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3rd Sunday after Pentecost ___ Mark 3:20-35 ___ June 10, 2018
Prayer: Slow us down Lord long enough to hear your Word. Open our hearts and minds to absorb your word of grace. Stir us so that we reflect your image in our daily lives. Amen
On Easter Sunday, which also happened to be April Fool’s Day, I suggested we pick up on the Apostle Paul’s invitation to be “Fools for Christ”.
On the 7th Sunday after Easter we had the reading from John where Jesus is praying for his disciples and he asks God to “Sanctify” or make “Holy” those who would follow him. Further reflection on the word “Sanctify”, could be understood “To be set apart” or more to the point, we are called to be “Weird”—we are called to “Dare to be Different.” I don’t know about you, but I sense a reoccurring theme.
In today’s gospel, Jesus has returned to his home in Nazareth. If you recall, Jesus is in the early stages of his ministry. He has done some pretty amazing stuff: teaching, casting out demons, healing, and he is even calling and gathering disciples to follow him. One would think this would be a good thing, but it appears he is causing something of a stir, and he is already antagonizing the powers that be. His immediate family and friends are a bit worried, even to the point where in today’s reading it looks and sounds like they would like to pull him aside and have something akin to an intervention.
Our reading this morning tells us in verse 21, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” Interestingly, the King James Version offers this paraphrase, “He is beside himself.” Another translation offers this, “People were saying, ‘He must be mad!’” And then the Contemporary English Version, and this is the one I am most intrigued with says: “When Jesus family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.” It seems to me that we have a theme.
We are to be “Fools for Christ”. We have been called and set apart to be “Weird”. And in today’s reading we might surmise that we are, along with Jesus, we are to be “Crazy”, in the best sense of the word. I realize that the reference to someone being called “crazy” can have a negative connotation. It’s a way of discrediting people, of dismissing their views and actions, of trying to limit, if not destroy, their credibility and influence. And this is what we hear in today’s reading about Jesus, that we was out of his mind, beside himself and perhaps even down right crazy.
Was he? No, not in the negative sense, but think about some of the things Jesus suggested and taught. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” Crazy? In the Beatitudes we hear about what the world calls wretched, Jesus calls blessed. Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit. Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst that God’s righteous justice might prevail. Blessed are those who work for peace. Blessed are you when you are persecuted just for trying to love and do what is good. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you.
Let’s be honest, in today’s society—this is crazy talk, this kind of talk could get you killed. Throughout the gospels we see example after example of the ways Jesus raises the eyebrows and stir up concern. And this is most clearly seen as he defies the norms about who’s in and who’s out. Folks possessed by a demon, those maimed or born with some physical limitation or defect – these kinds of people were often assumed to be cursed, to be not natural, or to have sinned or to be suffering from the sins of their parents – (see John 9:1-2). Yet Jesus forgives and heals all who are in need. Everyone. No exceptions.
And, just in case folks weren’t sure about this before, Jesus will soon push his point unbelievably and quite literally home when he says any and all who do the will of God are his true brothers and sisters and mother, radically redefining what constitutes a family in an age when family was everything.
Jesus then takes all this a step further by putting the need of the people he encounters above the religious traditions that regulate the lives of the people. Make no mistake: these religious traditions are important, useful, and valuable, but – and as we saw last week – they are a means to an experience of God and greater abundance in life, not an end in themselves. And when we put following the rules ahead of meeting need, we’ve actually, even if accidentally, misused the very rules God gave us to help us flourish. Suffice to say, this is why Jesus is called crazy.
In the spirit of this sort of craziness, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that what the world needs now is some really crazy Christians. The kind of Christians crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God—like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to be different, crazy enough to change the world or at the very least, their little corner of the world. Crazy enough to invite everyone into our community without background checks, metal detectors, or security. And it may sound crazy to put the integrity of families, even immigrant families, above “border security.” And it’s definitely crazy to declare forgiveness for all our sins each week. It’s probably even more crazy to say that God loves everyone the same. Isn’t that what we just sang, “Jesus love me this I know, for the Bible tells me so?”
Perhaps the craziest – and most disturbing thing – about Jesus’ actions, of course, is that they rob of the folks back then – as well as us today! – of the ability to judge and fence in (or out) and define those around us by how they conform to our expectations. In fact, what we discover over and over again is that anytime we draw a line between who’s in and who’s out, we discover Jesus on the other side, identifying with them, caring for them, and loving them…just as he loves us.
When Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Inc., died, an old Apple commercial from the 90s went viral on YouTube. It was a commercial that aired in 1997 and that attempted to re-brand Apple products. The tag line for the commercial and the company was “Think different,” a phrase that is grammatically incorrect -- which is part of the point.
In the commercial, they showed a collage of photographs and film footage of people who have invented and inspired, created and sacrificed to improve the world, to make a difference. They showed Bob Dylan, Amelia Earhart, Frank Lloyd Wright, Maria Callas, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Henson, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Mahatma Gandhi and on and on and on.
As the images rolled by, a voice read this poem:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
We need some crazy Christians to help lift up and reflect the kingdom of God. Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us with that “But we have never done it that way before” mindset. That may have worked once upon a time, but it won’t carry the gospel anymore. We need some crazy Christians, crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to believe the grace happens, compassion for others is priceless, that nothing will separate you from the love of God. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the gospel: turning the other cheek, giving you cloak as well, forgiving seventy time seven times, living lives of extravagant generosity for the sake of the neighbor in need. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death. Crazy enough to believe, as Dr. Martin Luther King often said, that though “the moral arc of the universe is long, … it bends toward justice.”
We need some Christians crazy enough to believe that children don’t have to go to bed hungry; that the world doesn’t have to be the way it often seems to be; that there is a way to lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside; that, as the slaves used to sing, “there’s plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom,” because every human being has been created in the image of God, and we are all equally children of God and meant to be treated as such.
Let us be “Fools for Christ”, my friends. May the Holy Spirit set us apart, day by day, sanctified, holy and release our inner weirdness for the sake of others. And, may we gather as crazy Christians and then sent out for the sake of the world, because the supposedly sane ones are driving the world nuts! Amen
Helpful sources and inspiration…
Michael B. Curry: We need some crazy Christians
David Lose, In the Meantime/Crazy Love