Stuck in the Middle

Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
edited May 30 in Kerygmania
Next week I get to preach. The appointed RCL passage is Mark 3: 20-30, but I am thinking about extending it to the end of the chapter because it makes more sense to have the family looking for Jesus as the bookends of the story.
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Now here is my struggle, obviously, the first audience saw the world through a spiritual dualistic world. Now, that prism is not as clear these days. Now I do not want to get into a long discussion about whether or not Beelzebub or his demons exist. I want to focus more how people tend to divide over new ideas or situations. For instance, the pandemic caused a lot of stress for individuals, families, faith communities, and even nations almost to the breaking point -- a house divided. Now is the time to bring things back together again, in my view.

But I want to ask you, what do you get out of the story? What do you think it conveys. In other words, if you were the preacher, what would your sermon be?

Comments

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I’m preaching on the whole passage you’ve quoted. We are currently only having one of the other readings, so I’m going for Genesis 3:8-15, where each blames the other for failing to follow God’s will.

    I’m in the germination stage, but I’m probably going with that connection - whoever does the will of God is within the family of God - and tie it in with our vision of an inclusive church.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Going to the Genesis story: I think the original problem was no one took responsibility for what happened.

    On the other hand, see if you can find Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place by Danielle Shroyer It is really a quick read and presents the story in a much different light.
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    @Gramps49 That link doesn't work. It simply sends one back to this thread.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Now here is my struggle, obviously, the first audience saw the world through a spiritual dualistic world. Now, that prism is not as clear these days. Now I do not want to get into a long discussion about whether or not Beelzebub or his demons exist. I want to focus more how people tend to divide over new ideas or situations.
    If it were me—and churches everywhere can give thanks they’re spared that possibility—I probably wouldn’t be so quick to skip over Beelzebub and his demons, as I that strikes me as the key to the rest of the passage. And I think it’s quite possible to examine that without getting bogged down in ancient world views or whether demons are real.

    The point is that the “teachers of the law” were calling Jesus evil because he was challenging and casting out evil. And Jesus’s point with the house divided bit was that obviously he is not evil because evil would not challenge evil and cannot fight evil, cannot fight itself, without destroying itself. They are speaking nonsense. He then challenges those teachers with a warning—that it is a dangerously serious thing to do as they have done and call the work of God evil.

    An interesting thing is that the teachers of the law aren’t talking to Jesus when they say he’s possessed. They seem to be talking either to some in the crowd, and Jesus hears and calls them over. But what they had to say is paired, in a way, with what Jesus’s family had to say that Jesus had “gone out of his mind.” So Jesus’s family is also attributing his actions to something over than God. And what he says on their arrival is paired with the warning he gave teachers of the law, when he says that his true family are those who do God’s will.

    Given all of that, I think I’d be inclined to focus in some way on watching for what God is doing in the world and who is doing God’s will in the world, and on being part of that work. In other words, on being the family of Christ in the world. I’d probably connect that to the challenges that have arisen during the pandemic and to the needs that have been exposed, or exposed more urgently—particularly in terms of racism, inequality and injustice in the US.

    But you know your congregation, and I’m convinced the best preaching comes is in “conversation” with the congregation—not in the sense of being co-written, as it were, but in the sense that the preaching is rooted both in Scripture and in the life and needs, the wounds and hopes of the congregation and the place it is in. So ultimately, I’d say go the direction in which you are led.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited May 31
    Here’s a mended link to Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place by Danielle Shroyer as recommended by @Gramps49
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

    There seems to be something missing here. Why would they say that he was out of his mind?

    It would appear that Mary had not told his family that Yesus was 'special' and they had not noticed anything special in his first 30 years
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Thank you, Nick. Good points.
  • I have always found this passage uncomfortable because the premises of Jesus's counter-argument seem shaky (and I feel uncomfortable saying that). Surely evil frequently does fight evil - it's in the nature of evil surely to be backstabby and disunited?
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I have always found this passage uncomfortable because the premises of Jesus's counter-argument seem shaky (and I feel uncomfortable saying that). Surely evil frequently does fight evil - it's in the nature of evil surely to be backstabby and disunited?

    Evil will beget evil, but surely only the good fights it?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Knowing how the fear they might have somehow fallen foul of it knots some people up inside, I think I'd probably speak about the unforgivable sin and how Jesus's love reaches through to anyone if they'll but let him do so.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited June 2
    Enoch wrote: »
    Knowing how the fear they might have somehow fallen foul of it knots some people up inside, I think I'd probably speak about the unforgivable sin and how Jesus's love reaches through to anyone if they'll but let him do so.

    The problem with your idea, Enoch, is that it does not fit the theology of my denomination. It is not about letting Jesus' love in, it invades us even when we do not want it. I think the comment about the unforgivable sin goes to what the scribes were saying. I am not sure it applies to today.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    In the past we've preached on the unforgiveable sin thingy, since I know so many people who have misunderstood it and given pain to themselves. But this year we're doing "Respectability vs. Goodness" as a theme. It came out of asking, "Why exactly did Mary and the brothers think Jesus had lost his mind?"

    When we looked back through the previous two chapters, we got a whole lot of stuff. There was the homeowner left with a hole in his/her roof and a huge mess to clean up (aka the healing of the paralyzed man); the fight in the synagogue (aka the healing of the man with a withered hand); Jesus' decision to take a notorious evildoer as a daily close associate (the calling of Levi); Jesus' attendance at a meeting of criminals and lowlifes (the banquet at Levi's house); Jesus' refusal to stick to bare minimum decency in public, AND his unprovoked insults to the religious leaders, who were just doing their duty (aka "Why don't your disciples follow the tradition of the elders?" and handwashing).

    If you look at these episodes from Mark's point of view, the God point of view--well, the gospel aspect is highlighted and we can totally see and agree with what Jesus is doing. But if you take it from the viewpoint of the neighborhood gossips, it becomes clear that "our sweet, gentle Jesus" has gotten into bad company and gone completely round the bend, who would have thought it, a brawl with the clergy, how embarrassing, and on the Sabbath itself! Oh no, he must be out of his mind, we've never had anything like this in the family before, property damage and whores and traitors, <swoons>.

    I'm not surprised Jesus' family had a hissy fit. Reputation is everything to most people, and watching Jesus throw his to the four winds as he concentrated on REALLY helping people, well....
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Something I am now working on, in relation to Lamb Chopped's points, is that when Jesus calls the crowd his brothers and sisters, he is inviting them along for the ride. We don't know where this ride will take us, but it is going to be interesting, challenging, exciting. On the other hand, there will be a time when even the crowd will abandon Jesus as reported in John 6.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    I am also preaching this Sunday, and decided two days ago to abandon this passage and go for Genesis 3 instead. As I read Mark 3 and other related passages it seemed increasingly obvious that Jesus didn’t value family relationships very highly, and it didn’t seem like a good time to explore that with our congregation.
    My sermon on Genesis 3 isn’t going to be very conventional, but that’s another tangent.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Aravis wrote: »
    I am also preaching this Sunday, and decided two days ago to abandon this passage and go for Genesis 3 instead. As I read Mark 3 and other related passages it seemed increasingly obvious that Jesus didn’t value family relationships very highly, and it didn’t seem like a good time to explore that with our congregation.
    My sermon on Genesis 3 isn’t going to be very conventional, but that’s another tangent.

    My understanding of the incident in the Garden is changing. Not sure where it is right now, so I would not want to broach the subject in a sermon. I can point out, that there is no "Fall" or "Rebellion" in Judaism, nor is there one in Eastern Orthodox. I think Judaism says what happened was the maturing of the human race.

    In any case, there is sort of a joke within the story. After Adam and Eve realized they were naked and had to cover up, they used fig leaves. Well, fig oil is an irritant to human skin. So, not only were they trying to hide from God, they were probably wishing they had Calamine Lotion available. No wonder God make animal skins for them.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    So how did your sermon go, @Gramps49, and in which direction did you end up going?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited June 9
    I did the cast of characters thing. Family--scandalized because of Jesus' behavior. Religious Authorities too calcified to realize something is happening. Crowd attracted to the new thing happening.

    At one point I kind of got into the weeds with the religious authorities thing. But everyone said it was a good sermon.

    The times I have preached in black churches I got to learn as long as everyone is saying something like "Amen" they are tracking you well. As soon as you hear, "Help him, Jesus," you are having problems. I was definitely having problems in the middle, but I think I recovered well at the end.

    Thank you for asking, Nick.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited June 9
    Sounds good, and I’m sure it was good.

    (And at least “Help him, Jesus!” shows they’re still listening. :wink: )

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Good point.
  • MarthaMartha Shipmate
    I know you've done your sermon now, but my church has been looking at Mark for Methodist Bible Month, and one idea that came out of it was how purity / impurity is transmitted. The idea was that usually the impure thing pollutes the pure (if you put dirt on a clean thing, the dirt pollutes rather than the clean thing purifying).

    Like LC said, Jesus rather turned this on its head, by touching unclean people and refusing to obey purity laws. He was effectively showing that his purity overruled the impure. The argument he has in this chapter shows the trouble that people had believing this could happen.

    I thought that was an interesting take on Jesus's ministry. Previously I'd mostly heard his healings etc glossed as "He was proving who he was".
  • On the "holiness isn't transmitted that way" thing--Haggai 2 has an interesting discussion where the prophet asks the priests, and they rule that holiness cannot be transmitted by touch, but impurity can. (Haggai / the Lord speaking through Haggai makes no judgement on the correctness or otherwise of the priests' theory--God was using their response as a springboard for a message, basically.)

    Later Ezekiel (chapter 46:20) makes just the opposite decision, with the divine messenger telling Ezekiel that transmitting holiness is in fact a thing (and giving instructions on how to avoid it).

    Jesus appears to come down on Ezekiel's side through his whole behavior and attitudes. Which must have frustrated the leaders no end.
  • MarthaMartha Shipmate
    Thanks, I'll have to look those passages up. I think Jesus was/is very good at frustrating leaders!
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Haggai 2: Blessings for a Defiled People
    10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lordcame to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the LordAlmighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ ”
    The priests answered, “No.”

    Consecrated meat > fold > food != consecrated food

    Ezekiel 46:20 Then said he unto me, This is the place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering and the sin offering, where they shall bake the meat offering; that they bear them not out into the utter court, to sanctify the people.

    Consecrated meat > outer court = consecrated people (if they partake of it)

  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Haggai 2: Blessings for a Defiled People
    10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lordcame to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the LordAlmighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ ”
    The priests answered, “No.”

    Consecrated meat > fold > food != consecrated food

    Ezekiel 46:20 Then said he unto me, This is the place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering and the sin offering, where they shall bake the meat offering; that they bear them not out into the utter court, to sanctify the people.

    Consecrated meat > outer court = consecrated people (if they partake of it)

    I find these sort of discrepancies interesting, but not worrying. The Bible has many parts which disagree with or are an overturning of accepted tradition.

    Matthew's take on Jesus' approach to this in Matt 15 is
    "10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’"
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