Genesis 45:1-15/ Matthew 15:10-28
We Are Family
We Are Family
While reading and meditating on today’s scriptures, there was a song that kept playing in my head, and I thought, ‘I might as well use this song.’ It is called We Are Family, which has been covered by a lot of artists throughout the years. It is also a gay anthem because it sings of chosen families.
“We are family. I got all my sisters with me. We are family. Get up everybody and sing. Everyone can see we’re together as we walk on by and we fly just like birds of a feather, I won’t tell no lie. All of the people around us, they say, can they be that close. Just let me state for a record, we’re giving love in a family dose.” This is the first verse.
We all have families, but not all of them have a loving respectful relationship with us. One truth I learned from the queer community is that sometimes, family is just our relatives and not family. Family is a group of people who accept and love us as we are. Some of us have relatives who are not family to us. This is the reason why, whenever we talk about God’s reign and us being God’s family, I have to think of the chosen family of the queer people. For queer people, family is those who accept them as they are and love them unconditionally.
What Defiles Us
Today’s scripture readings are both about family: Genesis, about Joseph’s biological family, and Matthew, about the family of God’s community. Today’s gospel reading starts from Jesus criticizing the Pharisees and then moves on to the Gentile woman demanding God’s grace. These two stories are connected because they both asks the question, “Who are God’s family?”
Jewish people thought they were God’s chosen people. But Jesus pointed out throughout his ministry that God’s people are those who do the will of God, not those who are chosen but don’t do the will of God. You see, a lot of Jewish leaders prioritized obeying the Law (Torah) above all. But Jesus taught us that merely obeying the Law doesn’t make one a good person of God. His analogy of what goes in and out of our body is a reference to the food restriction section of the Torah. They would consider eating forbidden food a great transgression to God, but Jesus pointed out and what comes out of us, such as evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander, is what truly defiles us. I would add to this list jealousy, hatred, and a condescending attitude. You get the point.
God’s Love Is For All
When we read the Gentile woman’s story in connection with this “it-is-what-comes-out-of-us-that-defiles-us” episode, it seems like Jesus’ insult to the woman about children and dog is just for testing the woman’s faith. But whether his insult was just a test or reflect his prejudice as a human, both he and we get to the same conclusion: God’s love and grace are not only for the Jews.
Both in the gospel and our recent studies of the Acts of the Apostles teach us that the gospel is for all people, as God’s love is. The woman knew that she deserved God’s grace as much as the Jews and got what she desired. God does not discriminate. God considers all of us family.
Joseph Reunites With His Brothers
The Gentile woman’s story is about faith, and in some ways, Joseph’s story is also. After plenty of adventures and dramas, Joseph was finally reunited with his brothers who had previously sold him into slavery. We skipped the part in which, before revealing himself to his brothers, he tormented them.
In today’s reading of Genesis chapter 45, he finally revealed his identity while fighting back tears. Well, he fought back tears as he was tormenting them too, by the way. This family’s stories in Genesis that feels more like a soap opera than biblical stories are in the Bible because of the theological interpretation of the stories. Joseph said to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” The ancient Jews understood the events of Abraham’s family in Genesis as a part of God’s will and plan for salvation, starting from Abraham’s family, then expanding to the Jews and to all nations.
One Family of God
God’s plan to save all nations and to make all peoples a part of God’s family is good news indeed, especially to those who don’t think they are worthy (or those who are not considered worthy by others). We know now that God united all of us as a family through Jesus Christ. This family is full of diverse people that God created beautifully, which can be challenging because we are all different. But God called this community of ours beautiful.
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” This is Psalm 133 that we read from today’s Call to Worship. We could add analogies that are more culturally relatable to us, but the gist is that the unity among diverse people of God is beautiful and blessed.
We are family. Everyone is our sibling and we are pleasant in God’s eyes. So, as the song We are Family says, “Get up everybody and sing” as an expression of joy and celebration. Let us acknowledge that we are all God’s beloved children without discrimination and see one another as our siblings. Let us be each other’s family of unconditional love, not like family members who are bad for us. Let us celebrate this family with joy, and by singing together Deep in Our Hearts.