The Rev. Christian Baron – June 7, 2015 – Pentecost 2, Year B
“The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat.”
In the name of the Father… And of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.
“Have you lost your mind? Why on earth would you think that was a good idea? What are you thinking? Holland is a small town, do you want to ruin our reputation?”
Luckily I haven’t heard these things from my family… at least not since returning from vacation. But maybe you have. Maybe you have even said these words or something similar to your family members. Maybe you were justified.
I was on vacation this past week. I was in Ontario Canada on a fishing trip with friends. We caught loads of fish. We froze, but we didn’t starve. We ate fish twice a day. We stayed up late, and got up early. During the week, I broke the rules and worked a bit. I looked up the lectionary to find the text I was assigned to preach on for today. I was praying for a text on fishing, but instead got the text that sounds like Jesus is calling for Christians to abandon their families and in so doing not commit the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the holy spirit.
Those are the pitfalls of this passage. Pit #1: what do we do with the language about demon possession and blasphemy and Pit #2: Is Jesus really suggesting that we abandon and cut ourselves off from our families in order to follow him? Those are big pitfalls. Deep pitfalls, watch your step.
The book of Mark was written to a group of Christians that are living together and processing how to live now that they are refused access to Jewish worship. Families have been split because some have decided to follow the teachings of Jesus, a man executed for blasphemy. Families were split. Hearts were broken. Blame was given. People were intentionally forgotten. Think fiddler on the roof and familial shame and the desire to keep the family system tight and safe and put together. Those who choose another way, are excluded from the community and from the family. From the family business and from being economically prosperous. Kept from flourishing.
So, those living in the community in which the author of Mark wrote this text, are processing who they are and who they aren’t. They are processing broken families and trying to hold firm to what they have seen, and heard and what they believe about Jesus, the Son of God, who was crucified some 30 years earlier. It is understandable, that the author is doing his best to try to hold this new dejected community together by setting up a binary of good vs bad. Those who are righteous and those who are evil. Those who do the will of God and those who don’t. They feel forced to redefine the family. Who are we? Who are my mother and my brothers?
And, this group of Christ followers. These Christians, are processing what to do with the death of “The Son of God.” It is easy to hear their voices, “We are the ones who blaspheme? We are the ones who are filled with Beelzebul? You kicked us out of the family. You isolated us! You killed our best friend. You killed the Son of God.”
Truly, it sounds pretty reactionary. As I said, these folks are processing who they are. Anybody know of a good family counselor?
The time that Mark was written was a time of great oppression by the Romans. It was most likely written within ten years of the Jewish uprising that led to the destruction of the Temple in 70ad. As Jews, The Markan community was oppressed by the Romans. As Christians, they were oppressed by the rest of the Jewish community including at times, their families.
It doesn’t seem like there is much hope for this group of Christ followers. Things look bleak. Is there somehow redemption in the mystery of the cross? Two weeks ago, we celebrated the birth of the Church on Pentecost. Is there good news in that birth? Can the incarnation of Christ into humanity offer good news and redemption in lives that are broken? Did it offer good news and redemption to the Markan community? Can it offer those things to Grace Church in Holland, Michigan?
The violence in the text is already ramping up. Jesus and the new disciples are trapped in their house. Can’t even get out to eat. Jesus’ family is coming to subdue him to save the family name from embarrassment and shame. The crowds are pressing in. Suffocating Jesus and those who follow. He has started doing his work. Healing the sick. Feeding the hungry. Challenging the powerful.
And when we do the same, when we feed the hungry in Holland. When we bring healing, physical or emotional, in whatever manner we are able, when we challenge injustice, we set our own needs aside. We, like the disciples are unable to eat. When we bind ourselves to Jesus… when we seek justice… when we give up our own rights and comfort for the weak… the widow… the orphan… the hungry… the outcast… We fulfil the mission of the Church. We fulfill our baptismal covenant. We allow the Spirit to work through us and to bring about the Kingdom for which Jesus was killed.
Summer is here. It is full of redemptive possibilities. Look for them at your fourth of July gatherings… with your family or not. Seek ways to Seek ways to forgive, and to be forgiven… family or not. The Holy Spirit is interested in working through you and through me. She is looking to offer redemption to and through God’s Creation.
So Grace… Let’s do it…
Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.