Reflection on This Week’s Readings

PROTECTIVE DETAIL?

The crowd gathering around Jesus today is not entirely friendly. Some are attacking him as having “gone out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). The scribes accuse him of being demonic. His family tries to restrain him. They see the hostility, perhaps feel the danger. They love Jesus and do not want to see him harmed.

As is his habit, Jesus responds with wit and wisdom. The passage ends with Jesus surrounded by a crowd that seems safer. His family approaches again, and they hear a tough, dismissive word: those who do the will of God are my family. Scripture is consistent in its witness that the will of God is the path to life. Jesus does not need to be protected; he is working to bring the gift of life into the world in a new way.

How often do we find ourselves trying to protect Jesus? Maybe you have had a fight about faith with a family member. Maybe you avoid an acquaintance because of challenging conversations about beliefs. Maybe you have “agreed to disagree” because politics and faith have proved too divisive. Maybe you have experienced the split of a congregation or a church because of differences of opinion about how the gospel calls us to live.

From the book of Acts to present-day denominational struggles, church debates have often been about two sides claiming to be right about Jesus. We stand our ground and resist or demand change. In this we find a mixture of protecting ourselves, protecting our faith, protecting our understanding of Jesus, protecting Jesus.

In today’s story Jesus reminds us he does not need protection. He is not going to get it on the cross. Instead, he wishes life for us, dies to make life for us, lives to make life for us. All of this so we can live to help make life for others.

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READINGS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Mark’s narratives proclaim that Jesus’ power comes, not from evil, but from God, for good. We are now those who become Jesus’ mother, brothers, and sisters as we hear the word, share the meal, and enact God’s will in the world.
What is the power upon which we rely? Mark asks us to take with utter seriousness the power of evil and to trust with all those who do the will of God that Jesus embodies the power of God. The claim that there is a sin that cannot be forgiven contrasts with other biblical passages that indicate that God will always forgive.
The legend of the fall is read here to connect with Mark’s discussion of Satan, since Christian interpretation saw the snake of Genesis 3 as an embodiment of the devil, always acting to destroy what God wills. The woman and the man (who are not yet named) can function as nongendered symbols of all humans who too readily heed the voice of evil rather than the will of God.
Today’s reading of 2 Corinthians hears Paul urging us, despite contemporary afflictions, to believe in Jesus, who will bring us into his presence. In worship we are already in Christ’s presence. The church itself has been described as the building that God has constructed. We hope to stand, not only with the woman and the man, naked and ashamed of our sin, but also with Jesus, to the glory of God.
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