Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Fathers!

Thursday, February 11, 2011 -- Week of 5 Epiphany, Year One

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 946)
Psalms [83] or 146, 147 (morning)       85, 86 (evening)
Isaiah 60:1-17
2 Timothy 2:14-26
Mark 10:17-31

I have never noticed this before.  Toward the end of this reading from Mark's gospel, when Jesus lists what those will receive who have sacrificed for his sake and the sake of the good news, there is something significant left out of the list.  Fathers.

Here's how it is set up.  A man kneels before Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.  There is a brief discussion about the commandments.  "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth."  This is a good man.  A man of discipline and morals.  The text says, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him."  I could spend a while thinking about that, picturing it in my imagination.

"You lack one thing," Jesus says.  "Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  That was a shocking thing to say.  A deal breaker.  The man "went away grieving, for he had many possessions."  All of us in the richest nation in the world could spend a while thinking about that too.  We are 6% of the world and we own 60% of its wealth.  And in our nation, 10% of us earn more than the entire 90% of us combined.  That's a thought worth pondering as well.

Then Jesus speaks a profound word.  "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  You remember the metaphor.  "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  (I've looked up the easy apologies for this passage.  It's not about a tiny gate called "the needle-gate" that camels could go through if they unloaded their baggage.  It really is a metaphor for something impossible.)

The disciples panic.  (As we should.)  "Then who can be saved?"  "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

Okay, the disciples are breathing a little easier.  But Peter pushes it.  "Look, we've left everything and followed you." 

So Jesus speaks of the wonders, and riches, of community.  "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age..."  But here follows the list that is missing something that I've never noticed before.  What is it these who have sacrificed will receive?  "...houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions -- and in the age to come eternal life."  See what's missing?  Fathers.

In the new community of Jesus, the new creation, there will be no fathers.  That is profound in a patriarchal culture.  In the list, the disciples may leave fathers, but they will not be replaced.  It is an egalitarian community Jesus creates.  A community of equality.  No fathers means no head of the household, no patriarch.  In both the Roman and Jewish culture of the day, the father of a family ruled.  His authority was profound and to be obeyed.  Even if a man had reached age sixty, if his father lived, the sixty year old was in a subservient role, and the father called the shots for all the family. 

Jesus tells his family, you will inherit no fathers. 

Elsewhere we read other clues of this egalitarian community.  We are told you will call no one "master" or "father."  (That's about a lot more than titles like Mr. or Fr.)  And Paul goes to great lengths to describe a community where there are a variety of gifts, but where there is no distinction between people, "neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female."  Some may have gifts and roles -- teachers, pastors, prophets, healers -- but there is one Body, and all belong and are equally necessary and respected.

Jesus imagines a radically different way of being in community, where wealth and authority hold no sway.  I could spend a while thinking about that.  As a wealthy father of authority, it is an uncomfortable lesson.



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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:20 AM, Anonymous janet said...

The patriarchy works great if the Father/leader is loving, kind, just, wise, etc. How often that happens is probably not often enough. We have too many who abuse their powers. That really is God's role - the leader of all of the households, and the rest of us taking good care of each other, as we can.

I think I'll ponder on all of that right along with you..

Peace, Janet

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all for giving a woman a chance, see what she is made of.

Palin/Bachman 2012. Go team.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

When authority is practiced as service, characterized by love and compassion, committed to the kind of justice we see in the Bible, especially advocacy for the poor and vulnerable, then the gender doesn't matter. It is leadership like Jesus taught us.


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