Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Mark 6. 1-12 "Household Redefined "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Have you ever had to turn to a complete stranger for help, or to accept hospitality from people you didn’t know?
How did it feel? What was the response?
If your family had been available at your moment of need, would they have responded in the same way?
A Window on the Text
This is the third occasion that Jesus goes to the Synagogue to teach and to heal. (Mark 1.21, 3.1 and 6.1). Each has dramatic results. After each, Mark offers his readers a ‘family’ event.
In the first, Jesus goes with his closest friends to Peter’s house where he heals Peter’s mother-in-law (1.29). After the second, he appoints his twelve apostles (3.13) but runs into conflict with his family (3.31). After the third, his neighbours and local community turn on him (6.3); then he sends out his apostles – two by two (6.7).
Might we see Jesus’ understanding of family, household and community developing through this sequence of events? First we see him as the guest of a friend: in a possibly slightly unusual household. It would have been more usual for Peter’s mother-in-law to be cared for by one of her sons, or her husband’s brothers, rather than her daughter’s husband. The normal boundaries of family have been pushed out.
In the second, we see Jesus creating his own household community of apostles, with whom he is going to travel and live for the foreseeable future. His own family object to this and try to draw him back to their own household. The boundaries have been pushed further to embrace friends and followers.
In the third, Jesus’ neighbours and wider community try to hold him within the expectations of his family; “Isn’t this the carpenter?” (6.3). Then Jesus separates his newly formed household of apostles into pairs and sends them out to find and engage with other hospitable people who will befriend them and take them into their own households.
We are to note that the pairs of apostles are only to stay where they are made welcome. This places each pair among people who already have an understanding of open hospitality; people who can show them the benefits of an open household; people who can hear them speak of their master and what he is doing.
Responding as a community
- What have you learned about the importance of open hospitality from your own experiences of having to depend on the generosity and kindness of others, and from offering it in your own household?
- To what extent does your church reflect the two models of community, synagogue, and family that are evident in this passage?
- What would it mean for your group, to disperse and make itself dependent on the hospitality of other households?
- In the first century Middle East, the challenge of extending household boundaries meant reaching beyond blood ties and offering hospitality to, and accepting it from, Gentiles (Acts 10.48 & 16.15).
- What might the challenges be for you today?
- Might the biggest one for believers be to receive the hospitality of Creation, and to offer Creation new respect; in other words extending the scope of household to embrace all life and not just the ‘human’?
- Take a map or maps (any scale, local and national or world) and place them in the middle of the group. Place tea lights on the map(s) to mark places were you have received open hospitality. Name and pray for those people and their households.
- On a local map, place tea lights and light them for the hospitable households in your neighbourhood. Pray for them too.
- Go outside and stand close to a tree. Take a leaf or branch in your hands and reflect silently on your relationship with the tree. Remember that without trees to turn carbon-dioxide to oxygen, you cannot continue to breathe. Pray for the creation around you.
When, in 1964, two young Indians, Satish Kumar and E.P. Menon, decided to make a pilgrimage of peace to the four ‘nuclear’ capitals of the world, Moscow, Paris, London & Washington, they were advised by the spiritual guide, Vinoba, to travel without any money. “After long thought and deep deliberation, we took courage in our own hands and undertook to go into the unknown world like monks. We put our trust in people and the universe for our well being”. (“You are, therefore I am” by Satish Kumar – p95, published by Green Books, 2002).
- For similar reflections, see also “Walk to Jerusalem – in search of Peace” by Gerard W Hughes, published by DLT in 1991)
- Peter Price, Bishop of Bath & Wells, is presently on a pilgrimage around the diocese to mark its 1100 years of existence. In recent days, he has been reflecting on the extra-ordinary nature of the lives of the ‘ordinary’ people who he has met.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion