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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, June 10, 2012:


First Reading: Genesis 3:8-15

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 1 Samuel 8:4-11 [12-15] 16-20; [11:14-15]

Psalm: Psalm 130

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 138

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13--5:1

Gospel: Mark 3:20-35


We are used to the picture of the family of Jesus that we see at Christmas time: the brave, young Mary, ready for whatever God has in mind for her. Kind Joseph, who plans to leave pregnant Mary, but is convinced to stay beside her. The couple fleeing the murderous Herod.

And then, perhaps, a few weeks later, we might see the young Jesus who stays behind to learn a bit more in the Temple in Jerusalem. In some lectionary years, we see Mary imploring Jesus to save a wedding where the wine has run out; Jesus says he's not ready, Mary persists, and Jesus puts aside his own plans and transforms water into wine.

Or maybe we're used to the Mary that we see around Easter, particularly the weeping mother at the foot of the cross.

We're likely not familiar with the Mary that we see in today's Gospel, the Mary who hears the rumors of her son's madness and comes to try to get him to change course.

What's going on here? Is she embarrassed? Did she not know that being the mother of the Messiah might mean some embarrassment when the neighbors started talking?

Those of us who have ever loved someone who took a different path may feel some sympathy for Mary. Those of us who have watched children grow up and go their own way may feel sympathy too.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary and gave her an outline of the plan that God had for her, she probably didn't envision the Jesus that appeared some thirty years later. Her whole culture trained her to look for a different Messiah, perhaps a Messiah who cleansed the Jewish homeland. She probably thought of that cleansing in military terms, the ejection of the Romans, perhaps.

She likely wasn't thinking of a spiritual revolution.

After all, there were plenty of people running around Palestine leading spiritual revolutions, all sorts of people, some legitimate, some deranged, who were happy to tell first century people how to cleanse themselves and purify their religions and make God happy. I've read one scholar who posits that the family of Jesus was upset because he could be using his powers to make money and instead he was giving away his miracles for free. In these early chapters of Mark, Jesus does a lot of healing which attracts much attention.

Or perhaps Mary was upset because she saw her son was on a collision course with any number of authorities. Maybe she wanted him to fly under the radar more.

We might argue that she has no right to feel that way, because, after all, Jesus came precisely to be on that collision course--that's what he had to do to create the salvation that he came to bring.

Even if Mary understood God's plan thoroughly, she still might want to protect her child. That's what good parents want, to save their children from harm and destruction. She still might protest the fact that the salvation of the world required the precious life of her beloved child.

For those of us struggling to chart our own course, we might take comfort from today's Gospel. If even the family of Jesus didn't fully embrace his path, we, too, can expect a bit of resistance.

For those of us struggling to live an integrated life, where our weekday selves don't contradict our Christian values, we can take courage from today's Gospel. It's not an easy task, this living an authentic life.

Of course, the Gospels don't promise us a happy ending. Even if we live honestly, we may find ourselves on a collision course with the larger world, with the forces of empire, with the culture that shoots other messages at us and infuses our surroundings with poisonous values. Even authentic people can end up martyred.

In fact, authentic people are more likely to end up martyred. But throughout the Gospels, Jesus promises that the life we achieve through our integrity will be worth the price.

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