“The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'” –Mark 3:20-35
Pent2 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church / 6-10-12
Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When we were looking for artwork for this Sunday, we came across this image of an old, run down farmhouse. What do you see? The moon? A ghost? Our perceptions matter… We may have no idea what’s going on behind those closed doors.
One of my favorite stories about perception is the one about the woman who was waiting in the airport terminal, ready to board her plane and had bought a bag of cookies to enjoy on the flight. Well, you can imagine her surprise when she noticed the man sitting next to her, tearing open the cookies and helping himself to her snack – with a big grin on his face! The nerve of some people! After he went for a 2nd cookie, she indignantly took one herself to show him that they were her cookies! He just kept on smiling and helping himself. It was a small bag – maybe 5 or 6 gourmet cookies. So, in a gesture of good will, the man broke the last cookie in half and placed it in the bag for her, eating the other half. Well, that was more than she could bear. In a huff, she snatched up the cookie bag and stuffed it in her purse, ready to find another seat – when, to her horror, she discovered in her purse her unopened bag of cookies! (apparently he’d been to the same snack bar!)
When we jump to conclusions about others we are usually not seeing things from their point of view.
In our gospel lesson today, Jesus was being accused of having a demon – of being out of his mind.
It’s early in the gospel of Mark (only chapter 3), but already Jesus has drawn a crowd. He has healed the paralyzed man, lowered down through the roof… eaten with tax collectors and sinners… preached to the multitudes from a boat… healed the man with the withered hand (on the Sabbath, no less)…
Things were really taking off and Jesus’ opponents, by now, were feeling threatened by all this: “He has a demon!” they say. “Somebody call his mother to come and get him.” “He casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul!” (There’s one for the spelling bee!). And he replies with those memorable words: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
When have you jumped the gun and rushed to judgment?
Back to the image of the haunted house. Notice what the scripture beneath it says, from our 2nd lesson: “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2Cor 4:16)
This sermon is more than simply a reminder to not judge a book by its cover. It’s a call to read the book. To get to know the people in that house. To bear witness to the many ways in which God is renewing us, even though we may be aging on the outside, or even in some manner of disrepair.
This September, the Minnesota Council of Churches will be hosting some forums on the upcoming Marriage Amendment, in which Minnesotans will be asked to vote on whether to amend the constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman on the November 6th ballot. The forums are entitled: “Respectful Conversations.” And the purpose is to create some community before diving into the discussion on matters that are near and dear to the hearts of each person attending. So, there will be time for getting acquainted, sharing in some food – don’t expect a quick “for-and-against” debate setting. Rather, the goal as I understand it – is to listen and learn from each other. Not to change anyone’s mind… but to simply see from another’s point of view.
Now, I’m not going to tell you how to vote; but I will urge you to be respectful. And to believe that no one stole your cookies. As we encounter difficult people and situations, my prayer is that we would avoid the easy rush to judgment and try, instead, to understand one another.
It’s easy to call names – to accuse each other as “being crazy” or “out of his mind!”
The “blame game” has been around since Adam & Eve (as we read in our first lesson). But one thing Jesus said that is true is that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” For me the first image that came to mind was that of our nation, divided amongst itself, led by a do-nothing congress, paralyzed by gridlock, unable to span the chasm of ideology and simply get things done!
And yet, what Jesus was talking about was the division in himself – as it was perceived by those around him. “He has gone out of his mind!” Jesus says, “You say I have a demon, yet I cast out demons. I have bound ‘the strong man’ (meaning Satan) in order to plunder his house.”
It’s as if Jesus had said, “In order to save these lost souls, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to tie up the wicked one – only then can people hear some good news. Call me crazy, but that’s what I intend to do. There are people here living in fear, who haven’t heard good news in a long time. Now is their time!”
So, let’s be slow to jump to conclusion in our common life together. No matter what things may look like on the outside, we worship a God who renews from the inside out. That is something worth sharing! Let us pray:
O God we give you thanks for the unconditional grace and love that saves us – in spite of all our failures and sin. Help us to share those cookies with others, knowing that no one can ever take away that which you have given: the salvation of our souls, in Jesus’ name. Amen.