Sunday, June 10, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Mark 3:20-35 & 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1
The gospel according to Mark tells us how Jesus was teaching, preaching, casting out demons and healing non-stop. Everywhere he went crowds were gathering to listen to him and be near to him. Jesus was quickly becoming one of the most sought after figures of his time. His power was undeniable, and people wanted to experience that power for themselves.
But there were also people who were threatened by his power. He was becoming more popular than even the governor. He was challenging the status quo. His interpretation of scripture was making even the religious leaders angry. He was challenging the way things were always done. Last week we heard how he was healing on the Sabbath, not because he didn’t care about the law, but rather because he was trying to teach people that laws are only good if they are life-giving.
And so in our reading today we hear how Jesus’ own family was trying to get him to back down, lay low, and stop rocking the boat so much. They were aware that while he was doing so much good, he was also really stirring up a lot of people who were starting to think about killing him. You can’t blame them for not wanting to keep him safe. But Jesus didn’t come into this world to play it safe. He came to save people. He came to set people free, and in order to do that he had to be honest. And if there’s one thing that will get people angry quicker than anything else, it’s to be honest in telling them that what they are doing is not right. Yet Jesus couldn’t stop because the kingdom of God is too important to back down. God loves people too much to let them always have their own way. That’s why Jesus didn’t back down. Love is courageous.
As followers of Jesus, we have to be totally honest too, starting with ourselves. We can’t back down either. We can’t close our eyes to the problems that are all around us because we need to be the light of Christ in the world, a world that right now is very much divided. Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” We have to stick together, and we do that by keeping our focus on God’s mission revealed to us in Jesus. God’s mission cares for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed. God’s mission speaks up for those who have no voice. God’s mission says that people are not to be treated like animals. God’s mission says that there is dignity and worth and value in every human being, and we cannot make decisions based on fear, but out of genuine Christian love. This is the mission that Jesus was on, and that we are charged with continuing.
This mission was first given to us in our baptism, when we promised to renounce the devil and all the forces of evil, and to “proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” Everett George Van Sickle’s parents and sponsors will make these promises for him, and we will join in on these promises as well. Everett will be part of the family of God, whom Jesus says is defined by those who do the will of God. Everett will be one with us as a worker in God’s kingdom, which is not a kingdom that we strive to enter when we die, but one that we work toward right now. Jesus said “the kingdom of God is here.” It’s up to us to reveal that kingdom through lives that reflect God’s love, compassion, and mercy. It starts at our baptism and the journey continues throughout our lives.
It’s not always easy to continue on this journey. At times, it may be so hard that we want to give up, and every day people are giving up because they have lost hope. So many have become cynical, believing that it’s too late for them or their situation to turn around. Even many Christians have become cynical and fail to really believe that God can and will ultimately turn things around. We can’t be complacent though. God will turn things around through us, and that is the good news we need to remember and tell others about!
St. Paul says in his letter to the 2 Corinthians, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” This message of hope needs to be heard by so many people. Renewal and restoration is possible. We cannot lose heart. We’re renewed through the forgiveness and grace we receive through the waters of baptism. We’re renewed through the forgiveness and grace we receive through the sacrament of Holy Communion, which three of our young people will be receiving for the first time today – Samantha Carey, Mason Kirker, and Jack Redding. What a special moment for them as they hold in their hands, and taste and see that the Lord is good. They will receive the body and blood of Christ so that they will become what they eat – the body of Christ in this world. It’s something we all need to remember with wonder and gratitude as we receive this precious gift. Around God’s table, we are all one, united in the love of Christ. We’re renewed through the power of the Holy Spirit that sustains, guides, and leads us so that we do not lose heart.
We have been given this Spirit of faith that unites us, and moves through us to be the change we wish to see in the world, to proclaim the healing, life-giving message of Jesus – that God so loves the world. This is the journey we are on. We might be called crazy or out of our minds like Jesus, but who else would you rather be compared to? So we do not lose heart. Amen.