I don't like family sitcoms, so I long avoided Modern Family. But the show catches the way family can be both loathsome and life-giving.
It’s an odd year for my family. My parents, 88 and 89, have lived rich and full lives, and my husband, children and I have shared holidays large and small with them. But this year they are confined to rooms in a nursing home.
Today’s Gospel lesson, though not a traditional baptismal text, embodies the spirit of the sacrament: the ones bringing the children to Jesus are not necessarily parents; they are “people” moved to care for these little ones. This choice of language leads us to ask, if the adults bringing the children to Jesus are not their parents, then who are they? Why do these men and women stand up to the disciples for the sake of children that are not biologically theirs?
In Jesus’ day—as in ours--redefining the family is a provocative act with far-reaching social, political, moral and spiritual implications. If we were to isolate Jesus in Mark 3 from the moments in the other gospels in which Jesus interacts with his family, we might conclude this story with George Aichele’s sharply worded assertion, “Mark’s Jesus is no supporter of family values!”
If anything remains sacred in our culture, it’s the family. Yet Jesus challenged the family’s ultimacy.
Metaphor is essential to grasping the divine/human character of God. Nowhere is metaphor used more compellingly than by the apostle Paul, especially in his use of the word "adoption" as a metaphor for God's loving grace.
My grandfather was the Reverend Calvin Titus Perkins, known as C.T. He was a Southern Baptist evangelist—a traveling preacher in Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory. He arrived in a covered wagon as a very young boy, and the famous Oklahoma dust seems embedded in the black-and-white photos I’ve seen of him. He was a man of passion but also a lover of order, a believer in rules. The bare bones Calvinism that flourished on the frontier offered him not only a faith but a way out of chaos and poverty.
It’s official: our entire household is obsessed with outer space. Our children have a solar system hanging over their beds, our upstairs hallway is graced by images of the Milky Way, and when nighttime falls, glow-in-the-dark planets sing an eventide song of praise to the God who made them all and yet is mindful of one little family staring up in wonder.