devozine

For Youth Workers Post

WE ARE FAMILY

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for November 24–30, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

            (Watch the video)

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a hardcore band. These days I spend my free time being an armchair film critic, reading comic books, and playing much quieter music (well, sort of). I’m also an amateur champion of darts and dodge ball. I’m a huge fan of going to baseball games in the summer and to college basketball games in the winter. I invite you to read my blog.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

CHECKING IN

Give everyone ten minutes to draw a picture of the perfect family. Prompt their drawings with these questions:
       What does family mean to you?
       What does the perfect family look like?
       What does the perfect family have?
       What do family members do when they are together?
       What qualities make the perfect family perfect?
       Where does the perfect family live?

[NOTE: Before discussing the following questions, make sure your group members know that what they say will be held in confidence.]

Discuss:
       Is the perfect family your family? Why? Why not?
       Do you know the perfect family? Is it too good to be true?
       Is it hard to talk about family?
       What is a family for?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 10:34–39

As a longhaired Jesus-loving pacifist in college, I found Matthew 10:34–39 to be troubling. What do you mean Jesus came to bring a sword? Isn’t Jesus about peace? Furthermore, is Jesus trying to break up our families, turning father against son and daughter against mother? Huh?

Let me unpack the passage a little bit:

To understand what the Gospel writer meant, we need to start with the original Greek. The first thing that’s troubling is in Matthew 10:34 when Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace.” The word for peace is eirēnēn, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word shalom. For the Jews, shalom meant more than peace or tranquility. Shalom was hope, wholeness, and oneness with God. It was about inner peace, family peace, political peace, and the harmony of all creation. It was the hope that the Messiah would come and establish a new era of peace. Shalom is central to Jewish life and faith—not dying and going to heaven or saving our souls. God’s last word for the world is shalom.

So Jesus isn’t bringing shalom but a sword? Is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, now declaring war? And if we read further into the passage, is Jesus declaring war on families?

Back to the Greek! The word translated “bring” is balló. When it is conjugated in the active voice, as it is here, it can also be translated “cast,” “throw,” or “rush.” In other words, Jesus said, “I didn’t come to jam shalom down your throats.”

Wait! So is Jesus saying he’s going to force the sword? Wasn’t he just telling us to turn the other cheek?

One more bit of Greek: Jesus is essentially saying, I didn’t come to force shalom; I came to force the machaira! The word most commonly used for a sword is rhomphaia. A machaira is a smaller knife. Consider Jesus’ audience. Fishermen or shepherds typically carried machairas on their belts and used them to skin animals or to gut fish. A machaira was like a filet knife.

In other words: Jesus didn’t come to force peace on the world, instead Jesus came to cut us wide open. He didn’t come to solve our family problems—to make the relative you have a grudge against forget to come to Thanksgiving dinner, to make the addict in your family stop drinking. No matter how much you love Jesus, you are utterly powerless over the behavior of other people and the unintended outcomes of your choices. Jesus never promised to absolve you from consequences or to make your circumstances better.

For Jesus’ followers to find shalom, they must allow Jesus to cut open and make whole every piece of their lives. Why? Jesus wants us as we are. Jesus loves us best when we are our truest selves, when we are our most vulnerable selves.

For a first century Jew, family was everything. It was a name, a job, a support system, an identity. For many reasons, rocking the boat, challenging ideas and values, would be a bad decision. Following the status quo, taking over the family trade, marrying the person you are told to marry, and preserving a good reputation for the family name were most important. But for Jesus, working out conflict, forgiveness, and reconciliation were most important. What Jesus means when he says he comes to bring a machaira is that he intends to bring conflict, because breaking apart what is dysfunctional is necessary in order to make peace. However, if we remain faithful in our conflict, Jesus promises shalom.

Families are pretty important to us too. But if families are stuck in their ways, they can’t grow into the people God wants them to be. Jesus stirs them up—fathers against sons, daughters against mothers—so that they can work through their conflicts and learn to live in God’s shalom.

Discuss:
       What is your family unable to talk about? Why?
       According to Matthew 10:34–39, how is being part of a family good? How is it bad?
       How does the scripture redefine family for you? What is a family’s main purpose?
       Is it possible to find family outside of your home?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to pray together the prayer “Conversations with Parents” (below) from Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People, by Sharon Ely Pearson and Jenifer C. Gamber:

Help me to know what to say
       before I speak;
Help me understand (mom, dad, aunt, uncle, etc.)
       before I answer;

Help me to be ready
       before I act.

Give me the strength to know
       when I need to say something,
       when I need to be silent,
       when I need to call someone for help.

Let your Holy Spirit rest upon my shoulders
       to calm me,
       to give me courage,
       and to help to take deep breaths.
I cannot face tough conversations
       and hard decisions on my own,
       without your help, O God.

Be with me.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Pick the one person in your family with whom you find it most difficult to speak. Write their name in the center of a sheet of paper, and fold the page into four sections. Write in each section an answer to one of these questions:

  1. What do I want to say to him or her?
  2. How do I think he or she will respond?
  3. What am I afraid of in this conflict?
  4. What do I hope will change in our relationship?

Lift your answers to God in prayer, and ask for guidance and strength to speak what is in your heart to your family member as you seek to resolve conflict and build a healthy relationship.

—from devozine>/b> In the Habit (November/December 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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