Sermon Pentecost 2B – Redefining Power and Family

June 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS
Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5/Lect 10) (texts)
9/10 June 2012

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel lesson shows Jesus meeting the needs of the people.
Not their felt needs, not their imagined needs,
but their real needs; their need for deliverance from evil.
We pray this in the Lord’s Prayer every day or every week:
‘Deliver us from evil’ or ‘Deliver us from the evil one.’
This is our need – not more money or more time or more entertainment
but deliverance from evil – whatever would keep us from God
and the relationship which he means to have with us.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s curse upon the serpent from Genesis 3.
Though Adam and Eve were disobedient,
the curse comes not upon them, but upon the serpent,
the manifestation of the evil one,
and Jesus is the fulfillment of that curse.
The son of Eve, the son of Mary, crushes the head of the serpent,
delivering those whom the serpent has held in the coils of bondage.

And yet, Jesus’ actions draw misunderstanding and even rejection
from two distinct groups of people.
The first group is Jesus’ own biological family;
the second group is the scribes that came down from Jerusalem.
We will deal with the second group first and the first group second.

Who else but a man possessed of dark powers
could possibly exercise control over other dark powers?
This is the accusation that is leveled at Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes.
They charge that Jesus is working in tandem with Beelzebub.
By the time of Jesus this name had become a synonym for Satan
but originally he was a pagan god
whose name literally translates to ‘The Lord of the Flies.’
Some of you may remember that William Golding
wrote a novel by the same title,
a novel in which a small group of pre-teen boys
are marooned on a desert island during wartime.
Instead of coming together in community,
their group is instead possessed by a spirit of envy, covetousness, discord, and murder.

We certainly should understand the parallels to our world –
for is our planet not an oasis amidst the vast sea of empty space?
And yet, we so often see our world possessed by the same spirit,
that spirit of envy, covetousness, discord, and murder.
We read of atrocities in Syria and in other places,
and we ask ‘how can Satan cast out Satan?’
Why do the so-called leaders there insist on fighting fire with fire?
The scribes see in Jesus’ miracle-working this kind of fighting fire with fire:
an assertion of raw violence, demonic power vanquishing demonic power.

Far better to be left alone,
they seem to tell the crowds,
Far better not to trust this Jesus with your life,
for you will exchange one evil for another,
one bondage for another.
This accusation is also leveled at Jesus’ Church today.
Sure, the Church of Jesus will offer you a place to belong,
and may even be able to do good things for you,
but at what cost?
The cost of your reason,
the cost of your individual expression,
the cost of your freedom to do as you wish.
‘God is not great,’ wrote the late Christopher Hitchens,
and though that phrase targets the Islamic confession ‘God is great,’
Mr. Hitchens also had Christianity firmly in mind when he titled the book as he did.
God has been charged with being a ruthless powerful dictator
with only his own interests in mind
ever since the first lie of the serpent in the garden.

Far from it!
Jesus’ ministry is not one which exchanges one dictatorship for another,
but leads people into true freedom,
the freedom for which they were made,
People seek freedom in escape from reality, success, power, or pleasure,
in dominating or being dominated,
but true freedom is found in restored relationship with God.
Jesus plundering Satan of what he stole in the garden,
bringing people out of bondage;
Jesus is not fighting with the weapons of envy, covetousness, discord, and murder,
but with the power of God.
If we can’t see the kingdom of God
in what Jesus is doing,
we do not know who God is or what his kingdom looks like.
The question of the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’
has worried people for generations.
People will be forgiven for all kinds of sins, says Jesus,
but to be so blinded as to name even the work of the Holy Spirit as evil
is a sin which cannot be forgiven
not because God would not forgive,
but because those who call God’s work evil do not ask for forgiveness.

It is the question of Jesus’ authority, as so often in Mark,
that is at stake here.
By whose authority does he cast out demons?
By the authority of Satan, or of God?
If by Satan, then we must flee him, and seek meaning and salvation somewhere else.
If by God, then we must draw near to him, as the crowds did,
seeking salvation in no one else.

But there is another group that is making claims of authority.
It is Jesus’ biological family.
Seeing Jesus taking the role of a faith-healer,
they go to keep him from being with the people.
They are trying to protect Jesus from himself,
to bring Jesus back within the safe haven of the family.
But Jesus will have none of it.
‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’
he says, with what seems to be a fine disregard for the fourth commandment.
‘Here they are,’ he says,
pointing to the faith family gathered around him.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Jesus has authority to redefine family,
to base family not upon the bond of blood or of race or nation,
but upon the bond of faith.
This does not negate the biological family but puts it in its place.
Salvation is found in Christ, who calls us into families to serve each other.

I think that this is normal, so I don’t want us to feel guilty if we’ve done this,
but when I am around people who are mourning at funerals,
I sometimes hear them say things like this,
‘She’s with Pop now,’ or ‘His brother needed him.’
I gently remind them, ‘And she (or he) is with Jesus and all the saints.’

Again, I think that it is a human response to think of our relations first
at the time of death.
But when we are baptized, we are made part of a larger faith family
that gathers close to Jesus in Word and Sacrament,
that cares for the other because in Christ we are kith and kin,
and we look forward not only to a final reunion
with our loved ones according to flesh and marriage,
but most of all we look to see our heavenly Father and heavenly Brother revealed
with all our brothers and sisters by faith.

In our Gospel, those nearest to Jesus draw near
because in him they find the one who by God’s authority
liberates them from the power of sin, evil and death.
Let us daily draw nearer to Jesus as members of one faith family,
listening to his Word and feeding on his Body and Blood;
for he is the one who is his Father’s Son.
He has God’s power to bind the strong man,
to rescue us from the evil one who would keep us from God,
and he delivers us to live in gladness with him.



Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Sermon Easter 7B – ‘Blessed is the man…’ Walking by Faith

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


June 2012
« May   Jul »

Most Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: