St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh
Proper 5, Year B, 2015
May the words I speak and the words you hear be God’s alone. Amen.
When we picture Jesus, I imagine most of us have an image of a long-haired, sandal-wearing, roaming preacher who healed the sick and spoke gentle words of love and peace and forgiveness. I’ll admit this is the first image that pops into my mind, as well. But this is not the complete picture of Jesus, which is made quite clear when we have passages like the one today.
In this section of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is in the very beginning of his ministry. He has traveled around the Holy Land, teaching and healing the sick. Just before today’s reading, he has chosen the last of his 12 disciples and now he has made his way back to his hometown. Rather than welcome him with open arms, however, his family comes to where the crowd has gathered around him to bring him home because they think he’s gone crazy. The townspeople are afraid of the miraculous things Jesus has been doing, especially his performing exorcisms. Now, I don’t think that exorcisms happen the way they do in Hollywood movies, but the fact that we have horror films entirely devoted to this rite demonstrates the power of the evil that is represented; demons are not something to mess around with, and the townspeople know it. The only logical explanation the townspeople can come up with is that Jesus must be in league with the devil, otherwise how could he have the ability to counter such a powerful force? The other option is that Jesus has lost his marbles.
As Christians, we may find ourselves in a similar situation as Jesus. The world, and especially the U.S., is becoming increasingly secular, and as a result, it is no longer out of the ordinary to find people who do not identify as Christian, whether religiously or even merely culturally. In fact, a growing number of people have not grown up in a faith community at all. As this trend continues, cultural perspective is shifting. Gone are the days when Sunday was a day of rest and holy obligation; now we have sports and rehearsals and brunch taking up that sacred time. People now might wonder: Why would you get up early when you have the chance to sleep in? Why would you make the kids come to one more thing when they are already so over-programmed? In this day and age of incredible scientific advancements, isn’t believing in God old-fashioned or naive, like the adult version of believing in Kris Kringle?
Maybe some of those same questions have run through your mind before. Maybe you’re struggling with these issues right now. I know I’ve thought about them often!
But I think that we—you and I—whether we are aware of it or not, are here tonight because something about Jesus’ life and ministry has made an impact on our lives, or we have felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit, masked as a yearning for something deeper and more profound. We have realized the truth found in the Gospels, the truth of a God who loves us so profoundly that God took on human flesh, lived among us, and showed that not even death can keep us from God’s love.
If you think about it, Jesus’ teachings don’t make sense--not by the world’s standards, anyway. Where society says “me and mine first,” Christ answers “love your God and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, Matt 26:38-39, Luke 10:27). Where the world says the goal of life is to achieve success and wealth, Christ counters, “[the] first will be last…[and the] last will be first” (Matt 19:30, Luke 9:48). Where leaders, filled with greed and lusting for power, plot wars against each other, Christ responds, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
The Good News of Jesus is radical, flying in the face of society’s messages of consumerism, violence, individualism, and corruption. To be a Christian in this day and age is to go against culture, and people may think us crazy for it. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “We are fools for the sake of Christ…[w]hen reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day (1 Corinthians 4:10, 12-13).
When people told Jesus that his mother and brothers had come to collect and restrain him, Jesus looked out at the crowd and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34-35).
Jesus welcomes all who follow him into the Body of Christ. We are all fools for Christ. And we are in good company.
Image found here.