On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mary's Son

 The path to God is a daily cross. No one has ascended to Heaven by way of ease. We now where the easy way leads. — St Isaac the Syrian

They called him the son of Mary in Nazareth. Matthew (Mt 13) rephrases it as: “Is not Mary his mother,” and Luke (Lk 14) outright changes it to: “Joseph’s son.” They realized, I would guess, that Mark’s choice of words was crass. In those days, one was identified by ones father, not by ones mother. Were these harsh words chosen to insult? At minimum they speak to confusion how he fit in even through the years he was growing up. In Mark’s wording, there is the deep suggestion that somehow, perhaps, the paternity of Jesus is in question in the town where he spent the “hidden years.” 
We can only imagine Jesus’ hidden life between the events told in Luke 2 and his coming to the Jordan to be baptized by John. Our picture is very sparse but to hear this episode in Mark, it would seem that those years might have been tough years for a young boy.
They also call to mind that he is a construction worker. As a class construction workers were held in low regard. There is only so much one can build in one place. After the, one has to either move or leave ones family behind as one traveled to the worksites. Cesarea Philippi was not too far away and it is likely that Joseph and Jesus did some of the work there. What then becomes of the family at home in a time when there was no police? Was it honorable to leave ones family? In Nazareth AD 30, Jesus was a questionable person. What possibly could one like that have to say in the synagogue?
Jesus has already lost family in chapter 4. Here, he returns to his own and his own would not receive him. (Jn 1) He healed a few who were sick there but, as Mark would say, he could do no great works of power in Nazareth. What would those “great works” have been anyway? 
He leaves to teach in the “villages.” Those may have been encampments of laborers much like the places he and Joseph probably lived in as they worked away from Nazareth.
It is a very unsatisfying episode in Jesus’ life. Is it perhaps a warning to all disciples to say: “You really can’t go home anymore?” It might not be any wonder that he sends them out on their first mission next. 
“You and I,” says the episode, “are without a home in this world.” “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, etc” (Lk 9:58) When they go out on mission they go without a net, without a plan “b,” Without a plan “a” for that matter. Like prophets, they will have no plan to rely on but the one the Father in Heaven enacts through them and that plan is revealed in the call to repent and believe in the good news of the Kingdom. 
One has to wonder if this episode was intentionally recalled; for certainly some things Jesus did were not recorded (Jn 20:30). Was it perhaps to be consolation to the recent converts who would return home in excitement only to find that on the home front their Gospel was greeted with requests to tend the barn and start pitching in with the household necessities. 
What indeed does familiarity buy us when spreading the Gospel? Are strangers more likely to meet us without preconceived notions and prejudices to blind them? Our evangelical friends seem to think so. Their revivals always include out of town preachers who will hold multi day revivals and healing services. 
Anyone who has ever consulted knows that it is easier to be the one who came from out of town and tells the truth that should be obvious but is not because we are blind to what is before us. 
We can go so far as to remember that it is often so much easier to think in new ways about life and work when we are away from our normal places. Our Catholic friends maintain retreat centers for exactly that reason and even our Lord retreated into the hills now and again so not to be totally absorbed by the Israel around him. 
Many warn today that the church needs to recover an attitude that realizes that what is “home” is really not “home.” Actually, those warnings were sounded 30 years ago by Hauerwas and Willimon. 
Where is our “home,” and who is our  “family?” Where do we go?

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