Sunday, June 10, 2018

3rd Sunday after Pentecost - Year B

Mark 3:20-35

                                                                  Doing the Will of God

There are some extremely disturbing things being said about Jesus in today’s Gospel Reading. 

There is a “crowd” following Jesus, or with Jesus.  We would assume them to be supporters or supportive.  But in the opening verses we read that even they were beginning to speak ill of him.  The accusation they level is that he “has gone out of his mind.”

What is the old saying – “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”  Jesus does have enemies.  Last week, it was the Pharisees.  Today we realize that the scribes are also eager to pounce.    When they join the mix, the ante is ramped really high.  The “authority” with which Jesus does these things is attributed to Beelzebul – the prince of all the demons.    

Jesus’ family enter the picture.  No words are put in their mouths.  It is noted that they do not enter the place.  They “sent to him and called him.”

What is going on?  What is Jesus doing or saying that gives rise to such an upheaval?  Before these words can impact our lives we need to find the parallel to our lives.  So I will ask again, “What could possibly create such an uproar?”

If you have your bible, you can flip back through what has happened thus far.    Most significant is the story of his temptation and his announcement of a planned preaching tour through Galilee.  Then, there are the healing stories (Sabbath healing stories) which got him into the dispute with the Pharisees addressed in last week’s Gospel and Sermon. 

What is going on?  What is Jesus saying which would lead to Pharisees, the crowd, the scribes, and Jesus’ own mother attempting to bring Jesus down?

The answer might be simple.  Jesus is speaking the Word of God.

We are inclined to want to believe that whenever the Word of God is present, there will be an absence of conflict.  What is true is when the Word of God reigns, there is such an absence.  Getting to the place where the Word is heard and accepted will inevitably take us through contentious encounters.

The Word of God brings out the gap between the wishes of God and what we might prefer.

We typically don’t like to talk about money, and there is a reason.  None of us are doing with our money what the bible says to do with our money.  It is not the lack of trust in God, spoken of in the parable of the birds or the air having no barns for storage, which results in our 401(k) accounts and our stock portfolios?

  Now, those resources are good, and great, and appreciated as the offering plate is passed.  They make it possible for us to have this beautiful house of worship.  This is a nice place, right?  But used for only a few hours a week.  It sits empty while sisters and brothers struggle to find shelter from the heat and cold.  When asked why we don’t just leave the doors open on wet and dreary nights, the answer usually comes back to the impossibility of trusting those folks who might slip in and sleep here.

These are very real concerns.  And each is valid.  But they do expose places where what we might prefer is at a distance from what Jesus tells us.  The Word of God leads to actions which many if not most would associate with one who has “gone out of his mind.”

So here Jesus is.  Speaking the Word of God.  The Pharisees come at him.  The crowd begins to suspect him.  The scribes add some real heat to the conversation and finally Jesus’ own mother comes to speak with him.

We are much too inclined to listen to those whom others listen to.  We even do it in church.  When a skilled orator becomes a popular preacher, we flock to her and take his messages to heart.  The endless surveys do not merely inform us of what others are thinking, they tend to enlist and bring along those who were previously undecided.  I sometimes wonder if we fear being alone in our opinions more than we fear being wrong in our convictions.

Maybe I should say that again:  I sometimes wonder if we fear being alone in our opinions more than we fear being wrong in our convictions.

The upward call of our Lord and Master will separate us.  The commandment that we love one another as he has first loved us will inform our actions.  The world may teach us that blood is thicker than water, but Jesus clearly says blood is no match for the oneness which exists among “Whoever does the will of God.”

The blasphemy which Jesus so opposes in these verses from Mark 3 is the untruth spoken whenever we ignore the gaps between the Word of God and what we might prefer.  The “eternal sin” happens when we protect the ways which preserve our patterns and ignore the cries of those who have become marginalized by our strength.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?  The followers of Jesus are too easily lead into paths which minimize the conflict present anytime the Word of God is spoken.  It is at our own peril that we failing to identify where and how our lives have become as comfortable as those of the scribes and Pharisees.  It is our own shame when we too seek to silence the call from God to love neighbor, welcome the stranger, and pray for our enemies.


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