Poker Face

Jesus entered a house. A crowd gathered again so that it was impossible for him and his followers even to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they came to take control of him. They were saying, “He’s out of his mind!” The legal experts came down from Jerusalem. Over and over they charged, “He’s possessed by Beelzebul. He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons.” When Jesus called them together he spoke to them in a parable: ” How can Satan throw Satan out? A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. And a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. If Satan rebels against himself and is divided, then he can’t endure. He’s done for. No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without first tying up the strong person. Only then can the house be burglarized. I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.” He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

Mark 3:20-35 (Common English Bible)

What’s the first thing to come to mind when you hear this passage?

You have crowds, Jesus, hungry followers, and angry family members. At best you have chaos or what I like to refer to as Friday night. You get all of this before you even get to the claims that someone is possessed by the Lord of the Flies. I know that when I am hungry my blood sugar drops I can act like I am possessed by something.

A house divided. Civil War. Forgiveness of all kinds. Kinship tied to life in God’s will. What a crazy and chaotic event. This sounds more like a Jerry Springer episode that a moment with our Savior.

Jesus is introduced by Jerry. Here he is all the way from Nazareth, this deadbeat. He’s got no job. He just wanders around the country telling stories and challenging authority. He has attracted quite the following. Jesus Christ.

Some in the crowd boo and hiss. Others cheer wildly. Chanting his name, JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!  Jesus comes on stage shyly waving. He has all the charisma of a rock star & the presence of a librarian.

Jesus is soon joined by his posse and the stage is set. The red fabric chairs filled with uncertain, nervous, and hungry folks facing a hostile crowd. Jerry begins to ask questions of Jesus, leading him towards a certain conflict with the audience.

Jerry makes Jesus sweat. Jerry brings out surprise guest after surprise guest. Jesus’ first grade classmates. Jesus’ best friend, Biff, from back in the day. Jesus’ first crush. They all start to tell stories on Jesus. Jesus blushes and is getting real nervous.

Jerry keeps it coming. Now Jerry brings out a police office that claim Jesus is starting trouble. Then Jerry brings out a politician that is running for office again and he is telling the audience how Jesus made a pass at him. Another disgruntled former hanger on tells how she felt neglect by Jesus cause he did not promise her riches.

Then Jerry drops a bomb, out comes Jesus’ younger brother, his sisters and a cousin. They are upset and claim that Jesus is being manipulated by his crew. That Jesus is being brainwashed in to crazy actions. That they have what is best in mind for him.

There is Jesus up on stage taking it all in. Jesus’ posse is getting all worked up. Some are yelling at Jerry as they come to the defense of Jesus. Folks in the audience start at each other. The bald security guy and his crew get between folks and start defining sides with their presence.

Jesus is silent. Jerry looks to Jesus and the audience and announces one more thing, here is your mother! Out walks Mark. She had a make over at a fancy boutique. She looks wonderful. Jesus smiles as Jerry proclaims here is your mother, your brother, and your sisters.

Chaos ensues as the audience continues to jockey for position. Jesus stands up and motions for silence and says, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

The silence is deafening. Everyone’s face turns red with embarrassment. Everyone is too shocked to look around. Conviction just got dropped on the chest of all present. How could anyone respond? Stomachs growled and they all sat there still not having had lunch.

This sounds a lot like the “church” these days. A house divided against itself. Proclamations of errant ways. The declaration of righteousness over the other “lost” party. And no one gets to eat. We are all left hungry and wondering when will we be feed.

We are stuck in a horrible cycle of doubt, fear, remorse, and starvation. The church is in her twilight years in this nation. Gone are the days when the church was the place to be seen. Gone is the power that churches wielded in the conscious of America. Gone is the influence upon moral conviction that clergy once held. Everyone is starving and no one knows when the next meal is coming.

Our children no longer fill the pews as they once did. The symbols of the church, the Table, the Font, and the Word proclaimed fall upon the ears of a bickering people. We bicker over the right way to preach the Gospel. We argue over the right way to live the Gospel. We argue over who is in the family and who is outside the family. All the while no one is getting feed. We all get hungrier as we expend energy fighting.

Why are our children not coming to church? We have nothing to offer them. We have lost our collective salt. When the church gets back into the loving others as they love themselves, life shall return. It is not a matter of liberal or progressive theologies but a matter of the church not loving the Other and not loving itself. It is a matter of wasting precious energy on arguing over things we can never truly be certain about.

When you get lost what is the first thing you do? If you want to get more lost you wander around looking for you parent. If you want to get found you stay put where you got lost and wait for your parent to return to you.

This is where the church has got it wrong. We got lost and have been wandering around for years looking for Jesus and we have gotten ourselves more lost. We are so lost now that we cannot hear the announcements over the loud speaker to meet our Jesus at the food court. It is lunchtime. We just got to get to the food court and there is a meal and a hug waiting for us.

If only we had paused when we noticed we were lost. If only we had stopped wandering around, crying in a panic looking for Jesus. We should have paused, taken a seat and wait for Jesus to return.

I know this sounds counterintuitive. Wait for Jesus’ return. It reeks of apocalyptical folk faith. It sounds lazy. It takes being found, out of the range of our efforts. Sitting down and waiting for Jesus to find you can be rationalized a million different ways. All of them exerting control of the fact that you are lost and you need to get found.

This is the great thing about Jesus, it is never too late to sit down and be found where you are. We, the church, are hungry, tired, weak, and many of us just want a nap. We are expending energy in ways that do not bless us. So afraid that we will not be found by Jesus we thrash around; give up hope, trying to think of new ways to find Jesus. Stomachs growling, we forage for food.

The nation, the church is eating junk food. Suffering from obesity, pandemic disease ravages not just our pews but also our nation. We are in need of good, nutritious life-giving food.

The whole world is watching. These are beautiful, wonderful pivotal times in the church. Yes, there is a decrease in numbers. Churches across the denomination are closing their doors. Some go kicking and screaming. Some go with the hope to fertilize the seeds of tomorrow’s church.

Where there is death, there is life. The church comprised of us, in our mortal coil and liberated with the sounds of heaven upon our lips are the church. The church shall not die. Where there is death Christ brings new life. There is a hope in being the bridge to tomorrow.

Trusting in God that we are not useless. Trusting in God that our work is not over. The Holy Spirit of God still moves in and through this world as she did during that first day of Pentecost. Jesus is still conqueror of death in this world as he was that first Easter morning. God is still God, seeking relationship, love, justice, and truth.

What exciting times we are in. There is an abundance to eat. Manna from heaven rains down upon us. The church might be just skin and bones, to weak to eat. Oh, Lord give us eyes to see your bounty, give us ears to hear you calls. The Table is set and the dinner bell is ringing. Come home. Come home. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling…“take and eat” see that it is good for these bones are gonna rise again.

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