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Lectionary Living

Mother-in-Law

(2/7) Isaiah 40:21-31  •  Psalm 147:1-11, 20c  •  1 Corinthians 9:16-23  •  Mark 1:29-39

    Today's Mark reading begins with a problem: Peter's mother-in-law is sick. She's in bed, of all things. One can guess the implications:  no supper waiting for Peter and his friends! Well, this is indeed an emergency, and Jesus is notified right away. He goes in to see her. Holding her hands in his, he brings her to her feet. Immediately feeling better, she begins taking care of them all.

    Mark's brief words suggest that the functional capacity of the band of disciples was tied to the functioning of Peter's family. Their mutual cooperation looks to have been relatively seamless. Peter's mother-in-law, a woman perhaps 40 years old, given the pattern of early reproduction at the time, would have been indispensable to the family's ability to manage itself. Caring for grandchildren, helping with labor-intensive tasks like meal preparation and laundry, all of these tasks would be supported by her efforts, freeing her daughter to other necessary tasks. Any lack of health in her would be felt by the family unit and the followers of Jesus, gathered together there. They needed her back on her feet.

    The healing properties of those three little words, we need you! Sometimes they are communicated when someone important to the person reaches out his hands. Sometimes, though, the knowledge comes from within. "I can't get sick right now," one tells oneself, in a variety of circumstances. Sometimes – depending on the seriousness of the disease and the interior of the individual - the body can mount a response from within.

    During the pandemic, perhaps many of us have wished for a savior who would grab a friend or family member by the hands and heal her of the virus. To everyone who has lost a loved one, I offer my condolences. When death takes a partner, child, parent, or even mother-in-law, the family suffers a heavy blow. Even still, one must find the energy to go on. The example of Jesus, who (as I see it) invokes the mother-in-law's relationship system to motivate her healing process, serves well here.

    Like Peter's mother-in-law, each of us gets energy from family and other groups we're a part of. Like her, becoming more aware of one's own functioning – of how one is of service to others - can be useful. Many of us, I'm guessing, don't spend enough time thinking about the difference we make or might make in the lives of others.

    Both serving and being served are important contributions to the group. An old Fred Rogers children's song put it best. "There's the cooking way to say I love you…" quickly followed by "there's the eating way to say I love you. There's the eating something someone made especially for you." The counterbalance of responsibility both for self and to others bears some reflection.

    Thinking about how the family can manage more effectively may make a difference. Flexibility within the unit helps, as does laughter and perspective. Whatever the challenge, the energy to keep going can be aided by an intentional, cooperative effort. This spring, finding the continued resolve and the self-discipline to stay safe are the essential tasks. Somewhat mysteriously, they occur both within a person and within the relationship system.

    Today's scripture tells us that people are motivated by their place and their function within a group. In one way or another, each of us can take one another's hands and say, "You matter to me."  Strengthening each relationship – in the creative ways still possible during these times – can make a difference. Getting to know others for who they are and letting them know you for yourself provides energy to face the challenges of 2021.

Daily Reflections

Morning: How am I expressing to others that they matter to me? How am I doing in managing my responsibilities for myself?

Evening: What motivated me today? Where did I have trouble finding energy for my life?

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

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