While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
- Matthew 12:46-50
My brother passed away in April 2011. Both of my parents passed away within three months afterwards. If my brother were still alive today, he would be celebrating his 76th birthday today.
My brother was an ordained Presbyterian minister (PCUSA), but only got his own fulltime church late in his career. He had several small churches that were unable to pay him a salary, so he worked during the week, visiting hospitals and shut-ins at night, and then preaching on Sundays. He did all kinds of things to make money. Oddly, he was a good carpenter. He sold meats and fish from a freezer on the back of his truck. You name something legal, he probably dabbled in it.
In the photo above, he is reading to elementary school children, as a volunteer. He finally had his own church – paying him a full salary, but a couple of years later, the church session decided that the church growth was not fast enough to suit them, although the community was not growing. Instead of firing him, he went back to a pay to preach arrangement from the same pulpit and working a ‘day’ job to supplement his income. When this picture was taken, he was the custodian for the school system. On this day, he got to come in early in nice clothes and read to the children. He almost felt like a human being for a few hours. Once the children had left for the day, he changed into work clothes and started cleaning the school.
I always get, as a minimum, verbal consent to use a photo even though this site makes no money. This photo is the first exception. I doubt if he would mind.
My brother was always the showman. We were in Cades Cove, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, about 55 years ago. The little settlement at the far east end of Cades Cove has a working blacksmith, a couple of homes, and a working grist mill, powered by a water wheel. It is common to see people giving lectures or doing demonstrations. The path, at the time, was gravel, river-washed sandstone. I was walking with my grandmother. I was about 11-12 at the time. My brother was with us, home from college, already preparing to go to seminary. But for his undergraduate degree, he was taking archaeology. He had just finished an archaeological dig of an Indian mound (Native American burial mound) in Mississippi.
He ran ahead in excitement. He got down on his hands and knees and exclaimed, “What a find! Right here in the path! If they had only known what this was, they’d have placed it in the Visitor’s Center.” At this point he gingerly picked up one of the river-washed stones in the path, about the size of a shelled pecan, a totally insignificant stone unless you knew what you were looking for.
Mawmaw, our grandmother, asked, “What is it?”
“Why, it’s an Indian Wok.” He then used everything he had learned about Native American culture and SE USA archaeology to explain how the local tribe had fashioned this small stone and how they made it so smooth. This took a good ten minutes or more of elaboration. My brother had attracted a large crowd of people visiting the park that day. I suppose they thought that this archaeologist was one of the park rangers, giving a lecture. Almost everything that he said probably came from one textbook or another. And since the Smokey Mountains is the most visited national park in the USA, it does not take long to draw a large crowd. Besides, we had stopped in the middle of the trail.
Finally, a total stranger came forward. The stranger asked, “But in what way was this Indian Wok used?”
My brother smiled and said, “Simple, you thwow it at a wabbit.” He then wheeled around and skipped the rock down the path.
Luckily, the worst reactions were a few groans. I think Mawmaw punched him in the shoulder and said something like, “Shame on you.” Most people laughed for having been totally taken in by my brother’s joke.
When my wife and I visited Cades Cove in 2014, while I was working on a project in nearby Alcoa, Tennessee, the first thing that I noticed was that the path was now paved with asphalt. I remembered the joke that my brother had told roughly fifty years before. While an asphalt path is smooth and keeps your shoes fairly clean, I missed the opportunity of repeating his joke.
I need to remember my sister who lives in the home that we moved into when I was two years old. Of the immediate family, she and I are all that is left, other than the spouses and offspring.
But is that who Jesus called his mother and brothers in the Scripture above? We are the brothers, sisters, and mothers of Jesus in that we do His Father’s will on this earth. By extension, if we are brothers with Jesus, we are brothers toward each other. Treat each other in brotherly love. You never know if you will pass this way again.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.