Lenten Devotion: March 18th

  • March 18, 2014

Genesis 42:1-17
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Mark 3:19b-35

The lectionary readings for a given day usually have a common theme, and today’s theme appears to be “Really Awkward Family Moments.” In Genesis, Joseph sees his eleven brothers for the first time since they sold him into slavery; Joseph then accuses his brothers of being spies and has them thrown in prison. In Corinthians, Paul rails against a man who is sleeping with his father’s wife. And in Mark, when Jesus’ mother and brothers ask to meet with him, Jesus ignores their request and preaches to his followers that they are his mother and brothers.

Families are messy. Families are complicated. Most don’t reach the extremes of slavery and prison, or the Corinthian behavior that sounds like a Jerry Springer show. But the emotions underlying the passages are still common and recognizable. My extended family is nearly as good as Joseph’s at turning sibling rivalry and disagreements into life-long rifts. Or I think about the gospel passage from Mary’s point-of-view, as she is faced with such a stark reminder that her child is now a man leading his own life, with no need for her input. I know I have made decisions in my life that my parents were not comfortable with, but had no power to alter. And I find it disconcerting sometimes to look at my teenage son, as he’s learning to drive the car, and see in him the man who will someday steer the direction of his own life, without me in the passenger seat reminding him to slow down.

Jesus’ message in the gospel that we are part of a larger family, that of his followers, is very fitting. In some ways, such as modern disagreements between Christian denominations, those family dynamics are just as messy and complex and prone to ugly rifts. But no matter how much baggage we associate with the notion of family, we often find a great deal of comfort in being part of a spiritual family whose members care for and pray for one another, and support one another in our efforts to follow Christ.

God, thank you for all the blessings of our families, in all the different families we are part of, and please give us guidance to meet any challenges we face as part of those families. Amen.