Reflection on This Week’s Readings


The homecoming could not have been more heartbreaking. A father, near death, lay in a hospice bed that prophetically displaced the puffy cushioned pastel couch from the living room. A son, his own death in sight, stood, an alien, in the house where years before he played happily with no space to imagine the moment he now faced. It was their approaching deaths that drew the long-exiled son home. The fact that he was gay had created a distance far greater than the miles and years of separation. In such joyless space hello and goodbye twisted and tangled indistinguishably. The son’s tears begged for reconciliation. “We are both dying, can we not make peace?” The father’s spotlight glare confirmed rejection. “You are no son of mine.”

Jesus’ homecoming in today’s gospel is surrounded by controversy and disruption on all sides. A pushing, shoving crowd peppered with an assortment of religious leaders insists that Jesus is out of his mind, evil, employed by the ruler of demons. His own mother and brothers choose their place outside, away. The hometown heartbreak confirms all the accumulated, bitter objections that ripened in the heat of fevered disapproval. Jesus’ time spent in the company of outcasts, touching lepers, chasing demons, hanging close to the diseased, challenging the Pharisees’ plots—all seems evidence that he is the skin and bones of an unclean spirit.

Rejected at home, Jesus does not turn family or himself away, but asks and answers one simple, provocative question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 35). Jesus leaves them—and of course us—with the unspoken, lasting question: “And what is the will of God?”



Second Sunday after Pentecost

The year continues, each Sunday holding a text from Mark or John about the meaning of Christ next to the hidden though transformative power of the resurrection in Holy Communion.
For Christians, the focus and meaning of any and all religious exercises is Christ. Life in Christ is pictured as the repair of a nonfunctioning hand, as God’s intended creation restored.
This reading is chosen to give background to the dispute in Mark about sabbath. Early Christians were renowned for their care for the poor. This version of the Third Commandment reminds us to heed and honor those who work for us. God has a mighty hand, whereas we, in one way or another, have a withered hand. The other version of this commandment (Ex. 20:8-11) was read thirteen weeks ago, on Lent 3.
For these six Sundays we read semi-continuously through 2 Corinthians. Like the Jews, we are no longer slaves of earthly masters, but we are slaves of one another in Christ. Paul challenges the church to adopt a countercultural understanding of leadership.

The Psalm for the Day

Hearing the commandment to keep sabbath, we respond by singing Psalm 81:1-10, in which God is praised for saving us from slavery. The psalm begins and concludes lauding the might of God. Jewish tradition associated this psalm with the Feast of Tabernacles, which recalled God’s protection of the people during their years as nomads. In some ways we too are nomads.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Copyright © 2018 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #SAS103532.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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