June 6, 2021
"All in the Family"
Pastor Scott Landis
After all the turmoil of the Sixties, the Nineteen-Seventies began as a much hoped-for breath of fresh air, a relief of sorts, and a desire to get our nation back on track again. The idealism of the Sixties began to wane almost as quickly as the ever-present protests. And hopes of altruism, peace, and love quickly dissipated as what became known as the “Me-Generation” arose in its place. The Seventies, with its rapid advances in computer technology and cell phones right around the corner, saw a whole set of new problems emerge. Society seemed to become increasingly isolated. The focus was on climbing the ladder, making lots of money as relationships broke down further and the concept of family began to shift and take on new meaning. I realize my perspective is based on my experience on the continental-US, but I doubt I’m all that unique.
If our television sets were thought to be iconic of the Seventies, the television show that ran the entire decade and for several years topped the Neilsen ratings was “All in the Family.” For those who do not remember (and I realize I’m dating myself), this was a sitcom that seemed uproariously funny in the moment, but kind of painful as I think about it years later. All in the Family addressed many of the topics that were not raised in polite conversation – and therein lay its genius – in shock value.
Set in Queens, New York, it featured Archie Bunker (patriarch of the family), Edith (who Archie often referred to disparagingly as “Dingbat”), their daughter, Gloria (who was peace-loving but equally as stubborn as her father), and Michael (Gloria’s husband, whom Archie called “Meathead”).
Michael and Gloria lived with Archie and Edith to save money while Michael completed his education. Archie despised Michael and Gloria’s progressive values just as much as they despised his innumerable prejudices and bigotry. Edith tried repeatedly yet unsuccessfully to keep peace in the family. In short, All in the Family portrayed a classic example of family dysfunction – a house divided against each other. While it was hysterical to watch, it may have made you cringe as you heard language that was all too familiar – perhaps mimicking your own life situation. [Pause]
There is a lot going on in the story that we read today as Jesus tried to do the work he felt called to do. First, he was being pushed beyond the brink as the demands on his time to heal, comfort, and exorcise demons were endless. Second, he was accused by the religious leaders of being in league with Satan as his so-called “magic,” as seen in his exorcisms, could not possibly be of God. And third, his biological family felt slighted since he seemed to have all the time in the world for others but didn’t give them the time of day.
While very different from Norman Lear’s “All in the Family” the relational dynamics are kind of similar and painful to read as those trying to live up to Jesus’ example. Something with which we MAY be able to identify given our own experience of “family.” [Pause]
I’ve discovered in recent discussions that the whole concept of family – or `ohana as we say here – raises some very different reactions by folks. Depending on your life experience `ohana (family) can elicit feelings of warmth, nostalgia, and a host of memories that are beautiful to share.
Others hear the word and remember very differently and often find the whole notion of family too painful to revisit. I cannot possibly, in the course of a brief sermon, cover all the challenges and benefits of family dynamics. I will leave that for your own personal reflection. What I WILL do is highlight the words of Jesus when he was confronted.
The words may sound harsh – initially. Jesus’ mother and brothers stand outside the house and request some time with him. Jesus responds in what appears to be a rather dismissive manner, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” And looking around at those seated in front of him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you – these people are my mother and my brothers.”
That always really angered me – how could Jesus be calloused -- so dismissive of family? They just wanted to spend some time with him. But, I think, my reaction misses the point. Jesus came into this world for one reason only. His role was not to engender any proscriptive form of family values. NO! Jesus came to usher in a new order – a spiritual order – a loving kindom that called all people to live in a new, spiritual family – based on justice, peace, and a love that welcomes ALL.
Not many of us have the blessing of living near our biological families. For some that is a good thing. For others – that reality can be very painful. Zoom, and facetime, the internet, and our cell phones help us to be in contact – but living in vastly different places changes the family dynamics that many once knew.
This is where our spiritual family becomes so important to each one of us. It is here, and many other places like Keawala`i, that family can be experienced in ways that is desperately needed – particularly when we do not have our biological families nearby.
Today we baptize another into our spiritual `ohana. Today we also celebrate the holy meal which reminds us, once again, of the one who established this spiritual `ohana into which she will be baptized – and into which all of us are called.
This is a great day for the church – and for each one of us as we remember our place in the family of God and remember our kuleana to love one another as Christ loves us.
Indeed, we are “All in the Family” – Mahalo ke Akua – Thanks be to God - Amene