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The June 13 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services.
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Genesis 3:8-15 | Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 | Mark 3:20-35
Brokenness, Sinfulness, Isolation, Separation, and failure to accept responsibility as to the actions of ourselves and others, for good or for bad: that’s what the lessons are about today. It all begins in Genesis. God is taking a walk in the cool of the evening. Adam and Eve are hiding. Finally, they come out when God calls to them. And God asks why they were hiding? Adam’s says, “Because we were naked.” Children always say too much. God, “Really, who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I told you not to eat?” Does Adam own up to it? Listen carefully to the reply. “The woman You gave me gave me some, and I ate it.” Many like to say that he blames Eve. Many still blame Eve. But no, listen again. Adam blames Eve; and God for giving her to him. But that isn’t the end of the passing of the buck, it continues. God, “Is this true Eve?” “The snake tricked me.” The text will then continue with the punishments: Death, men have to work by the sweat of their brow, weeds pop up, women get to have pain in childbirth, and the snake gets to crawl on its belly and eat dust (no wonder they tend to be ill tempered!). I wonder sometime, are the punishments for the eating of the forbidden fruit, or are they because when called on the carpet? They all pass the buck and refuse to own up to it! There may be another punishment not recorded in Scriptures, you get to have children just like them. Let me know your answer later. These kinds of human reactions continue towards God into the Gospel lesson.
“He is out of his mind!” “Surely he has gone mad!” Jesus is at home in Capernaum (in the past, I used to think that this was in Nazareth, but rereading Mark to this point, I think that he is still in Capernaum, although later in Mark, Jesus will go to Nazareth). And, from the things that Jesus is teaching, and doing; like healings and exorcisms, Jesus’ friends and neighbors aren’t sure he is acting like their normal upstanding neighbor. He is doing things which are contrary to his reputation to this point. His teachings are challenging some of the things that they had been taught. He is breaking the Law of Moses. He even healed a man on the Sabbath, in the synagogue itself! This is also contrary to their expectations. These are strange things for a carpenter to do; healing, teaching and casting out demons. Although realize that the word translated as “carpenter” also means “wise man” in Greek, and may also in this context refer to exactly what Jesus is doing. Then again, maybe Jesus himself is crazy, or worse, maybe he is demon possessed?! He is no longer fitting the mold of any person’s expectations. Perhaps, he is the devil himself?!!!
Jesus actions even affect his family. When Jesus’ family; mother, brothers and sisters (and yes, that is exactly what the Greek original says. Jesus has brothers and sisters, not just cousins as some groups have tried to maintain). Jesus’ family seems to approach him with words such as, “What are you doing?” “Are you trying to ruin our good name in this community?” “We are working hard to maintain our family’s position in this town.” Isn’t it interesting how these kinds of situations don’t change over the centuries? I rarely read “modern books,” because almost everything has happened before. So, I tend to read classics. They also tend to be better written. There are reasons why they are classics.
I think that we should heed these responses by themselves a bit to Jesus’ ministry. They can be very informative for us. When doing God’s work, some people will get upset, already in this third chapter of Mark, the Pharisees and the Herodians are out trying to figure out a way to have Jesus killed, already in the third chapter!!! Others will listen to you, but think that you are nuts. Some will think that you are working for the other side. Some will think that you are wise and profound, but not understand what you are saying or doing. A few might get it. But, your own family will probably try to take you away. You can see that things haven’t changed much.
Jesus response, “A house divided against itself cannot stand;” that text will become the basis of one of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest speeches. I read those too. And the basis of a simple strategy: Divide and Conquer. Even children are good at that one. Ask any confused parent. It is true of families, any body politic from village up to nation or even international unit. The issue is precisely unity. The same, Jesus points out, applies even to Satan and evil. Evil doesn’t usually fight evil, nor does sin fight sin. But rather evil and sin tend to thrive upon themselves. And Jesus, contrary to what the people are saying and thinking, is evil’s enemy. The Genesis 3 text is not only the text about the penalties of falling into sin, it also contains what is considered the first prophesy of the coming of the Messiah. That is why it is paired with this Gospel lesson. Evil is striking at Christ’s heel, and Jesus is in the process of crushing Satan’s head.
Now, in Christ, the Messiah is present, is here. Sin, death and Satan are destroyed. Sin may now be forgiven, through repentance and faith in Christ. There is only one sin which is not forgivable: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or we usually say denial of the Spirit. I have several people this week ask me about suicide. Suicide was taken off of the unforgivable list years and years ago, for a couple of reasons, not least among them is this text!! All sins can be forgiven except one. Here, the scribes aka “the teachers of the Law,” are denying Jesus power, the Holy Spirit, attributing Jesus’ power to other forces, Satan. This is unforgivable.
This is a reason why we need to be cautious about judging others. We don’t know why they do what they do, or say what they say. And maybe, just maybe, they are following God’s will, and we need to listen to them. We usually miss that part at the time. True, some things are obviously wrong, and should be stopped and condemned. There are things that are obviously and blatantly contrary to God’s Holy Writ. But some things are just different; or new; or that most dreaded of Lutheran words; a change. There is a simple test, very simple. If something builds up the Church or the people, it is good. Evil always tears down, always destroys. It is chaotic, by definition.
It is in the doing of God’s work, for the good of all, united, empowered by the Holy Spirit. That is what we are called to do. If you have a nagging, nearly constant desire to do something for others, and it is for their good, it may well be a calling from God through the Spirit to serve Him. It can be just about anything from the simple (the classic giving a person a glass of cool water) to the very complex (St. Francis heard the call to “rebuild my church.”). This is how we show that we are part of Jesus’ family, God’s children. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Go and do likewise. Oh, and don’t blame someone else if called on the carpet.