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Friday, 08 June 2018

June 10, 2018

Jesus' Family - Pentecost 3

Jesus’ Family – Pentecost 3

June 10, 2018

Mark 3:20-35


As many of you know, Pastor Stuart and I do individual interviews during the “examination night” on the final evening of class for 8th graders.  My format hasn’t changed much over the years, but this year I did something a little different.  At the end of the interview I asked the students to keep asking two questions during their lives.  The questions are, “What does God want me to do?” and “What does God want me to be?”


The first question seems like a good one for those who have just entered their teen years.  They will need to make a lot of decisions about what they will do and who they will follow.  It’s a behavior question and it’s an important one for all of us to ask.


The second question is a bit deeper.  It’s more about being than behavior.  It’s not just about how we act, it’s about how we see ourselves.  How we see ourselves will make a great difference in how we live our lives.


Giovanni had it made.  He was born into a wealthy family and his father had set things up for Giovanni to inherit a very lucrative business.  Then Giovanni began to feel that God was leading him in a different direction.  After experiencing a vision of Jesus, Giovanni decided to give up everything to serve God by serving the poor.  He wore the simplest of clothes and owned nothing else.  His father disowned him, but others began to follow him.  They called him Francis and we call him St. Francis of Assisi.


Hans had a very intelligent son.  Hans believed his son would be his ticket to a happy old age.  His boy was in law school when he, like Francis, felt that God wanted him to become a servant of God.  Hans challenged his son and asked how he knew that it wasn’t Satan who was leading him to dishonor his father.  But Martin Luther could not be swayed.  He became a monk and later led what is now called “the Reformation”.  There would be no Lutheran in Peace Lutheran Church if Hans had had his way.


Florence was expected to lead the life most women were raised to live.  Her family expected her to find a husband and have children.  But she was touched by the suffering of others.  She saw firsthand the carnage of war.  She wanted to help the wounded.  Later she wanted to help the sick and suffering in her country.  Her mother and sister never seemed to accept the choice she made, but Florence Nightingale is credited with the beginning of modern nursing.


Francis, Martin and Florence all felt pressure to abandon what they believed God wanted them to do and what God wanted them to be.  In our lesson today, Jesus feels that pressure, too.


“What will the neighbors say?”  You’ve heard that question, haven’t you? Maybe you’ve even asked that question.  We sometimes feel the pressure of wondering what others will think and say. 


“He has gone out of his mind.”  That’s what the neighbors were saying.  Mary and Jesus’ brothers and sisters were troubled by this. 


We don’t know much about the early life of Jesus.  We know about his birth and the time Mary, Joseph and Jesus spent hiding from King Herod in Egypt.  We know he wandered off in Jerusalem at the time of his Bar Mitzvah.  That’s it.  We assume he was a carpenter.  We assume people may have talked about him because he was 30 years old and still unmarried.


And then Jesus took off.  He began to preach, teach, heal and cast out demons.  He gained instant popularity.  Crowds followed him everywhere.  And he acquired instant opposition, too.  People in power don’t like it when other people start gaining power and popularity.  Rumors were being spread that Jesus was controlled by Beelzebul, by Satan.


This was all too much for Mary and Jesus’ siblings.  They came to “restrain” him.  They perhaps came to take Jesus back home.  They were going to try to stop him from doing what he needed to do.  They were going to try to stop him from being who he was called to be.


Can you imagine if Jesus would have caved and let them have it their way?  The preaching would have stopped.  The healings would have ended.  And there would have been no more opposition.  No one would have cared if he lived or died.  Jesus could have lived a normal life.


But he didn’t stop and some people wanted him dead.  They had their way.  It was what his family was afraid of.  He was arrested and tortured.  He was crucified and laid in a tomb.  And then he was raised.


In the lesson today Jesus says that that only unforgivable sin is a sin against the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God’s power at work in the world.  To sin against the Spirit is to say that God cannot do something.  To sin against the Holy Spirit is to say that God cannot give life to the dead.  To sin against the Spirit is to say that God cannot forgive even unforgivable sin.  To sin against the Spirit is to say that there are people whom God cannot love.


Today a little girl and a little boy will be baptized.  They will know who God wants them to be.  They are and always will be children of God.  And they will know what God wants them to do.  Just like Jesus, they are called to give, share, give, forgive and love.  The Spirit will make that happen in them.  They will be Jesus’ brother and sister.


The questions are not new.  “What does God want me to do?  What does God want me to be?” The answers are different for everyone . . . and they are the same.  Just like Francis, Martin and Florence, we are called to share God’s love where we are and in the ways we are capable, as we place our lives in God’s hands, one day at a time.  AMEN