The Sermons of a Country Girl

Reflections on our walk in faith and our life in this amazing world

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Perspective is Everything

2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1; Mark 3: 20-35
Around 15 years ago, when I was a youth worker, there was no social networking; no twitter; hardly any mobiles and much of our networking happened via instant messenger... a medium that now rarely gets used.

However, at that time (in the dial up days too!) when ‘online’ we would all be logged in to messenger and often some very interesting and deep discussions would happen as a result.

One of the most frequent bible questions I was asked centred on the gospel reading today: Mark 3:29, “whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven”.  The underlying fear was always, “have I committed the unforgiveable sin without realising it”?

The very first thing I would tell them was – context! Context! Context!  – don’t take verses out of context, because if you do, you lose their relevance and meaning. This is one sentence in a longer discussion with the Pharisees who have just accused Jesus of colluding with the Devil. Of using evil to do good... as if that were possible in the first place!  

Those who follow Jesus’ teaching; walk in his ways and honour him as Lord; acknowledge him as God cannot commit the unforgiveable. You could not do this by accident; you cannot as a Christian commit an eternal sin – so relax!!

So, that put to rest let’s look at the rest of this passage and the way it is constructed. The passage has three particular groups identified, although there are actually four groups here: the crowd, the family, the Pharisees, or teachers of the law and the twelve disciples just appointed to be his special apostles.

The central part with the discourse between Jesus and the Pharisees is bracketed by the other two groups: first the gathering crowds and secondly his family.

The crowds are gathering, growing and as a result, restricting movement. 

Jesus has returned home, so his family are around.

They maybe thought he’d finished his travelling nonsense and was coming back to take up his responsibility again as the oldest son and head of the family. Into that scene they come; the crowds are huge, clamouring to hear more from him, waiting to see the next marvel, hear the next wise word – but to the family, this is just Jesus and they cannot understand, so they assume he’s going mad!!

During the conversation about evil, and the misuse of power, and infighting and spiritual blindness, the family continue to fight their way through the crowds to try to get to Jesus.

Their Jesus: son, brother, cousin, carpenter, and head of the family.

I wonder, as Jesus used his illustration of a family turning against itself, did he realise the irony, the poignancy of what he was saying? I wonder, if he suddenly realised this was the end of something and the start of something else all together? Did he know that his close family were approaching?

In every conversation that is recorded within the gospels it is important to remember that there are layers... at this time there was rarely a truly private conversation – especially when the subject of scripture or understanding how to live within God’s law was concerned.

Each conversation was first addressed to the questioner or main subject; it was addressed to the apostles who would later be given deeper understanding and further teaching, it was also directed to those onlookers who witnessed each encounter and watched, reflected, absorbed and learned from it.

And it was addressed the those on the periphery who only heard snatches, or heard the words passed on, interpreted, adjusted perhaps, misheard maybe, even distorted – not intentionally you understand, but simply through the action of sound, and voice and nature and humanity.

Jesus knew that his main accusations were addressed to these teachers of the law who had travelled especially from the city to hear for themselves this new teacher – to establish if he was safe or dangerous; to see if he conformed to their way of looking or if he was introducing some sort of subversion. He knew that they would never understand what seemed to be a threat to the establishment; a threat to their power and autonomy.

He called them over and spoke to them directly, in order that they would see, would understand what his mission was... that this is only the start of things;

 He spoke and used illustrations so that everyone would have a chance to see, to know, to understand

Everyone will have the chance to hear and to understand and to accept Jesus and his teaching
Everyone will have the chance – but not everyone will take it
Not everyone will respond
Paul understood this more than most; he had stood where the Pharisees were; he had been one of them.

He had initially rejected Jesus, turned away
But, when faced with the truth of Jesus – there was one fundamental difference – he turned back.
As he wrote to his fledgling churches; churches who struggled to move and change and respond, he was able to write with authority – faith allows us to believe; believe what God has done through Jesus;
believe and do not be discouraged.
Grace is everything.
Life is temporary.
Keep your perspective – whatever you go through now is only passing – believe and know God has a place for you.
Believe and know
God is eternal and will provide all our needs
Remember how Jesus taught?
He spoke and used illustrations so that everyone would have a chance to see, to know, to understand
Everyone will have the chance to hear and to understand and to accept Jesus and his teaching
Everyone will have a choice – not everyone will choose to believe

Just rejecting Jesus is not the eternal sin:
Paul did that; so did Jesus’ brothers, his mother, his family
Yet, ultimately they came round

Ultimately they saw Jesus for who he really was and accepted him
But not immediately – not right now at the start of his mission

Instead they sought to bring him home; to bring him to his senses; and so, at that moment Jesus turns them away

It must have taken many people by surprise when Jesus gave up the family business and became a man with a mission determined to preach the Good News of God’s Kingdom. It seems that even his mother had forgotten the words spoken by the angel - that her child would be great and called the Son of the Most High.

This change in attitude - the single-mindedness with which Jesus had accepted the challenge - and the fact that it seemed to be overwhelming his life were for the family a legitimate cause for concern.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was not universally welcomed or accepted in his own day - that he puzzled people - made them uncomfortable - caused those closest to him grave concern: was he ill? Where would all this lead?

Jesus continues to confound our expectations.
We are perhaps so familiar with his words and actions that we risk losing the challenge they might be holding for us. It took courage and strength – total single-mindedness to turn his back on his family

Suppose the same single-mindedness was to be asked of us?
Suppose we were called to proclaim the Kingdom with real earnestness and commitment?
Suppose we were driven to live our lives wholly for God?
Or suppose this was asked of someone close to us, someone we love?
We may find ourselves uncomfortable at the prospect - what would happen to our jobs or families? What would people think?

Such single-minded commitment does not necessarily mean leaving all that behind. It may, though, indicate a way to live our lives - seeing all we say and do as having the potential to build the Kingdom - even when that attitude to life causes consternation among those around us.

Different group listened to Jesus’ teaching, listened to his challenge:
The crowd
The teachers
The apostles
The family

Some responded immediately
Some responded eventually
Some never responded, and instead chose to reject him; to despise him and ultimately to destroy him – or so they thought!

Jesus looks straight into our hearts, our minds, our souls
Jesus looks, and asks: who is my brother? Who is my sister?
Is it you?
Can you rise to the challenge – do what God wants – live the life?

Don’t assume it’s all bad – keep your perspective – we are after all, Kingdom People!

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