|Rev. Barbara J. Libby, Interim Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns|
This week's author is the Rev. Barbara J. Libby, Interim Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered -- so many making demands on him that there wasn't even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.
The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: "Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn't be any Satan left. Do you think it's possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man, and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.
"Listen to this carefully. I'm warning you. There's nothing done or said that can't be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God's Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you're sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives." He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.
Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, "Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you."
Jesus responded, "Who do you think are my mother and brothers?" Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, "Right here, right in front of you -- my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
What a strange passage of scripture this is... It falls within the opening section of the gospel of Mark. Jesus has just chosen his twelve disciples and has commenced his ministry and already he's gathering large crowds and hardly even has time to eat!
So here is Jesus at the very start of his ministry already worrying his friends as he tries to respond to the needy and the sick with his God-given healing powers... The religious authorities are already concerned about Jesus and his teachings -- particularly his healings -- as they can see that he might threaten their authority. So Jesus has come back to his hometown to find a bit of rest, and then his mother and brothers show up and want to see him, too. Jesus takes this moment to expand everyone's understanding of who his true family is -- no longer the family of his flesh and blood, no longer the family of his religious or national community -- rather his true family is now whoever "obeys God's will."
We know that family matters... We know well that the bonds of family, friends, work, team, and even that of national identity are vitally important to us. These ever-widening circles of identity and connection give us meaning and direction. We know how difficult life can be when these circles of identity begin to break down due to age, distance, or disagreement. Yes, each of us knows the horror of loneliness when the bonds that we have had break down...
Jesus here reminds us of the most important relationship that we have, one that ultimately transcends all human associations: a relationship with God and also with Jesus. In the end, Jesus is saying that the relationships we possess as members of the kin-dom of God pale in comparison to all other relationships and associations.
To share in Christ's family, to share in Jesus' new community, requires an act of obedience on our part to God. Eugene Peterson renders this as "obedience is thicker than blood." The obedience to God by faith is deeper than anything else we can imagine or know. When we put our trust in Jesus we enter his circle of friends. And that circle will be ours for eternity.
Jesus wants us all to accept, not reject, his offer of friendship... Jesus opens up the door and wants us to come in. Those who do God's will get the chance to be Jesus' brother or sister or mother or friend... Jesus' family is an open family and the door is wide open!
Jesus wants us to be a broad and inclusive family... There's room for all of us! We are each welcome in this open family!
Holy One, you sent us your son, Jesus, to remind us how you welcome and love each and every one of us. Help us trust your welcome; help us trust your love. Help us know what it feels like to be part of this eternal circle through all time. Amen.
the family and friends of Nancy A. Tefft, sister of Karen Ziel, Connecticut Conference Minister of Christian Education, who died on June 1;
the family and friends of Elizabeth J. Slagel, mother of Bob Slagel, chef and food services manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who died on May 26;
the Rev. Alice L. O'Donovan, interim pastor at the Westfield Congregational Church UCC in Danielson, as she recovers at home from a stroke suffered last week;
the family and friends of Ema May Weikel, infant daughter of the Rev. Kevin Weikel, associate pastor at the First Church of Christ UCC in Simsbury, and his wife, Kelley Herstine Weikel, who died on May 19;
pastors recovering from surgery;
those grieving or injured after the airliner crash in Lagos, Nigeria, yesterday; and
those grieving or injured after the suicide bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, today.
Charlie Szyszko, husband of the Rev. Dolores Szyszko, former pastor in Connecticut, who is recovering but still needs prayers to determine the source of his illness;
all those who mourn one lost defending their nation;
those grieving or injured after the bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 28;
the people of Syria affected by the massacre which took the lives of over 100 people in Housa and Hama over the weekend of May 26-27;
the family and friends of the Rev. Dr. James L. Kidd, pastor emeritus of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, who died on May 19th;
the family and friends of Jolana Eva Kertesz Siladi, mother of the Rev. Kent Siladi, Florida Conference Minister and formerly a pastor and conference staff member in Connecticut, who died on May 13th;
those grieving or injured after the suicide bombing in Sanaa, Yemen on May 21st;
Gail Joslin, former staff member of the Connecticut Conference, being treated for advanced liver cancer;
US Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Carroll, son of the Rev. Carla Dietz Carroll, associate pastor at the United Church of Rowayton, UCC, and her husband John Carroll, who is stationed in Afghanistan; Sgt. Carroll and his wife have a young son Charlie;
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the people of Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories: may they have justice and peace;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, confronting the loss of a job, or working to find just resolutions to the crisis; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck, particularly in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Colombia.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church of the Good Shepherd
P Mr. Brian C. Baeder
First Cong'l Church of Woodstock, Inc.
IN The Rev. Bruce J. Johnson
Y Ms. Deborah D. Kirk
Y Ms. Elizabeth Botteri
Y Ms. Jennifer John
Abington Cong'l Church, UCC
P The Rev. Bruce A. Hedman
PE The Rev. Raymond D. Hahn
First Cong'l Church
P The Rev. M. Ruth Nye
PE The Rev. Gregory G. Kendall
First Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Marcia C. Eveland
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The Spirit Calendar: June 04, 2012 by Rev. Barbara J. Libby, Interim Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns