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Clearly

Reverend Philip Stringer

Mark 3:20-35

LET US PRAY: You, O Lord, are the author of life. Speak to our hearts and fill us with the breath of your Spirit, that we may live and move in your ways, all the days of our life. AMEN


They went out to restrain him because they thought he was losing his mind. That was their reason. I wonder, how often are we “held back” from doing the right thing by some “reason?”


What is the “reason” you do something — reason. Sound; logical; rational. Can what we call “reason” always be trusted? Or do we often confuse “excuse” with “reason?” They are not synonyms.


Our scripture readings today brought a number of things to mind.


Adam & Eve hid themselves from God because they were afraid — they didn’t want their maker to see them naked … THEIR MAKER. They thought they could hide from the One who sees all. Was that reason?


In our gospel reading, Jesus said that “a house divided cannot stand.” Of course, Abraham Lincoln quoted those words when speaking to a nation where many of the people believed the nation couldn’t survive without slavery. That it was the natural order of things. Ordained by God. That was the reasoning.


Here is a question: If people think Jesus has “gone out of his mind,” why are they so eager to see him? Are they celebrating the good he is causing, or do they merely see him as a carnival freak show? The scribes think he is possessed. People should be running in the opposite direction! Why are people attracted to him?


Beelzebul — Baal Zebub — the Lord of Flies — flies being the cause of plagues and death. They say Jesus is the Lord of Death.


Their “reasoning” goes like this: Jesus is doing good things to trick people into thinking he is good, when he is really not good. He is bad. What is good is really bad and what is bad is really good.


So how can one tell good from bad?


Sometime later Pilate asked Jesus, “what is truth?”


When people think God is the Devil, they will also think that the Devil is God.


Jesus says, how can you “reason” with someone like that?


Sin is what divides us from God. God forgives — God brings together what sin pulls apart. God forgives, but Jesus tells us that if someone can’t see what is given is good, one can never possess it. If you think the act of pulling together is the act of pulling apart, you cannot be “reasoned” with. If you believe the attributes of God are the attributes of the Devil, you will forever be at odds with God.


So how can you tell the difference between good and bad?


Good brings together.

Bad tears apart.


Good heals.

Bad wounds.


Good reveals.

Bad obscures.


God brings peace.

Bad brings conflict.


Jesus is casting out demons and they think it is bad news. And we think those people must have been nuts — because we can see clearly that Jesus is good, not bad.


We can see clearly.


But can we?


When we think that “outsiders” are the cause of our internal problems.


When we think refugees — people who have lost everything — are a threat.


When we think bombing mothers and babies is necessary, acceptable, responsible and heroic.


When we think upholding the law is un-American.


When we think guns will make us safer.


When we think that education is a problem.


When we think that separating ourselves from allies is appropriate when the world is fracturing.


When we think more air conditioning is the solution to a hotter planet.


Can we really say that we see clearly?


So, what are you and I to do?


We struggle to tell the difference between right and wrong. Just like the people of Jesus’ day.


The questions that face society are complex. Politics are complicated. Geo-political issues are complicated. Balancing our wants and our needs is hard.


But that is also the world into which Jesus came.


Some people celebrated what Jesus was doing, and some people abhorred what he was doing — but he did it, just the same.


When people confused Jesus with the devil, Jesus marveled at it, but he still kept doing what he was doing. Jesus was who he was. He is who he is.


Pilate asked Jesus, “what is truth?”


The scribes wondered, “who is Jesus?”


Moses asked the burning bush, “who are you?”


And God answered, “I am who I am.”


And that is the good news.


You and I struggle to know what is right and to do what is right — and we can do the best we can do, but we won’t always get it right. In a certain sense, that doesn’t matter. Because whether we get it wrong or get it right, Jesus is still Jesus.


Jesus still does what Jesus does.

Jesus casts out what is wrong.

Jesus heals.

Jesus forgives.

Jesus loves. You. And nothing can change that.


When you were baptized, water was poured over your head and God established a covenant with you — “you are mine forever. No matter where you go — good or bad — I will be there.


No matter what you do — good or bad — I will not abandon you.


No matter what you say or do or think or believe — you are my child. And I will love you.

Whatever else in this world is Unclear — upon this we can rely.


So while nothing you and I do will ever be purely good (because there will always be a self-serving aspect to our actions)...


And even though knowing right from wrong isn’t always easy...


It seems to me that Paul’s advice to the Christians of Philippi is the best advice for us, too. It was simply this: try to do what is right, knowing that you are held securely by God — who reaches beyond all that we do to ensure that what is right prevails.

AMEN

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