The Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 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.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Have you ever found yourself wishing that you knew the formula to faith and spirituality? We all know that we are never going to work out the formula for life, right? But wouldn't it be great if we could understand how to get our spiritual lives in order. Just to be able to feel like we knew that we were on the right track at least with God and our spirituality.
Wouldn't be wonderful if it were as easy Psalm 119: 9-11 seems to make it sound. Our second slide for this morning.
"How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you."
Or perhaps we have read Psalm 37: 3-9 at some time and thought:
"Aha I have found it! The perfect formula for right standing with God.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Let's be honest the desire to know the answer, to know the formula for righteousness, is a focus for us all at some time or another.
These questions run through our lives, through our society, and down through history. There have been countless numbers of articles, papers, and books written on this subject. Some have been earnest endeavors by scholars, philosophers, and even theologians who have attempted to define the right path for life. Some have even sought to design an outline for the perfect society.
On the other hand, some authors have chosen to take a more cynical approach and have reflected on the inability of anyone to organize or design a perfect existence for us all.
One of my favorite satirical approaches to life and all the vagaries of human behavior is the series by Douglas Adams entitled "The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy." This series, which was originally created for BBC radio, takes several weeks to explore the ultimate question for humanity: "the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?" The series ranges through space and time, with a cast of weirdly, wacky characters, and finally comes to the conclusion that the answer to the ultimate question is the number 42. Now, why I felt it was necessary for me to share that piece of information in my message this morning, probably tells you more about me and my sense of humor than it does anything else.
My real point this morning is that in our attempts to formularize our beliefs and behaviors we can create an alternative or parallel form of spiritual or religious behavior to Christianity. We end up creating for ourselves something quite different than the Christianity that we are seeking to define.
As we seek to find "the answer" we can limit our ability to know "the answer." This kind of behavior can illustrate the extent to which some people will go to try to contain the things of God. It shows just how far some people will go in ludicrous extremes, as they try to work out just how they should live in an attempt to gain God's favor. As they seek to be assured of the relationship and the certainty of their future existence with God. In doing this they construct for themselves, and others, a set of acceptable behaviors. They establish a set of norms and expectations and if anyone steps outside those then they are ready to condemn and reject that person.
In the Gospel of Mark this morning we catch a glimpse of this in the reaction of the scribes who have come down from Jerusalem to confront Jesus. They are prepared to accuse Jesus of being motivated and backed by Satan to try to dissuade the people from listening to Jesus. Jesus is acting outside their understanding of the defined norms. It is not only the scribes that do this but his family as well. They want to put Jesus back into the mold they have for acceptable behavior. They are even willing to say he has "gone mad" so that they can contain and restrain him.
How different that behavior is from the kind of life that Paul encourages us to be looking for when we read 2 Corinthians 4."Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture -
“I believed, and so I spoke” - we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving,
to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal."
A life motivated by the Holy Spirit will bring us a different kind of fruitfulness. It will bring us a different kind of peace and fulfillment. As journey on in this period of Ordinary time may we seek to cultivate the work the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May we look for ways to have our thoughts and actions enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
I would like to close this morning with the prayer which prayed over the Baptism Candidates after they have been Baptized. May this prayer be true for each one of us as we seek to live our lives for Christ through this coming week.
"Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon this your servant the forgiveness of sin, and raised them to the life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works." Amen.