The Second Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 3:20-35

TODAY WE BEGIN OUR SEASON OF THE GOSPEL WHICH IS FORMED AROUND THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK. I HAVE SAID BEFORE THAT THE BEST WAY TO READ MARK IS OUT LOUD AND IN ONE SETTING. MARK’S ACCOUNT COMES TO US FAST AND FURIOUSLY, AND TODAY WE JUMP RIGHT INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE ACTION. TO THIS POINT, JOHN HAS COME OUT OF THE DESERT PREACHING THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE, JESUS HAS BEEN BAPTIZED AND CONFIRMED BY GOD, HE HAS PASSED THE TESTING OF SATAN, CALLED HIS DISCIPLES TOGETHER, AND HAS BEGUN HIS MINISTRY OF PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO THE INCREASINGLY LARGE CROWDS. HE HAS JUST HEALED A MAN ON THE SABBATH, WHICH HAS UPSET THE RELIGIOUS FOLKS, BUT HAS HAD AN ELECTRIFYING EFFECT ON THE COMMON PEOPLE. THE CROWD IS LIKE TIMES SQUARE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE; THEY ARE PACKED IN SO TIGHTLY BOTH OUTSIDE AND INSIDE PETER’S HOUSE THAT JESUS AND THE TWELVE CAN’T EVEN GET SOMETHING TO EAT.

WORD ABOUT JESUS HAS GOTTEN BACK TO NAZARETH, BUT THE WORD IS THAT HE HAS LOST HIS MIND. WHY ELSE WOULD THIS PEASANT SON OF A CARPENTER BE DOING WHAT HE WAS DOING? HIS FAMILY RUSHED TO CAPERNAUM WITH ROPES TO BIND HIM AND TAKE HIM HOME; TO GET HIM UNDER CONTROL AND END THE DISGRACE TO HIS FAMILY UNTIL HE COMES TO HIS SENSES. THE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE, THE SCRIBES WHO WERE THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW, HAVE A DIFFERENT EXPLANATION FOR JESUS’ BEHAVIOR; HE IS POSSESSED BY SATAN. HOW ELSE COULD THIS PEASANT SON OF A CARPENTER BE CASTING OUT DEMONS AND HEALING PEOPLE ON THE SABBATH? BOTH HIS FAMILY AND THE SCRIBES WANT TO BIND JESUS; HIS FAMILY WITH ROPES AND THE SCRIBES WITH RELIGION.

IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT THE ROOT OF OUR WORD FOR RELIGION COMES FROM THE LATIN WORD LIGARE; TO BIND, AND THE WORD RES; OBLIGATION. RELIGION, THEN, SERVES TO BIND US TOGETHER IN THE SERVICE OF GOD BY SPECIFYING WHAT DUTIES, OBLIGATIONS, AND ACTIONS WE SHOULD UNDERTAKE OUT OF REVERENCE TO GOD. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS, AND THE SCRIBES HAD BEEN FAITHFUL KEEPERS AND INTERPRETERS OF GOD’S LAW, BUT THE TROUBLE BEGINS WHEN RELIGION BECOMES A SUBSTITUTE FOR A LOVING, PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. WE DO THIS WHEN RELIGION, WHICH OFFERS US THE STRUCTURE TO FACILITATE OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD, BECOMES THE MEANS TO MANAGE AND CONTROL THAT RELATIONSHIP. THIS IS THE SCRIBES’ PROBLEM WITH JESUS; HE DOES NOT FIT INTO THE STRUCTURES OF THE SCRIBES, AND, THUS, WHAT HE IS DOING MUST BE AGAINST GOD.

JESUS DISMISSES THEIR CHARGE BY QUESTIONING HOW HE COULD BE WORKING AGAINST SATAN IF HE WAS POSSESSED BY SATAN. THEN HE WARNS THEM THAT THEY ARE IN DANGER OF COMMITTING THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN. THIS IS THE SIN OF THINKING THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS EVIL; OF TOTALLY REJECTING OR DENYING THE SPIRIT OF GOD, AND, HENCE, TOTALLY REJECTING THE POSSIBILITY OF REPENTANCE. REMEMBER THAT MARK’S GOSPEL BEGINS WITH THE CALL OF JOHN; REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR. THE KINGDOM IS NOW PRESENT IN THE EYES OF THE SCRIBES, AND IF THEY REJECT THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN JESUS, THEY WILL REJECT THE POSSIBILITY OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS.

THE LAW OF GOD WAS NOT GIVEN TO US TO BIND US, BUT TO ALLOW US TO LIVE IN SUCH A WAY AS TO LOVE GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOR, AND LIVE A FULLER, DEEPER LIFE CENTERED IN LOVE. SO JESUS HEALS WHOEVER AND WHENEVER THERE IS NEED, EVEN ON THE SABBATH; WHICH WAS MADE FOR US NOT US FOR THE SABBATH. HE EATS AND DRINKS WITH ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THOSE EXCLUDED BY CERTAIN RELIGIOUS RESTRICTIONS OR CUSTOMS. IN SO DOING, HE UPSETS HIS FAMILY AND THE STRUCTURES OF RELIGION, AND SO HE IS EITHER INSANE OR POSSESSED.

I OFTEN WISH THAT DEITRICK BONHOEFFER HAD BEEN ABLE TO FINISH WHAT HE WAS WORKING ON WHEN HE WAS MURDERER BY THE NAZIS. IT WAS “CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT RELIGION.” NOW, I LOVE RELIGION, THE LITURGY WITH ITS SMELLS AND BELLS, THE CREEDS, THE DOCTRINES, AND THEOLOGY, BUT AS A MEANS OF KEEPING ME FOCUSED ON GOD’S LOVE FOR ME, MY LOVE FOR GOD, AND HIS WILL FOR MY LIFE, AND NOT AS A BE ALL END ALL. I THINK WHAT BONHOEFFER WOULD HAVE CALLED US TO WOULD HAVE BEEN A MORE RADICAL AND OPEN FORM OF BEING A CHRISTIAN; A LIFE POSSESSED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, AND A DEDICATION TO THE LOVE OF GOD THAT WOULD SUPERSEDE ALL OTHER EARTHLY TIES. WHEN JESUS’ MOTHER AND BROTHERS FINALLY GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE HOUSE TO SEND SOMEONE TO TELL HIM THEY WERE ASKING HIM TO COME OUT, HE DID NOT REJECT THEM, AS IT MIGHT SEEM, BUT EXTENDED THE CONCEPT OF FAMILY FAR BEYOND HIS BLOOD TIES, CLAN, RACE, AND NATION. “WHOEVER DOES THE WILL OF GOD IS MY BROTHER AND SISTER AND MOTHER.”

IF WE DO THE WILL OF GOD, WE ARE THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JESUS; AND IN DOING THE WILL OF GOD OTHERS MAY VERY WELL THINK US AS DELUSIONAL AT BEST, OR, IN THE OLD TERMINOLOGY, POSSESSED. WELL, THEN, LET US BE POSSESSED; POSSESSED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. THIS IS THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM TO WHICH JESUS, THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT CALLS US; A LIFE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITIES BEYOND ALL THE THINGS THAT WOULD BIND US TO REMAIN AS OTHERS WOULD HAVE US BE. JESUS CALLS US TO BE A PART OF WHAT HE BRINGS TO THIS WORLD WRAPPED IN THE CHAINS OF SIN AND BOUND BY THE TIES OF TRIBE, RACE, GENDER, AND NATION; HE CALLS US TO BE A CHILD OF THE WILDLY MERCIFUL, UNPREDICTABLE, UNCONTROLLABLE, AND GRACIOUS GOD WHO IS ALWAYS DOING A NEW THING.
AMEN

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