Originally posted June 11, 2012, at Revdonna’s Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
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” (Mark 3:21-22).
People were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” That’s what we heard, what I read just a moment ago. This is pretty early in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has been making a splash of teaching and healing; he’s even just called a set of disciples — students to follow him around. He’s getting so popular he cannot even get a chance to rest.
He’s getting so popular people are getting worried. Well, in this instance, it happens to be his family. Others will get worried pretty soon, and it won’t be those who love him; it will be those who don’t. So, the New Revised Standard Version tells us, he’s “gone out of his mind.”
Now as I work on these scriptures in preparing for worship, for preaching often I take a gander at how others put things. How they say it. One of my favorites is Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” because it usually does a pretty good job at translating and really making it connect. Well, this isn’t one of those times. His translation reads, “They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.” That’s kind of like the cleaned-up version from the King James, “he was beside himself.” That’s like that good ol’ label polite folks used, you know “eccentric.”
Jesus isn’t just a bit bothered. The people around him, his closest family — his mother and brothers as it says in the Contemporary English Version, “They thought he was crazy.” Cuckoo, wild, out-of-control, looney.
And if some alien studying the human race, studying American culture, would happen to land in our good ol’ sanctuary, I would hope he/she/it would think the same thing about us. Well, that we’re as they say, “a bit touched.”
You see, worship doesn’t fit with what the world around us is all about. I am not just referring to lighting candles on a hot day in a room with plenty of electric lights. And then on top of it having the leader put on a layer of a not-quite-high-fashion robe — robes that the church adopted from the ancient Romans. There are the peculiarities of the what’s that we do. But these things are really as Luther called them “adiaphora,” meaning the unimportant things — robes, candles, processions, all that is the frosting on the, well, to put it frankly, the cuckoo cake — the weird reality we call worship.
Preacher and author Barbara Brown Taylor has said about worship: “It is one of the most peculiar things twentieth-century human beings can do, to come together week after week with no intention of being useful or productive, but only of facing an ornate wall to declare things they cannot prove about a God they cannot see.”
Worshiping the God of Jesus isn’t really normal according to our world’s standards. Normal is getting ahead, begetting, getting even, getting and more getting. But we step out of that world week after week to speak, to sing, to listen, to act into a new reality.
In the Gospel, Jesus calls us a new family. Not based on blood and genetics, not based upon similarities, commonalities, shared likes and dislikes, not shared demographics, color or cash, not even based upon all agreeing with one political party or another. This new family reality that is gathered here today is based, as Jesus says, on those who do the will of God.
Doing the will of God, that is what makes us part of God’s alternative way — God’s kingdom. Doing the will of God, lot’s of people may have ideas on what that looks like, but we come here together so we can meet Jesus. What Jesus does is what we do — we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, welcome the outcast (the weird), and we do the business of forgiveness.
If anything is more counter-cultural than forgiveness, I haven’t found it. We live in a culture that if not glorifying violence, considers it acceptable. We live in a culture that survives by passing the blame, not taking responsibility and acting as if we are simply a bunch of individuals not impacted, shaped and even controlled by the demonic forces around us.
Doing the will of God is freeing ourselves, freeing others from those forces. So we step out and away, not to hide, but to gather as a group and say, out loud, not just with the glare of TV lights and camera crews but as a family — to proclaim something is wrong — not just to point fingers, but to admit our sin, our brokenness, our part in allowing racism, violence and poverty to tear our families apart and to tear the life out of our community, the life out of children like Darius Simmons, whose funeral was held at All Peoples Lutheran Church yesterday. Some of you may know that he had been part of St. Paul’s. He had come to Community Night. But even if he hadn’t, he is our brother.
We, the people who worship the God of justice and mercy, admit that the man who shot that 13-year-old is in need of healing and forgiveness. Now if that doesn’t sit well with you, you are not alone. These are not easy words for me to say.
And in a moment when we continue our worship, our turning to this God we cannot see, we will be turning to ask; I will be begging for forgiveness for my anger, my despair, forgiveness for my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Today you are welcome to come to this altar rail, to use it to kneel in repentance, to kneel not just in sorrow, but to receive the gift and power of forgiveness. That is what enables us to turn around, to turn our lives inside out and around, and to work against the forces and powers of evil in our lives and in this world. The world, Satan, all the powers of evil do not want us to admit this pain; do not want us to own it, but what they really don’t want us to feel is God’s forgiveness flow — through us. Satan, evil, demons of violence and despair just want us to think that’s all there is; there is no other way — that any other way is simply crazy.
Well, if Jesus’ love, if Jesus’ power to heal, if Jesus’ power to save, if Jesus’ power of forgiveness is crazy — call me crazy. Amen.
Find a link to Donna Brown’s blog Revdonna’s Blog at Lutheran Blogs.