HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Psalm 138
GOSPEL LESSON Mark 3:20-35
SERMON: “Just a Little Bit Crazy”
You may have seen the sign somewhere in an office that says, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.” Perhaps it expresses a frustration with the boss or whatever hierarchy there is. Maybe there are workers who post such a sign because of co-workers. I suspect in some places it has to do with the customers. Sometimes I think churches could legitimately post the sign. There is so much going on – there’s Sunday worship, the pumpkin patch “Come Grow with Us” campaign, Christian education programs, and choir and committee, session and deacons’ meetings and weddings and garage sales and – oh yeah, as I began writing this I realized the facilities clean-up day had long since started without me. Then there are + 95 members and friends, each with their own needs, preferences, ideas, agendae and convictions.
While neighbors and friends are taking off for the beach on Sunday mornings, getting ready for a family barbecue, or sitting in their comfy recliners watching the tennis match, here we sit on less than comfortable pews instead of lawn chairs lifting our voices in song and prayer. You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps. According to the scripture text from Mark, this perception may reveal something of what it means to be the church. Mark tells us about the day when even Jesus’ immediate family came to take him away in a straitjacket.
Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever been misrepresented? Has anyone ever taken your words and motives and twisted them around and used them against you? If you live long enough in this world you will face that kind of a personal attack.
I can remember instances when people have “ quoted “ me back to myself -- or I should say misquoted -- accusing me of saying things I never said and using what they thought they heard to attack me personally. It’s frustrating, but it has been a good lesson to me. It serves to remind me that God’s servants will be attacked. It affirms my chosen method of preaching from a manuscript that I might be careful about my wording and also have a record of what I actually said.
The earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus was surrounded by constant controversy. Nearly everyone He met misunderstood Him and what He came to this world to do. Many leaders and church “ authorities “ were guilty of misrepresenting His words and His works. The things He did and said in love were used to attack Him in hate!
Anyone here like being criticized?
How do you respond to criticism?
Does being criticized bring you down or fire you up? Do you want to go into hiding or hit back and hit back hard at your critics? Learning how to respond to criticism is a lifetime journey. That’s because critics will be accompanying you from cradle to grave! If you want to “avoid criticism,” said Elbert Hubbard, “do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Since this is a big election year there is no shortage of negative, critical remarks flying around the airwaves. Of course all politicians virtuously claim they hate “negative” ads. And, of course, every candidate uses them. The justification for both sides is “Negative ads work.” Surveys allegedly show that those nasty, negative, often highly personal attacks are the most effective way of swaying public opinion. Negativity, bad-mouthing, accusatory honking profoundly changes the way we think and the way we act.
In a Charlie Brown cartoon, little brother Linus, looking very forlorn, asks big sister Lucy, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?” Lucy, looking very self-righteous, replies, “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” Linus turns indignant. “What about your own faults?” he asks. “I have a knack for overlooking them,” says Lucy.
So how do you respond when you are criticized? In his workshop on self-esteem and peak performance Jack Canfield does an effective demonstration on dealing with criticism. He approaches one of the participants and says to her, “You hair is green.” Then he asks her if that bothers her, and she says, “No.”
“Why not?” Canfield asks.
“Because I know it’s not true,” the woman answers.
When you are on the receiving end of criticism, the first question to ask yourself is this: “Is this true?” If you find that the criticism is based in reality and it hurts, then the appropriate response is to figure out what you need to do to change things. If you discover that the criticism is no more based in reality than if someone were to accuse you of having green hair, then there is no pain.
When Jesus’ family said “He’s out of his mind,” he knew that wasn’t true. When the teachers of the law who came from Jerusalem said, He is possessed by Beelzebul!” and “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons,” Jesus knew that wasn’t true.
Knowing an accusation isn’t true doesn’t mean you have to sit back and say nothing. Jesus demonstrated the inaccuracy, the foolishness even, of their charge. He “called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. The Lord not only refuted the allegation against him, he taught another lesson in the process.
“If a house is divided against itself,” he said, “that house
Somewhere I read a true story about a chairman of a certain church committee who stood one Sunday morning before the congregation to present a minor matter of church business for a vote. After the vote, his next agenda item was to lead the congregation in singing several hymns. He confidently presented his project for a vote, fully expecting routine acceptance by the congregation. But to his surprise, the matter failed to win congregational approval. The chairman was so completely rattled by this surprising turn of events that in introducing the next hymn, instead of inviting the group to join him in singing “I Stand All Amazed,” he introduced it as “I Stand All Opposed.”
It was an honest slip of the tongue on his part but that was how he was feeling. He felt that everyone in the church was opposed to him personally. It happens in the church that we will from time to time disagree. But Heaven help the congregation that gets out the barbed wire and begins erecting it down the center aisle of the sanctuary. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
There is a positive message to be learned from here from Jesus that we must keep ourselves alert to the ways God is working in the world. Keep in mind that those who were seeking to discredit Jesus were religious people. They just didn’t expect God to be acting as Jesus said he was acting, so they missed the movement of God in their midst, and in fact, they called it evil. Today God may be speaking to us in ways that are unpopular, or in events that cause us to feel threatened and insecure. We need to exercise careful that we don’t miss the voice of God today just because it happens to be spoken by out of (our) favor lips.
Dr. Eugene Brice tells a delightful but disturbing story about a minister who returned to visit a church he had once served. He ran into Bill, who had been an elder and leader in the church, but who wasn’t around anymore. The pastor asked, “Bill, what happened? You used to be here every time the doors opened.”
“Well, Pastor,” said Bill, “a difference of opinion arose in the church. Some of us couldn’t accept the final decision and we started a church of our own.”
“Is that where you worship now?” asked the pastor.
“No,” answered Bill, “we found that there, too, the people were not faithful and a small group of us began meeting in a rented hall at night.”
“Has that proven satisfactory?” asked the minister.
“No, I can’t say that it has,” Bill responded. “Satan was active even in that fellowship, so my wife and I withdrew and began to worship on Sundays at home by ourselves.”
“Then at last you have found inner peace,” observed the pastor.
“No, I’m afraid we haven’t,” said Bill. “Even my wife began to develop ideas I was not comfortable with, so now she worships in the northeast corner of the living room, and I am in the southwest.”
Have any of you watched the series LOST? The story is about survivors of an airplane crash, stranded on an island. They were so far off course when the plane went down, that there is little hope that they will be found – at least not anytime soon. A few days after the crash, when the bottled water they had managed to salvage was nearly gone, Jack, who is developing into a leadership role discovers a waterfall away from the beach. It is pouring down gallons and gallons of fresh water. As he speaks to the survivors he implores them to help in bringing the water to the people. He says to them that if they don’t want to go, they need to find another way to contribute, because “every man for himself is not going to work.” Jack says something that becomes a motivational motto through the rest of the series: We must either work together or we will die alone.
A house divided against itself cannot stand, whether it is a family, a club, a business, a country or a church. We
must work together or we will die alone.
So what unites us? Discover that and build from there.
Jesus said, “Whoever does God’s will is” his brother and sister and mother. Whoever does God’s will is his family. God’s will is what unites them. They may have blood ties. They may be long time friends. They may hold positions of power in the synagogue or the community. They may have money. They may be attractive, beautiful people. They may be and have all of those things. Still the basic, required criteria for family unity is doing the will of God.
Delia sang it for us a few moments ago: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness. Then all these other things will fall into place.