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Spring 1995 · Vol. 24 No. 1 · pp. 24–27 

Mark’s Domestic Domains

Response to “Domestic Domains in the Gospel of Mark” by Katrina Poetker 24/1 (1995): 14–23.

Faith Wiebe

Poetker’s paper on “Domestic Domains in the Gospel of Mark” paints a portrait of family and household dynamics in the Gospel of Mark. Connections are made between family relationships and discipleship. I sense a need to stretch out the seams as to the application. As a response to the paper, I will describe how I understand my story to be connected with the biblical narrative. How is my call to discipleship reflected in the story of my life? Or, in other words, how do I bring “the world of the text” into “the world of the reader” in this case myself? The application of the text will become clear as we journey together down the road of discipleship.

It was Saturday afternoon, June 12, 1993. I found myself walking rather shakily down the corridors of a hospital. I hadn’t talked to him for five years. My legs were feeling rubbery and I was almost running. I turned into a room to my right at the end of the hallway. His bed was at the far side of the room, beside the window. His huge brown eyes met mine as I entered the room. My husband lay dying of cancer.

For most of the past five years I had been living in fear of this man. Living with twelve years of verbal abuse and the unrelenting stress of a domineering and controlling spouse had added up to long, tallied columns of fear and uncertainty. {25}

A New World Of Discipleship

But today was different. I could finally face him as an equal. Why? Because I had finally learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. I had learned that following Jesus meant being called to a discipleship of equals. That day was different. We had a kind of reconciliation. I told him of my plans to go to the Seminary. He sat right up, smiled amidst his pain, and raised his hand in affirmation, as if to say, “Way to go!”

As I heard those words, I identified with the women at the empty tomb when they heard the young man say, “But go, tell his disciples . . .” (Mark 16:7). I felt like those women who were there at Jesus’ tomb after his death. I felt afraid.

But I have learned that courage is being afraid and yet going on. So I have gone on. After Len’s funeral I had to go back to the Galilee of my life. I needed to go back to the other disciples, to the place where I first heard my call to be a disciple. I spent time with my family, church, and friends. I went back to the house where Len and I had lived in Winnipeg. I spent three more days packing boxes and suitcases and moved out of the house in preparation for going to the Seminary.

Two days after his dad’s funeral, our son was graduating from grade six. The morning of his graduation service, Arlen was singing these words with his classmates: “It’s a whole new world. . . . unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings, soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky. . . . a whole new world.” My son and I were standing beside those women at the tomb—a whole new world. Time to go back to Galilee! Where was Galilee for me, I wondered? I was called to new beginnings in a terrifying way. It was time to go back to Galilee to see Jesus. It would be just as the young man had said, “There you will see him” (Mark 16:7). A whole new world of discipleship and Jesus. Domestic domains in the Gospel of Mark? Yes!

It was not quite two weeks later that I was present at the North American Mennonite Brethren Conference. The subject of women in ministry was brought up. Since that time, I have come to believe that the issue revolves around the domestic domains of the gospel. As I sat in at the Conference sessions, I pondered Jesus’ question to Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). I said to Jesus, “You are Christ my Redeemer,”

Throughout my husband’s illness I had learned that his call to discipleship was not the same as mine. I had to hear the voice of Jesus for myself. Jesus was calling for Faith, not only Len. When we were first married, we had plans to enter pastoral ministry. But when illness entered his life, I realized that I had better pay more attention to my own call to {26} discipleship and Jesus. In fact, I began to realize that with an absentee father in my family, I really needed God as Father in a whole new way. I began to understand that there is no father in the new disciple-family of Jesus. There are only mothers, sisters, and brothers. It is God our Father. This was very hard for me to accept.

“God and Us”

Domestic domains in the gospel followed me all the way to the Seminary. Shortly after the Los Angeles earthquake on January 17, 1994, I visited the First American Methodist Episcopal Church in that city as part of the cross-cultural program at the Seminary. This church is the oldest Black congregation in Los Angeles. The church sanctuary had an enormous wall mural behind the choir loft entitled, “God and Us.” This mural depicted the colorful history of the African American Methodist Episcopal Church. Near the center were the words, “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother, and Woman our Sister.”

This mural reminded me of how brothers and sisters can work together in the ministry of the church. I felt a warmth and kinship with my Afro-American sisters as I sat in the pre-dominantly Black congregation. Here were my sisters, brothers, and mothers in the new disciple-family of Jesus. The highlight of that worship service was seeing Rosa Parks. It was Martin Luther King Day, and she was there to help celebrate. Rosa Parks had worked beside the Rev, Martin Luther King, Jr. and had modeled what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. The First American Methodist Episcopal Church modeled the movement from the natural family to the new disciple-family of Jesus. Domestic domains in the Gospel of Mark? Yes!

In July of 1993, I was spending some time with my family members. As I sat quietly on the chesterfield one evening, I recalled a day about eighteen months ago at my parents’ home. I talked to them about my plans to attend the Seminary. My father shook his head and said, “I don’t know where you’ll ever get the money!” My mother had said, “Better stick with piano teaching!” I have found that one’s family can be the hardest place to live out one’s call to discipleship. It can be hard to sit around the family dinner table and feel that the new disciple-family of Jesus is seated there with you. Domestic domains in the Gospel of Mark? Yes!

In preparing to return to the Seminary in August for another year of studies, I said good-bye to my mother and father, my sisters, brother, in-laws, and many friends. There were tears, hugs, tender moments, and thoughtful words spoken. And, yes, my father, mother, my son, and I formed a holy huddle in the kitchen before we left home. My father, mother, and I prayed together. At last we had become the new disciple-family {27} of Jesus! It was a “God and Us” experience.

All of us understand that the call to discipleship and ministry has meant saying “good-bye” to family and saying “hello” to new beginnings. We have known what it means to live in tension with God’s call, ministry, and the responsibilities of family. I have learned that power and role relationships are definitely disturbed in the domestic domains of the gospel. What I hear Jesus saying to me as a disciple is the question asked of Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” As I sit around the table with the new disciple-family, I am asked by Jesus if I recognize who the Father really is. Once I can answer that question, I have an understanding of the soul of the family. With God as Father, the conversation can flow freely back and forth between us as mothers, sisters, and brothers in the new disciple-family of Jesus. At last it is “God and Us!”

During the last six years of my journey with the new disciple-family of Jesus, I have learned that sewing a dress, washing piles of pots and pans, playing softball with my son, or caring compassionately about a friend’s need all encompass the domestic domains of the Gospel. I hear the voice of Jesus when I wear my apron and when I preach in the pulpit. I have moved from “the meaning then” to “the meaning now” when I experience the healing of broken relationships, when words of peace are spoken, or when a meal is shared in celebration with the new disciple-family. It is “God and Us.”

It is God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother, and Woman our Sister. It is “God and Us.”

Faith Wiebe is a student in the Master of Divinity program at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.

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