February 18, 2018

It is not uncommon these days for people to lament the demise of the family. People have been talking about the death of “traditional families” for as long as I can remember. Sociologist, economists, and pundits of various sorts all worry about this. Even Christians worry about this.

It seems odd to me that Christians worry about this because Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time talking about families. In fact, when he does, Jesus seems to redefine family away from marriage and kinship groups. If you  remember Jesus wasn’t married. Paul wasn’t married. Paul, himself, doesn’t appear to have been a fan of marriage.  I get the sense from Jesus that traditional families may not be that important.

I’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark. You may recall the story where Jesus’ brothers and their mother Mary come to get him. When Jesus is told his family is outside, he says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And then -looking at the people around him- says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35, see also Matt 12:46-50)

Of course the other thing that is happening, is that people are claiming new families. Families created out of choice rather than biology. Mostly, it seems, these new families are created out of necessity. You move away from family and home and you find new people to spend the holidays with, new people to share your successes and support you through hard times. Sometimes people’s families abandon them, perhaps when they come out as gay, lesbian or trans. Sometimes people need to leave their family due to abuse or trauma. There are as many reasons families break apart as their are broken families.

Fortunately, we can create new families. We can have relationships that are more than friendships. We can have the sibling or mother, father, aunt, or uncle who we have, for whatever reason, lost. This new family can be healthy and good for all of us.




Jesus seems to say we have a new way to think about how we are related. It’s not nuclear family. It’s not extended family. It’s not church family. It’s just family. All of us. Absolutely all of us. And the head of this family? Jesus. That’s it, just Jesus.

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Non linear. Non hierarchical. Not even any second cousins. Just family. Family everywhere we look.

Can I recognize the person on the bus as family? The person at the next desk? Across the street? Honestly, it’s not easy for me. And then I wonder, can they recognize me as family? Does my life, do my actions mark me as a family member?





February 4, 2018


 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

                                                                                                               Mark 1:21-28 NRSV

I don’t know about you but every time I read these verses I wonder, “What was Jesus teaching?”. Why didn’t anybody preserve that for us? Which of course, misses the point. The point of the story isn’t the particulars of the teaching, the point of the story is who the teacher is.

Who is this teacher?

Theologians like to say that Jesus is what he does. Meaning that what Jesus does is as instructive and important as what he says. For some of us, this is a difficult idea. We would really just prefer Jesus to tell us things. Preferably directly, clearly. No hints, no suggestions. Don’t make us wrestle with meaning. Just please, tell us what we need to know.

So far, at least, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t say much- a sentence here, a sentence there. Mostly Mark shows us what Jesus did.

Jesus is baptized

Jesus is tempted

Jesus proclaims the good news by speaking one sentence.

Jesus calls disciples by speaking one sentence.

Jesus removes an unclean spirit by speaking one sentence.


Jesus heals Simon’s mother in law, and then

“That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”     Mark 1:32-34

Then Mark tells us, after praying  in a deserted place, Jesus goes to other towns “proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons”.  Mark 1:39

The message is that the kingdom of God is at hand. Mark doesn’t spend time telling us what that means. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus shows us what that is. To be fair, Jesus does speak more as the gospel continues. But in the first chapter, Jesus doesn’t say much. We learn about Jesus by watching what he does.

This is a good reminder to me. What Jesus does matters. It explains and shows who he is.  What I do matters. It explains and shows who I am.

What we do matters.

I wonder this week- if what I do shows who I am- what will those around me see?





%d bloggers like this: