Posts Tagged 'family'

For March 16, 2014: Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

The Reading            Genesis 12:1-4a

This short reading from Genesis is bigger than it looks. Abram (whom we know as Abraham) is rich but childless, in a day when family and children are everything, and God tells him to leave behind all the security that he has. But God promises a bigger family than Abram or we can imagine—and Abram believes him.

The Response            Psalm 121

Psalm 121 did not exist in the days of Abram, but it speaks to his situation and to ours as pilgrims in this world: the Lord who made heaven and earth watches God’s children and means us good.

The Epistle            Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

The epistle returns to the promise through which Abram became Abraham. Righteousness comes not by earning but through believing. What is more, it comes to Abraham’s descendants in God: each and every one of us who believes God as Abraham did receives righteousness as Abraham did.

The Gospel            John 3:1-17

Nicodemus is a man with a problem: he’s a Pharisee who grasps that Jesus is from God. The gospel challenges his thinking—and ours: God’s style is to love us, and love means not condemning even those who can’t stop asking questions.




I feel for Nicodemus, teacher and leader of his people. Smart people, at least in a culture that reveres intelligence, are popularly supposed to have all the answers; admitting to ignorance or uncertainty gets one dismissed as a fraud, and asking difficult questions gets one blown off as a troublemaker.

But I’m morally convinced that having faith doesn’t mean that uncertainty is just to be papered over, and it doesn’t mean that difficult questions aren’t to be asked.

Nicodemus knows what Judaism says about righteousness. Abram’s faith may be reckoned to him as righteousness, but mainline Judaism generally makes the same claim that most religious orthodoxies do: that righteousness is the fruit of following the rules. Nicodemus is also smart enough and worldly enough to grasp how unattainable that kind of righteousness is.

Jesus offers a way out that is stunningly at odds with the way we tend to do religion. God isn’t offering to love us once we’re righteous enough: God is offering to make us righteous because that’s the kind of love God has for us. And that’s the kind of love that God calls us to have for all God’s world.

What if the best Lenten discipline I can undertake is to stop telling God how to condemn me?

For June 10, 2012: Proper 5, Year B

The Reading            Genesis 3:8-15

We all know the story of Adam and Eve, right? Serpent tempts Eve with apple, Eve tempts poor Adam, and voila! Original Sin. It’s incredibly familiar—but wait. First, the fruit was no apple. Second, the snake is not necessarily Satan. How else might the lesson not be what we’ve always thought it is?

The Response            Psalm 130

The Epistle            2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

In today’s reading from the second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul looks forward from the “slight momentary affliction” of life in a failing body to the glory of eternal life with the risen Jesus. Before that, though, Paul’s concern is here and now as he works and prays for God’s grace to extend throughout this world.

The Gospel            Mark 3:20-35


Further thoughts

On a warm Sunday afternoon a quarter-century ago, a girl of 10 was sobbing helplessly. Neither her parents nor the young woman in whose lap she huddled nor the dozen other adults in the tiny apartment had the heart to stop her. Word had come that morning that a couple whom they all esteemed as family, whose oldest son was (and still is) the girl’s great friend, had gone to awaken their beautiful four-month-old baby boy for Mass and found him dead. As the girl wept, her brother played on the floor with a wooden train set. Something made the little fellow crow with glee, at which the girl burst out, “I wish I weren’t grown up enough to have to know this!” She had consciousness that her little brother didn’t; often that was good, but in this case, it hurt.

Today’s readings all deal in limits and boundaries. A boundary marks the point at which something that was not, is or something that is, ceases to be: ownership is a boundary (“mine” vs. “not mine”), and so is a law, and so are birth and death and creation. As Genesis opens, God has no rest until God creates that which is not God, which is the universe. Then in today’s reading, the man and the woman cross a boundary set by God and meet consequences that, like the girl’s, hurt—but they also cross a boundary of knowledge like the one that separated the girl’s consciousness from that of her brother, and like the one that distinguished her parents’ consciousness from hers. Paul refuses to be bound by the limits of his frail human body as he strives toward the goal of bringing more and more people within the extent of God’s grace. Jesus bids us rethink the boundaries between “insane” and “sane”, between “demon-possessed” and “Spirit-filled”, and between “enemy” and “friend”; in the process he demonstrates for us a radically expanded definition of “family”.

Perhaps, then, this Genesis story is less about the wickedness of human beings than it is about the urge—inherited from our Father—to know and to make and to both create and transcend boundaries. Being God is beyond our grasp: who but God could take a personal interest in each and every atom in the universe, let alone bear the burden of balancing the best interests of all creatures great and small? Within our own God-given spheres, however, we can listen and learn and allow the boundaries of our families to expand, and in so doing we live out the kingdom of God among us.

Enter your email address to subscribe to St Alban's Lections and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers