Who Are Family
– How do we recognize Jesus?
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Mark 3:20-41, Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
We know that people can be cynical and scornful - if not outright hateful. When people see someone like Jesus preaching and having these massive crowds, there is some jealousy growing in the local scribes. How does Jesus get all of this attention ??
They start mocking his work and miracles as some trickery and demonic magic – the work of Beelzebul. So the first part of the Gospel text for this week is a critical response to these attacks. How can you call Jesus Satan when Jesus is working to cast out Satan?
That Abraham Lincoln refers to this text in speeches in his run for Senate in Illinois tells how important this text is. “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Then candidate Lincoln was referring to the persistent division of the country based upon slavery, which he predicted was going to tear apart the country - how correct he still is.
We know that some people like to swear and curse more than a fair share. (I have lived in neighborhoods where you could tell what time of day it was by the volume of curses.) People might look at the middle verses and have some pause:
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
When we witness Jesus or God working but completely deny it, then we might run afoul of this. Thus, it is important for us here to be conscious of when we witness Jesus working.
It is great to see Jesus working in people doing wonderful things (e.g. that wonderful meal, graduations, a child scores the run, the success at the office, or a person pulled from a fire).
We can recognize Jesus when people celebrate heritage (Black, Asian, Native tribes, or even Pride). Our Bible tells us to celebrate these.
Yet, we are challenged to witness Jesus also when people march for justice, equality and fairness in our laws. That’s what Jesus did. Additionally, we ought to witness Jesus when people atone for mistakes – Jesus forgives and so should we. We ought to recognize when we have screwed up, be willing to atone and forgive ourselves because we know no one is perfect - we all fall short.
This is a central theme of Mark’s Gospel and Jesus’s teaching. Remember from Mark 1, Jesus proclaiming “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom is near, repent and believe…”
That is why Jesus in the last part of the lesson talks about where family is. Not just family by blood (who in Mark’s Gospel also were trying to “restrain” Jesus saying “has gone out of his mind.”)
You may have thought that about me, and I know I haven’t been perfect – but I preach what Jesus says and did. It is not always an easy path. That is not to say I have the only perspective either.
People like to twist this into an argument against diverse perspectives and experiences. Jesus offers grace and teaching beyond his own community. Sorry, Jesus did not offer extraordinary powers or wealth- that would be false teaching. Instead, the focus is upon ways to connect with God, ways in which we can see and witness God in our lives and those around us.
These are ways we can witness family all around us - not by casting negativity about others. That only serves to sow division and hate, which our human society has plenty of ways. That is how we devolve into fighting and wars because we are too busy trying to find what is wrong with others, demean people or relegate their work as meaningless rather than finding what we can learn from each other - perhaps growing with each other.
This is one of the reasons I have grown to dislike social media. That for all of the promise it holds to reconnect friends, it has become mired in echo chambers where people shout at each other in careless, one-way, baseless claims and accusations rather than honest dialog.
So instead, Jesus teaches inclusion with forgiveness and redemption available for all. That means having conversations rather than demeaning people. That is the core of the good news! They who recognize this, (if you recognize this), you recognize Jesus, and recognize God. Those who practice this, practice Jesus and find Jesus filling hearts and minds with love, justice and grace.
By our faith, we too can witness the possible of Jesus. That is the family Jesus refers here. Those who recognize forgiveness and the kingdom is available to all God’s children. Thus, sit with Jesus to learn rather than pointing fingers and false accusation.
Yes, I am not perfect. I recognize that I am broken and I fall way short. That is why we have God – to build us up. Through faith, the power and restoring grace of Jesus’s spirit guides us to be more than our brokenness and our mistakes. We are, after all, children of God, and with that, we have so much given to us and so much possible – and we have church -our family.
If we open our eyes, our ears before we open our mouths, we might be willing to open our minds and our hearts to the possible - the grace of Jesus near us and with us.
Let your faith connect you to all God’s children! Let your hearts grow beyond accusations, the difficult and brokenness. Watch your heart flourish nearer to Jesus.
Thanks be to God.