If you play the game “Monopoly”, you know that there is a square called “Free Parking.” In the game rules, that’s what it is. A space that makes no requirements, offers no benefits. You also know that there are spaces where you must draw a card, and the card can give you money from the bank or make you pay money to the bank.
When I played Monopoly with my friends, however, when you had to pay money, you put in the middle of the board instead of the bank. And then, when you landed on “Free Parking”, you got whatever money was in the middle of the board.
There are the official rules, and then there are the house rules.
There are house rules for games, adaptations to the official rules to reflect the personality of the people in the house. There are house rules for other games. There are house rules for vacation homes. There are house rules for families.
Sometimes house rules are written down. Usually, they are passed from person to person, from generation to generation, from old-timer to newbie. We almost never say, “that’s wrong” about a house rule. And they seldom feel like rules or restrictions. Instead, they are agreements. “Here’s how we do things in this family, for the good of the family.”
We just read from Luke about Jesus giving the house rules for his family.
He went up into the hills near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. He spent the night talking with God, as he often did. And after that conversation, he called together the core of the people who had been following him. Maybe 100 people scattered out in little groups, maybe with campfires, sleeping under the stars.
They woke up to the voice of Jesus, calling out across the hillside.
Maybe he whistled. Maybe he shouted with a voice that could be heard by thousands. However he called, they came.
When they were together, Jesus called twelve names. I’m guessing no one felt left out. He may have done some explaining about how he was going to take them through some training and send them out. “Apostles” he called them. Sent ones.
Friendly, encouraging, exhilarating. I’m guessing that’s how it felt. Because he was someone that people wanted to follow, wanted to be with.
Then he took them down the hillside, to a level place, to a meadow, to the plains between the hills and the water.
After doing some healing, Jesus started to teach. And it became quickly clear that the most important thing to Jesus wasn’t healing bodies. Because the teaching he started to do wasn’t about healing, wasn’t about techniques of prayer and invocation of power.
He started giving them the house rules, the ways of living in the Kingdom of God.
And like house rules always are, they sounded familiar but they were challenging. Unlike house rules, however, these called the people of the house to do things that were impossibly gracious to each other and to people outside the house.