs which we express in trust, in hope, in urgency, aware of our own our contingence on Almighty God. Intercession itself is a form of worship, a recognition of our dependence on God.
Most of us here today are theologians, divines. A divine is one who approaches God, be it as a minister of the gospel or as student (at whatever level) of theology. We are here and now approaching God in the very special public setting which comprises a community of worshipers: scholars who now approach the object of our study with the praise, submission, supplication, and love, owing to Almighty God. In worship we also hope that the knowledge we have tried to find about God may become knowledge of God as a personal being who leads us in the paths of charity and service. This is a privileged moment when, together, we turn from the pursuit of knowledge, of grades, of professional expertise, to a desire, rising somewhere in the depths of our being, to know a Personal Being who loves, who delights, who fills not only our intellectual capacity but also our aspirations for meaning, happiness, love and peace.
The words and rituals of worship are vehicles with which we bring our deepest selves to God in intimacy. We do have to work to cultivate the interiority which is essential if we are to approach God in a way which goes beyond external words and rituals, which themselves can be little more than water off a duck’s back, passing over us without conveying the transformative grace of the Gospel. If we are to hear the word of God, if we are to keep it, if we are to do what it tells us, we must hear it in the depths of our hearts, unfiltered by the masks we so often carry. It’s possible that we sometimes need the protection of masks in daily life, but when we come before God it is time to gently lay them aside. St Teresa says that to pray is to spend time heart to heart with the One whom we know loves us: it takes time and practice to be still before God at the innermost honest core of our being, in simplicity and honesty, yet this is what we need to attempt each time we come to prayer, be it alone or in community. Sometimes in a flash we can be ourselves with God, our façade put aside, no pretending. This is a precious beginning: it may be painful to be that honest, but these glimpses of honesty can be worth far more than all great feelings of devotion or marvelous intellectual acuity. God loves us as we are, not the better model of the self which we would like to present to Him, to others – and to ourselves. We are who we are and it is fruitless to sort of plagiarize, creating ourselves from bits and pieces that we rather fancy we’d like to be, or that we think God would like us to be. God made us and what He made he sees and he loves.
In worship, intimacy, theology and honesty we are family, family of God in Jesus Christ. This is a family of which we are members by choice, not by the chance of birth: The choice first of all is God’s, who chose us, each individual one of us, in His Son. It is also our choice. We choose the one who first chose us. With the apostles we ask Jesus where He stays, and we choose to make our home with him as He makes his Home with us. We strive to hear the word of God and we are the mother, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ.