Jesus Re-Defines Family

10 June 2018 – Lectionary 10, Proper 5, Time after Pentecost

Human perspectives are formed out of fear-ridden mindsets. These become especially stark when set against Jesus’ openness and inclusivity, his destruction of boundaries that create insiders and outsiders. Nobody is excluded from his family. Jesus does not assume that the family of origin (one’s tribe) necessarily knows best, will always take you in, acts in your self-interest, or any of the other platitudes that people utter about family when the institution is held up as sacrosanct. Jesus says the church is the primary family, based in God’s power. –– Melinda Quivik

Mark 3:20-35

Jesus widens the circle of those who belong to him. No longer is family constructed from a biological connection. Instead, he names the criterion for being his family: those who do the will of God. Because of him we are no longer tied to the narrow strictures of familial bonds. The doors have been opened and the stranglehold of DNA has been shown to be only one way of knowing our kin.

This understanding of human community offers freedom for those who suffer at the hands of abusive relations. Jesus has shown us a way to find community founded on a much deeper and more profound connection with others –– adherence to God’s desire for us –– than the accidents of birth can give. –– Melinda Quivik

Genesis 3:8-15

For this very familiar story, try to rid your mind of blaming the woman for enticing the man to eat the apple. The story does not say she is at fault (although we can fault her for passing the buck to the serpent). When we interpret this story as evidence of Eve’s inferiority to Adam, we do her a disservice. Instead, we can see her as inquisitive, trusting, and creative.

Likewise, try shedding the notion that the “fall” into “knowledge of good and evil” is about sin, and particularly sexual sin. When Adam realizes he is naked, that does not mean sexuality is bad. In this story, the sin is disobeying God’s order. That tree was off limits. Boundaries have been broken, making the humans vulnerable. Nakedness is vulnerability in this story.

How did the breach come about? The serpent defied obedience to uncriticized rule-making. That is abhorrent to a tyrant but not to a generous ruler. This story shows us a view of God as one who eternally punishes those who ask questions. Human beings, in our ignorance, often regard God in this way.

This story is remarkable for the many truths it describes: life is hard, painful, and dangerous. Enmity exists between humans and nature. Our existential weakness is evident and causes us fear. Knowledge is a troublesome good. We need to learn how to respond to the situations with which we are confronted from positions of weakness. –– Melinda Quivik

2 Corinthians 4:13––5:1

The writer acknowledges that we are outwardly “wasting away” but are inwardly “being renewed” by focusing on what is not obvious and visible. The One who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to make us always more thankful. Renewal is thanksgiving. In other words, the more widely the church’s doors are opened, the greater the capacity of the church for eucharistia. –– Melinda Quivik


Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy and most recently served as general editor and contributor for in sure and certain hope: A Funeral Sourcebook (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2017).

David Turnbloom