Your Place in God’s Family

Everyone Belongs

By Rev. Forrest Parkinson

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. ~John 19:25b-27 

The powerful story(ies) of Holy Week can be overwhelming in meaning and implication if we take them all to heart all at once. Taking the story in pieces and imaginatively focusing on the testimony of a particular character is more practical. This year for me, it’s John, the “beloved disciple.” 

Jesus revealed John’s place in God’s family with vivid clarity; he was to be Mary’s son and Mary was to be his mother. As always, God reaches out to from the mess of human drama and calls on us to love according to the real needs of the people God actually gives us to care for in our lives. John took Mary into his own home and there is nothing hypothetical about that. Loving devotion is mostly a practical matter. 

An Illustration From Real Life
Please let me share a well disguised story.  In Alcoholics Anonymous, as in many 12-Step programs, more experienced members *sponsor* newer members. The mentoring relationship that develops is often profound in its depth and spiritual love.

When Tom’s sponsor was taken to the ER with a serious heart attack, Tom asked me to pray for Bill and shared how much he had come to depend on him for the guidance and understanding his own family couldn’t give him. As we talked together, Tom was worried not only for his own sobriety in the stressful situation, but also for Bill who would feel isolated in the hospital. It seems Bill’s alcoholic offenses had been very serious and his family wanted nothing to do with him. Tom used my office phone to call Bill’s daughter who thanked him coolly. Tom was also estranged from his alcoholic father, so the experience touched him where he hurt. We went together to the ICU and sat with Bill for a little while. Afterwards Bill talked about how sponsoring in AA is not the same as father and son, but sometimes it felt that way. But for Tom, this good relationship gave him courage and vision for better relationships in his family. And Bill felt loved when he needed it most. In that ICU, a glimpse of the Family of God unfolded before my eyes. It was beautiful. 

The Healing Power of Sociability
A quick Google search will bring us to plenty of information about the role of social isolation in addiction and mental illness and also the healing role of community participation in recovery and health. But even before Google, on Calvary, Jesus replaced the isolation of bereavement with an ordained community. For Mary and John, a second chance family. For Tom and Bill, an AA family. For the disciples huddled in the Upper Room, he gave a fellowship of faith. We frail human beings cannot be isolated and be healthy. We need community and loving kindness. We stumbling Christians have a particular calling to connect with our neighbor, to love what God loves in them, and, as we are able, to care for them according to their needs. We also find that, even with stumbling and mistakes, spending our lives in generous efforts and care is healthy and defines our wellbeing. 

Responding to Need with Love
What I hope to take from my reflections on the Beloved Disciple this Easter is more courage and devotion to love the person God puts in my life according to their needs. My congregation, friends and clients give me plenty of opportunity to tend to sacred connections. Second chance families are not second rate, they are ordained. Well lived, the relationships into which we are called (or dragged or flung!) are our place in God’s family.

So we thrive, together. 


Forrest T. Parkinson, LMSW, LP, is pastor of The Community Church of Syosset, NY.  He is a Licensed Psychoanalyst, having obtained a certificate in Psychoanalysis from Blanton-Peale Institute in 2005. Pastor Parkinson also has an MSW from State University of NY, Stony Brook. He received his MDiv degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, NY and has full ministerial standing with the United Church of Christ. He also has an MS in Special Education & Emotional Disabilities from LIU at CW Post in Brookville, NY.   Pastor Parkinson has two years postgraduate training in Analytical Psychology at the CG Jung Institute and is also a certified Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition.

In the wake of COVID, all counseling st Lutheran Counseling Center is still being done virtually. In ordinary times, Rev. Parkinson counsels at LCC’s Mineola, Manhattan and Farmingdale sites. Please contact the Center for information about consulting with one of our counselors.