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Dear Family of God

Sermon: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 10

June 6, 2021

Psalm 130

Mark 3.20-35

Dear Family of God, grace to you and peace

in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our scripture readings come from what is known as the Revised Common Lectionary; of which we are in ‘year b.’

The gospel lessons for year b come mainly from the gospel of Mark. Now, we haven’t had readings from Mark for a while;

we have been spending time in the gospel of John.

But today, we are back in Mark; only three chapters in,

and already Jesus gives us much to think about.

And really, our reading for today makes me a bit uncomfortable; well, quite uncomfortable.

Does it seem to you that Jesus is ignoring his family?

I mean, they are genuinely concerned about him;

folks were saying he was out of his mind,

and it sounds like they were pulling an intervention.

They show up, people let Jesus know they are there

and what does he say, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” This is troubling to me, but we will get to this another time.

What troubles me most is what Jesus says in verses 28-30:

28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

What troubles me is the worry that I might blasphemy.

To blasphemy is to speak irreverently about God;

to reproach or revile God;

to insult God, abuse the name of God.

Jesus does say that blasphemy can be forgiven. But when it comes to reviling, reproaching, insulting or abusing the Holy Spirit;

well then, game over; there is no forgiveness. And there it is.

I have always thought, prayed, preached and taught

that in Jesus there is forgiveness, no matter what.

And here, Jesus says that if anyone blasphemes the Holy Spirit, there is no forgiveness for such a sin as that. And I worry;

have I ever blasphemed the Holy Spirit?

What would that even be?

“The seriousness of the conflict is manifested by Jesus’ countercharge that his accusers are committing the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Such a statement by Jesus is heavily ironic since he has been charged by the scribes with blasphemy and will later be condemned on this charge. By attributing the liberating and healing activity of Jesus to the world of Satan the scribes are committing the ultimate insult to God.”

(John R. Donahue, and Daniel J. Harrington: The Gospel of Mark)

What would have caused the religious leaders to say Jesus was blasphemous; that he was possessed by an unclean spirit,

by demons?

Up to this point in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been around unclean spirits and demons. It seems like they are all over; in the towns, homes, synagogues. And Jesus has been busy casting them out, healing people possessed. For example; in chapter one we read:

23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

Now the scribes answer to this was to say that only someone who has a demon could cast out demons. But Jesus smashes all sorts of holes in this argument:

“How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.”

Also, did you catch what the unclean spirits say about Jesus?

“I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”

"You are the Son of God!"

Seems that if Jesus was possessed by a demon, the demons wouldn’t call him the Holy One of God, the Son of God!

So, maybe there were other things Jesus did and said that caused the religious leaders to react to what Jesus was up to.

Looking back over just the first three chapters of Mark; one picks up on some things about Jesus’ person, words, and actions that would have been troubling for the religious leaders.

First off; Jesus seems to be breaking all the ‘rules’:

The religious leaders accuse Jesus of working on the Sabbath; never mind that he was healing a man with a crippled hand;

never mind that when Jesus asks those accusing him: “"Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" They have no answer.

Another rule Jesus broke was to actually touch someone who would have been considered ‘unclean’, someone to be avoided at all costs:

1.40A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" 42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

And then, there were those who Jesus called to be his disciples, and those whom he chose to hang out with, to eat with. In chapter two of Mark we read:

14As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me."

And he got up and followed him. 15And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples — for there were many who followed him. 16When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

And . . . there is what Jesus says about himself, and who he truly is, and what he is about. In chapter two, for example, some people bring a friend who is paralyzed to Jesus for Jesus to heal him, and this happens:

5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Jesus said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'? 10But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" — he said to the paralytic — 11I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home. 12And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them.

It is hard to understand how all this healing and welcoming and liberating, -------all this love------could have been considered by those accusing Jesus of coming from someplace other than God. And maybe that is what Jesus is getting at when he says that to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is about as worse of a sin as can be; that to deny that the Kingdom of God is about life and love and acceptance and healing is to be far from God’s kingdom.

Kenneth Wheeler, who is a retired pastor, was sharing what a good friend of his, Albert Starr said yesterday as he was in the running to be bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA.

“It starts with love. Love frames everything.

Love of God frames everything. It is where we begin. Love of God frames our relationship with the world.

Jesus calls us and he sends us out into the world.

And that world is not an easy place.

It has never been an easy place.

The world is harsh and it is cold and callous.

It is divided by a whole host of things and this is the world that Jesus sends us into with this radical message that God is love.

God is love; a message that we need now more than ever.

A message that still has the power to transform,

to tear down walls, to mend broken hearts

and to reconcile what looks and seems impossible to reconcile.

Dear friends, let’s be a part of what God is up to through Jesus!

3. 34And looking at those who sat around him, he (Jesus) said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

35Whoever does the will of God

is my brother and sister and mother.”

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