3rd Pentecost-B/June 10, 2018/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Listen to the first verse of Mark’s Gospel, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Who is Jesus? God’s Son. A few verses later at his baptism, God confirms it, “You are my Son, the Beloved with you I am well pleased.” Immediately after that the Spirit drives Jesus into the desert to be tested by Satan and he prevails. Then he goes to a synagogue where a demon-possessed man cries out, “Have you come to destroy us? You are the Holy One of God!” Jesus casts out the demon and then visits Peter’s mother in law where he heals her fever and many others. His fame spreads but this Jesus is strange and a little scary because he talks to demons. Now in ch. 3 Jesus is in trouble. “His family went to restrain him, people were saying, ‘He has gone out of His mind.’” Religious leaders give their verdict, “He has a demon.” The ones who should have rejoiced in Jesus call him out of his mind and demon-possessed. When we are afraid, it is just a short step to blaming.
Jesus could have gone on the defensive but he uses a parable, “Evil can’t cast out evil. You can’t rob a strong man unless you first tie him up.” So Jesus the Stronger One has arrived. Thanks be to God. But here’s the thing: If Jesus can exorcise demons in those who were possessed, what might Jesus do with me, my demons and my prejudices? It’s a fearsome thought: We say we want God and the Gospel, but what we mean is, “Please let me have God and a Gospel just as I am. Please don’t change me but make me feel good.” And when Jesus insists his true family are those who do the will of God and keep it, he questions family loyalty.
Jesus follows God will and that gets him in hot water with his family and religion. When I did prison ministry my family and my church thought I was crazy. Take Jesus seriously- it will get you in trouble! Jesus says, “My Kingdom is not of this world…. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…” I love my wife, my family, this church and this life, but if we are to follow God’s will and way, it will require repentance- a new mind and a new heart. It may require courage to speak and act sometimes against the very people we love, the families and systems that have blessed us. St. Francis left his wealthy family for Jesus’ way of poverty and love. Luther never became a lawyer like his father wanted. He heard Christ’s call, challenged and reformed the Church that raised him. When is the last time you got in trouble for your faith? When we feel the pressure of our faith, the world around us, I hope we can encourage each other, listen to God and pray for each other.
Jesus follows God’s call. He gathers around himself a group of very different men and women and moves from place to place. He proclaims God’s Kingdom, spends time with the poor, eats with sinners, welcomes foreigners, heals people, battles evil, confronts religious leaders and does acts of extraordinary kindness. Eugene Peterson says, “Your human family is not enough to make you a disciple. The church has baptized you, placing you in a much more expansive, more diverse and interesting family.” We don’t worship family. And we do not worship the church. Like Jesus, we must love God, worship God, tell the story and strive for God’s will.
I love this church, how our name reminds us we are never done building Community. Welcoming Others, Growing in God’s grace and Sharing Christ’s Love means we are not afraid to embrace the world and the people Jesus loves. To be Jesus’ disciples means we are not an exclusive club but people who embrace the visitor, the outsider and offer healing to those who need it. Last Night we drank wine and raised money for our Rwanda Mission Trip, Social Ministry is opening up our church for a health clinic for people in need. We are talking about resettling a refugee family. Vacation Bible School will open not just for our kids but the whole neighborhood. Today we celebrate a great year of Christian Ed. and Formation with a family of God picnic.
Jesus proclaims a Kingdom and Gospel that challenges us and calls forth our greater Godly selves. We can never hold too tightly. We can only receive the gifts God and pass them on. So we pray, Come Lord Jesus, come Holy Spirit, remake us into the people you want us to be. May our families and this Church never be a hindrance to your Kingdom, but a way of worshiping you and caring for the world which you love. Amen.
(Website image by Nathan Greene)