A House Divided

Kenora                        Pentecost + 2 Trinity + 1 – Proper 10

Year B

6 June 2021

1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15

Psalm 138

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Mark 3:20-35

Gracious God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power that we may ever hold fast to the hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Have you ever wondered about how information is transmitted?

Today’s gospel tells us: “21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”” (Mk 3:21)

And we’re able to pause here to wonder what it is that the family has heard?  Or what has prompted “people to [say] “He has gone out of his mind.”” (vs 21)

If we look at the verse before this, Jesus has just appointed, chosen, identified the twelve, the apostles – so maybe that’s what his family is responding to? That this isn’t just a little sabbatical from the family’s carpentry business “Joseph and Sons”?

But looking further back in this chapter from Mark we see that Jesus has just been teaching multitudes from all across the region. People who have heard that he had been healing a man of a withered hand earlier in this same chapter, and because of that, there were many there to heal as well, including those who had been possessed of demons.

But it’s the fact that his family is responding to what the gossip chain is conveying, and although some information is always adequately transmitted, often its embellished, it’s added to, in ways that make listeners ears perk up, and families cringe when they hear it.

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” (Mk 3:22)

As we’ve seen the verses before today’s gospel passage tells us that Jesus has handpicked his closest followers, the apostles, and those who will be his closest friends throughout the years of his earthly ministry. But at the same time, he goes back to his home community. And he faces those who are unable to comprehend this small-town guy gathering apostles, teaching the people, casting out demons, and being so much more than they are able to comprehend.

“He has gone out of his mind.” “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”” (Mk 2:21b, 22b)

Wow! Is his message so radical that people are diagnosing mental illness without benefit of a medical license in psychiatry?

This week I’m reminded of the movie “The Last Holiday,” when a woman is misdiagnosed with a terminal illness, and she gets out of her rut, cashes in all of her assets, and takes the holiday of her dreams, without concern for any finances.

From the moment she arrives at her destination, she makes choices to live, to enjoy life, to have as many new experiences as possible. She takes a helicopter from the airport; she upgrades her room because that is the room that’s currently available. She enters into all of the experiences she’s denied herself up to this point because she wanted to have that nest-egg for tomorrow.

Along the way, she falls in with people who she knows by reputation or by sight. But because she’s there, because she’s in an upgraded room, because she visually fits into their social set, but she’s living by her rules alone, they believe that she is an affluent decision maker in the annals of the nation. So they treat her as an equal. They make assumptions on her and her lifestyle, and her sphere of influence based upon the rumours they hear from the hotel staff, beginning with her arrival by helicopter.

She’s honest with them. She just doesn’t divulge the fact that she thinks she’s dying, and that she doesn’t earn the same way that they do.

Looking back at today’s gospel, Jesus’ family does what caring families do – they try to figure out what’s really going on. They gather together, and they attempt an intervention with Jesus to bring him back to the correct frame of mind, if the rumours are correct and he’s ‘lost it’.

They want to protect Jesus, but not only Jesus from these ugly rumours. At the same time, they want to protect their family in the community, as well. After all, how long will it be before people remember the now ancient history of the early years of Joseph and Mary.

How long will it be, now at the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry, until they dredge up all of the stories of Mary and Josephs early relationship, and the immaculate conception. How long until they relive the scandal of decades before, until they deny any divine participation in Jesus’ life and ministry, and attribute it to what the rumours are saying.

The same is true for each of our lives. We all know what we’ve done, and how it’s been interpreted by the community around us. Was it youthful indiscretion? Or now, looking back doe sit lend itself to patterns we see today that make us uncomfortable.

In Jesus’ case, he refutes what he’s hearing, from the midst of the people who have come out to hear him, to talk about him, to be healed by him, and to just be near him.

23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” (Mk 3:23-27)

Jesus answers in parables. He gives instances that call for more conversation and more introspection about and among those who are making such statements than providing clear answers such as “I am the Son of God, and the Son of Man”

And this gets back to the idea that we need to come to changes in our minds, our opinions, our positions on our own. If someone tries to do this for us, then we dig in our heels and we refuse to adjust our position. We become entrenched and more firmly believe that what we thought in the beginning is correct, when in truth we’re in error.

And this brings us to our own world, today. This past week, and a bit has brought to light unmarked graves at a former residential school, and the rumours, the half truths, and even the full truth is out there, but where will we go to get to the bottom of it all?

This brings to light the work that is still outstanding on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that will take a long time to work through, but at the same time, although it’s not easy, it’s the way forward for all of Canada.

And in each of our lives, then, how will we live into the truth that is God’s message of love, of healing, of wholeness for all who believe?

Those clustered around him are there because what he’s saying is different. Because what he says has a ring of truth more than the teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees in the synagogues.

What Jesus says today is so much broader in scope than our own family ties, and because of that, we are all brothers and sisters because we believe.

This isn’t an easy text to understand because it requires us, each one of us, to step back from the drama of life and to find the truth of God’s love at the root o fjesus actions, and of the events of our ownw lives.

But when we get there, we realize that our families are so much more than we’ve imagined because we are all children of God.

Our families are so much more than we’d thought, because our brothers and sisters in Christ are also our family. 

Jesus tells us: “31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[c] are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Mk 3:31-35)

From a human perspective Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters are there to do what is right, but they’re still working from the perspective of the gossip, rather than from the knowledge of who Jesus is and what his earthly ministry entails.

And we are oh so human, so the question remains, how will we respond to the events of our day? Will we hunker down and allow the rumours the speculation and the negative emotions of the world wash over us, coating us with their corrosive dust?

Or will we, with Jesus, stand up, tell the truth, seek out the truth we don’t know, and enlarge the kingdom of God with God’s love shared among all people.

In the movie, when the truth was revealed, our main actress didn’t shy away from it, rather she recontextualized it and allowed the truth to be it’s own statement, coloured by the perception that she wasn’t long for this world. Those who had gravitated to her joy for life, her openness in living weren’t swayed, rather they continued to stand by her, in this as well as in the perceptions they had lived under a few minutes before.

Jesus reminds us: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mk 3:23b-25)

In the world of opinion vs truth, I hope we continue to turn to the truth even if we have to dig to find it; and together we’re able to look forward to a new day, more in knowledge and love of each other than we were the day before.

Because this way is the truth of God, is the kingdom of heaven, is the way that Jesus leads us to follow, every day.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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