Sunday, June 07, 2015

Sermon; 2 Pentecost/Proper 5B; Mark 3:20-35

We have finally entered the long Season after Pentecost.  This is alternatively known as Ordinary Time; not because this time is ordinary and boring, but because the Sundays are ordinal numbers – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.  We also reference these Sundays as Proper 4, 5, 6, 7 etc. because the Lectionary tells us what readings are Properly read on specific calendar days.  So today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5, with these lessons from 1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians and Mark appointed for today.

Every season has its own particular theme.  Advent calls us to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  Christmas is focused on the Incarnation, God breaking through into this world in the form of Jesus.  Epiphany calls our attention to the manifestation of Christ to the whole world.  In Lent we focus on repentance and restoring our relationship with God and others.  And in Easter we celebrate Christ’s victory over death and his calling us into new life.

In this long, green Season after Pentecost, the focus is on growth.  As those first disciples of Jesus grew over time from fishermen to apostles, so should we be growing in our own relationship with God.  From the time Jesus called us, whether we knew it or not, we have been moving forward with Jesus.  We are growing and changing as disciples, becoming apostles and evangelists, and maybe even something totally unexpected.

Our problem, though, is that we know the story too well.  Jesus is born.  Jesus teaches, preaches, heals, feeds and walks on water.  Jesus celebrates a meal.  Jesus is arrested.  Jesus dies, lives and ascends.  Ho hum, same story every year.

The challenge is for us to not get complacent with the story.  The challenge is to look for something new that we never noticed before, something that might give us a deeper insight into our discipleship.  The challenge is to allow ourselves to be challenged in ways that cause us to examine our comfortable faith.

As humans we need that – we need to be challenged.  It's why we went to the moon.  It's why we try, try, try again when we don't at first succeed.  It's why toddlers keep walking after falling on their faces.  It might be why we ate the forbidden fruit.  Life without challenges is, among other things, boring.  And stagnant.

This is why, on this 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, the reading from Mark is perfect.  Because even though today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, it's really the first Sunday of this long green season.  This is really the first day of our discipleship and the first day of our journey with Jesus as we grow and change from where we are now to where we will be at the end of our journey.

That makes this gospel passage perfect for today.  In Mark, things happen fast.  Already Jesus has been baptized, tempted, exorcised demons, healed the sick, leprous and paralyzed, ate with sinners and tax collectors, clashed with Pharisees, and named his twelve disciples; and it's only Chapter 3.  So today's passage from Mark is early in the story.

For the disciples, for the readers of Mark's gospel, for us at the beginning of this long season, we are just beginning to learn what Jesus is all about.  We are just beginning to learn what it means to be a disciple.  We are just beginning to delve into the mystery.  And what a beginning we have.
As is par for the course, Mark sandwiches one story inside another.  The bread of the story has to do with his family.  Jesus has been off in the wilderness, curing and eating with undesirables, confronting the good religious leaders on a regular basis, and mom is a little worried about him.  The family comes to basically perform an intervention, but he changes the game.  In this early phase of his ministry, he makes the astounding claim that your bloodline, your family history, is not an exclusive group.  What is important is doing the work of God to increase the scope of God's family.  And sometimes, if we make that our first priority, then there may be a time when those closest to us will think we have gone out of our minds.

The meat of the story has to do with his authority.  The Pharisees accused him of wielding demonic powers.  Jesus points out that demons don't drive out demons, but invite them in.  Here he begins talking about two kingdoms – that of Satan and that of God.  Satan is the strong man who would seem to have dominion over this realm.  But Jesus presents himself as the stronger of the two by binding the strong man and plundering his household; essentially taking back for God what Satan stole.

With the arrival of Jesus, the binding of Satan and God's kingdom ready to burst forth, Jesus talks about the forgiveness of sins.  All sins, with the exception of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, will be forgiven.  Um . . . what?

Last week was Trinity Sunday – three in one and one in three, I am he and he is me and we are all together.  How can sins against the Son of Man not be sins against the Spirit?  And how can sins against the Son of Man be forgiven if they are not also forgiven as sins against the Holy Spirit if they are one in the same?

What Jesus is getting at here, I think, is not necessarily a difference of sins between parts of the Godhead, but sins that attack the spirit of God.  In other words, we need to be careful about attributing evil motives to the work of God.  Driving out demons is a good thing.  Saying that the person driving out those demons is a demonic agent is something else entirely.  In other words, attributing evil motives to good acts.  To tie this into our discussion on Revelation that we've been having, we can't label others as antichrist in an attempt to bolster our own standing.

This can be difficult.  It's difficult to look for the good in those who annoy us.  It can be difficult to see the good in those with deeply differing theological viewpoints.  It's difficult to not always point out the faults of others in order to prove we are better than them.  It's difficult to leave behind friends and family when we discern a call from God.

In this passage, we may not be entirely sure what Jesus is up to at this early stage in the journey.  He is asking us to reevaluate our personal relationships.  He is asking us to expand our theological vision.  But right now we may not be sure how to do that.  Right now it may seem like we are trying to comprehend this Jesus fellow and discipleship without knowing exactly what the plan is.

Three question for us on this first Sunday of the long green season is are:  Are we willing to live into the mystery?  Are we willing to make the journey?  Are we willing to learn, be challenged and change?

If the answer is yes, then make a note of where you are now and notice those times in this long season where you grow and change as disciples, becoming apostles and evangelists, and maybe even something totally unexpected.



First time comments will be moderated.