Monday, June 11, 2018

Here are My Mother and My Brothers

Mark 3:20-35
June 10, 2018

This is a tough scripture today.
There are three bits that happen in the same conversation,
but almost seem unrelated,
they are often quoted separately to
support a whole variety of different things.

And right in the middle there’s
that  whole concerning piece about  the
on “unforgivable sin” of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
We believe in God’s forgiveness over everything,
 even Christ’s crucifixion, we have many texts to support that,
but as a pastor, people have come to me worrying
about this one passage.
That they maybe once said something that could
fall into this category or that their
daughter might be unforgivable because
she said that she doesn’t believe in God.

For the record, I think the short answer is “no”
in spite of this one passage, I think that
nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Not blasphemy or any of those other things
that people think are unforgiveable,
and since it’s come up in the news this week,
that includes suicide.
Nothing can separate us, or anyone,
Sermon on the Mount
Jorge Cocco Santangelo
from God’s love and I think that this
passage supports just that, in Jesus own confusing way.
So I’ll explain that now.

This is the third chapter of Mark,
pretty early in the whole story.
Just before this, which we read last week,
Jesus had a public protest when he  healed
someone in the synagogue on the Sabbath,
and the Pharisees decided for the first time
that they wanted to destroy him.

After that, Jesus  appointed his apostles
and he was embarking on a successful preaching tour
he’s getting well known among the people
and one of his stops is his own home town.
Jesus is home for the first time since he’s become someone.

And while he’s here in little old Nazareth,
things are not going too well.
It’s so crowded they can’t even eat.
And they’re attracting all sorts of strange people.
Sothe Nazarenes aren’t receiving Jesus well.
They saw Jesus grow up and now he’s talking
about all kinds of strange things,
they say that he’s gone crazy, insane, out of his mind.

And to top it off, the scribes have followed him
down from Jerusalem and are harassing him,
they agree with the assessment,
saying that he must be Satan himself,
the king of the unclean spirits.

And so Jesus’ family are trying to get him back in the house.
“Jesus, stop attracting attention,
stop  making the neighbors talk,
stop embarrassing us, you’ll  get us all in trouble,
I’ll  make you your favorite meal.
Just come in so no one can or hear you!”

His family can see the pattern already in process,
Jesus is being labeled as crazy,
they are going to make him the scapegoat
he’s going to be called unclean and expelled from the
community and the rest of his family with him.
It had been done many times before,
so they knew what it looked like.
It happened then and it happens now.
That’s what humans do to one another.
When things get stressful,
we try to maintain our purity and our safety
by keeping the dangerous ones out.
The theory is that if we just get the bad eggs
 outside of community the inside will
be clean and safe and pure.

And after it happens, then everything seems good for a while,
until the tension rises again, or something happens,
then we have to pick the next group to
curse and villainize.

The most obvious example of this
are what Nazi Germany did to the Jewish people.
But there are more  local examples,
we did it in WWII ourselves putting Japanese American
families in internment camps.
We do it with mass incarceration, and immigrants,
we do it with people with mental illness and poverty.
Just get them away from us and we’ll be fine.

And religion has done it repeatedly throughout history,
 in most recent years with gay and lesbian people and those
who identify with sexualities that are different from the norm.

The theory for some churches is,
if we could get “those people” out of here
or convert them and force them to change,
then we’d be righteous, more holy, more prosperous.

Which is akin to what happened in Jesus time
because to be separated from the community
was equal to being condemned, separated from God,
you didn’t have access to the methods of
repentance and forgiveness, if you were lost to the
community, you were lost to God.

And this process of labeling and expelling people is Satan at work.
Satan is not found in some place outside ourselves,
in a red suit with horns tempting us to smoke or eat cake.
Satan is found in human relationships gone wrong and destructive .
Satan’s objective is dividing people.
The word Satan in Hebrew means “accuser”.
Satan is at work when we  judge others,
When we make someone into the other and cast them out.
When we believe that we are like God knowing good and evil.
This is Satan’s work.

So the scribes accuse Jesus of being Satan,
saying that since he has the power over demons,
that he must be the chief of demons.
They’re trying to demonize Jesus,
even though in casting out demons,
Jesus is bringing people back into community.

So Jesus calls the scribes over, he tells them to come closer
join the conversation circle, and he asks them,
 “How can Satan cast out Satan”?

Of course the accuser in all of us
tries to cast out Satan all the time.
But Jesus tells them, this method of being a society cannot last.
If a kingdom is divided against itself ,
that kingdom cannot stand. Because:
 1.  in the end its not sustainable,
we will destroy each other if we keep up this way.
Which is just what the accuser wants. And
2. Satan’s kingdom won’t be able to stand because
Jesus is reordering the very social fabric of hate that Satan has created.

Jesus put himself into the position of the condemned,
God’s own son became the outcast the one who was
scapegoated, called unclean and unholy, and hung on a cross beside
two thieves, to show that no one is outside of God’s love.

Jesus compares himself to a thief.
He is breaking into the house of the strongman,
Satan, who he intends to bind,
and he will take the strongman’s property – US
release the strongman’s captives using  the Holy Spirit’s tools:
love, compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

And those who don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit,
who don’t believe in the absolute power
of love and forgiveness for everyone --
Those who still insist on accusing others and
believing that some are beyond God’s reach – like those scribes,
those are the ones that stand with Satan’s
world view, those are the ones that
blaspheme, or offend the Holy Spirit.

But watch out! Everyone is caught in this conundrum.
If we accuse those who we think are accusers,
and want to banish them out of our society, then who is the accuser?
 A house divided cannot stand.
As long as we label people bad or unholy, or unforgiveable,
unlovable or beyond the Spirit’s grasp ,
 we are caught in Satan’s own trap.

Satan’s game is a divided humanity.
As long as we keep dividing ourselves from others, Satan wins.

At the end of Jesus discussion with the scribes,
“A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him,
“Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 
They were still trying to get him safely inside.
And Jesus replied, looking at those who sat around him,
Including those religious scribes who he had called over
and he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

We are all brothers and sisters.
Even those we disagree with most.
Jesus has come and the Strong Man will not have his way .
Satan will not rule this world any more.
God’s love will win.

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