Family Liturgies

Samos BoatErika Marksbury

Scripture Reading

Matthew 4:12-23 (NRSV)

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.


Thoughts on Scripture

My kids ask a lot of questions. They’re very skeptical. They need reasons for everything. They are 3 and 6, so their favorite question is “Why?” They also like the variations “Why, mom?” or “But why?” or “But mom, why?”

I know they get this from me. If I’m chopping veggies for dinner and they call from the living room, “Mom, come!,” I’ll ask why. They’ll say they want to show me something and I’ll ask what. They’ll say they’ve built an incredible LEGO castle and I’ll ask them to tell me about it. I’m usually three or four refusals deep before I realize what I’m doing. Sometimes it takes one of them physically tugging on my sleeve before I’ll lay my knife and cauliflower bunch on the cutting board and head to the next room to see what they’ve created.

And now, they’ve learned to do it, too. They will rarely hold out their hands and close their eyes for a surprise I want to give them. They’ve got their doubts when I tell them to hop in the car but won’t say where we’re going. They’re convinced nothing good can come of them being blindfolded…

Their questions, their hesitation about the unknown – and, honestly, my own – almost make me doubt this story about the fishermen and their willingness to toss aside their nets and their boat and follow Jesus, no questions asked. It makes me wonder if maybe we’re not told all of it. Maybe we’re only given as much dialogue as is necessary for the telling of it, and then, when action resumes, the story focuses back on that. It’s easier for me to imagine (like Matthew says) that Jesus said, “Follow me” and then (like Matthew says) they do and then (he doesn’t say this) they gallop along behind Jesus, pestering him with questions: “Sure Jesus, but why?” and “Where are we going?” and “What are we doing?” and “When can we go back?” and “What’s that up ahead?” and “Hey, why aren’t you answering us?”

Questions to Discuss

– If you were among them, what questions would you be calling out to Jesus, as you maybe trailed just a few steps behind, struggling to keep up with his quick gait?

-What do you think the (would-be) disciples thought they were saying yes to? Why do you think they followed?

-What does it mean to “follow”?

-Think about Simon and Andrew, and James and John. In what ways would it be easier to say yes to following Jesus if you knew your brother (or sister, or friend) was also coming along? In what ways would that make it harder?

-When have you said “yes” without fully knowing what you were agreeing to? Tell a story about that.


Spiritual Practice

-Talk about where Jesus might be calling you to “follow” as a family. Make sure everyone’s ideas are heard and affirmed.

-To practice welcoming the unknown, and setting out when you don’t fully know the course ahead, how about: have a Family Improv Night! Follow the rules comedian Tina Fey lays out for improv in Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books: Little, Brown & Company, 2011):

1. Agree: Whatever your improv partners create, don’t question or deny it. Say yes. Step fully into the world they’ve created. Respect your partners’ work and imagination.

2. Say “Yes… And…”:  After you agree, add something of your own to the scene. Build on what your partners have begun. Help it take shape. Your contributions matter.

3. Make Statements: If you’re asking questions all the time, you’re not following rule #2. You’re not adding anything of your own. Be bold!

4. There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities: Straight from Tina Fey – “If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel.” It’s too much work, and ruins the moment, to try to explain everything – especially if you’re trying to explain why someone else is wrong. There are no mistakes in improv, Fey insists, only “beautiful, happy accidents.” Embrace them.


Holy One,
You call each of us –
You formed each of us in your own heart,
Each with a role to play in your dream for the world.
Our callings are unique,
But they all echo one another.
And even when questions surround us,
Some of the calling is clear.
We know you say, “Follow.”
We know you say, “Love.”
We know you say, “Live and give and rejoice.”
Give us the courage to journey with you, we pray,
Even when we can’t see much of the way ahead.


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