June 6, 2021 “Taking Leave of our Senses”
“Taking Leave of Our Senses”
“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.” ~ Douglas Wood
“If the only prayer you said was ‘Thank you’, that would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart
“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks. I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.”
It was the Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson who once made a rather humbling observation. He said, “It’s funny, isn’t it? That you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind…and you are in trouble.” Now whether you agree with Bishop Robinson’s statement here or not, our message today from the gospel of Mark is all about the pitfalls and perils of goodness for goodness sake. So, let’s back up just a bit and picture the scene one more time. (Mk 3:20) 20 When he returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon it was so full of visitors that he couldn’t even find time to eat. “The crowds began to gather again.” So yes, this had been going on for a while.
In fact, if you back up, say, to chapter two you’ll see that Jesus has indeed covered a lot of ground in a very short time. At a house in Capernaum, the place was so packed that four men cut a hole in the roof so that they could lower a dear friend who was paralyzed into the room. And their plan worked; Jesus healed the man on the spot, but he got in trouble for it. Later he made friends with a tax collector, which would be about the same as palling around with the local drug dealer today. He ended up having a meal with this tax collector and some other riff-raff where he preached the good news of the Gospel and otherwise treated them with love and compassion. But he got in trouble for that, too. (Mk 2:16) 16 When some of the legal experts from among the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?” 17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”
He got into trouble because his disciples didn’t fast the way that the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees did. He got into trouble when his disciples pulled a few stalks of wheat to chew on during the Sabbath. (I guess that was considered work!) But what got him into big trouble was when he healed a man’s withered hand in the church – in the temple – and on the Sabbath, no less. I mean, what was he thinking? All this time, Jesus could have been pounding his fist, ranting and raving about the wrath of God and the final judgement and chances are that folks wouldn’t have minded that one bit. This was what they were used to, after all. This is what they had come to expect. But like Jesus told them, Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners. And so he loved and he healed and he brought a light and a glimmer of hope to folks who had been dark for a long, long time. Jesus the Christ offered the essence of God. He didn’t just talk of righteousness, how showed them. He didn’t just offer forgiveness and healing and compassion, he did it – for real; and it got him into a whole mess of trouble.
So in the passage from Mark that we read today, all of this craziness had reached a climax, you might say. Add to that the fact that this Jesus of Nazareth had crossed the line. He had crossed the line by actually healing the demon possessed or those with “unclean spirits.” Now, however we want to interpret this whole “demon possessed” thing, what’s important to remember here is that by touching the untouchable and curing the incurable, Jesus showed the religious leaders of the day that everything they had been taught and everything they preached and argued and debated was somewhat of a sham. To the Pharisees, the demon possessed were being punished by God –end of story. The crippled, the lame, the blind – there was an easy answer for them all: God did it. That makes sense, and because God did it, they were off the hook. It would be crazy to try to help them. Jesus, on the other hand, was drawn to them like a magnet.
But it wasn’t only the Pharisees who were swept up in the moment. (vs 21) When his family heard what was happening, they came to take control of him. They were saying, “He’s lost his mind!” Can you imagine that? His own family! Now, either they were only saying that to protect him or they truly believed – we don’t know. The legal experts had a hey-day with this, however. (vs 22) “His trouble is that he’s possessed by Satan, king of demons. That’s why demons obey him,” which, Jesus proceeds to explain, makes no sense at all. (vs 23) How can Satan cast out Satan? Now that makes sense. The legal experts were then given a lesson on forgiveness that, hopefully, they took to heart, and that is that God will forgive most anything, “all sins and insults of every kind,” but if we insult the power of the Spirit, if we roll our eyes or disregard the Holy Spirit, there is no coming back.
So, alright – I’m just going to come right out and say it: this passage from Mark’s gospel is troubling. If we’re looking for a clear cut moral to the story, it certainly doesn’t leap out and grab us. In a house jammed packed full of desperate people, the salvation of mankind is accused by his family of being crazy and then by the Pharisees of being possessed. Everyone is talking at once, everyone has their own set of wants and needs; it’s hot, it’s dirty, and it’s smelly. The whole thing was just nuts….
But I had a thought. Rising above this mayhem was the One who is eternal asking a question, saying (vs 33) Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? And then looking around the room, he invites them to God’s kingdom by saying, Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother. In a sense, Jesus invites these folks to take leave of their senses. Not that you might love your mother or brother or sister less, but that you might love others more. That you touch the untouchable, heal the unhealable, and love the unlovable – that’s what the Spirit leads us to do. That’s what the Spirit empowers us to do. The Spirit of truth, the Spirit of justice, the Spirit of God – it begs us to take leave of our senses that we may be Christ in this crazy world. And if that gets us in trouble, then that might be a good thing.
Amen & Shalom