“Are you crazy?”
“What would possess you to do something like that?”
Have you ever heard those words before? If you’re a parent you’ve probably said them before. You walk in on your kids and they’ve creatively redecorated their bedroom with the squeeze bottle of honey and the feather pillow. They’ve created a whole new texture to the walls. You know how it goes, you walk in and everything freezes. Your heart stops for a split second, you scan the damage, and then you look down into those wide eyes that are saying, “isn’t it pretty, Daddy?”
I have to admit that I have made the wrong choice in that moment and said something like, “what were you thinking? What would possess you to do that?”
Then you see the lights dim in their eyes. It hurts doesn’t it? It hurts when someone accuses you of either being crazy or of having evil intent when all you ever wanted to do was the right thing.
It happens to us all the time. Just this past week my daughter told me about the typical story that happened in the hallway at school. A guy walks down the hall, they’ve been friends for a long time, she says, “hi?” he says, “Hi.” You know, like civilized human beings do. Then what happens? The girlfriend happens. She glares at my daughter. She scolds her boyfriend. Now the girl who said an innocent “hello” is on the blacklist. She’s evil. She’s the enemy.
That kind of stuff hurts, because it is unfair.
That’s what happened to Jesus in our Gospel lesson today. Let’s see what’s going on here. We’re going back to the beginning of Mark. I invite you to take your Bibles out again and turn to the third chapter of Mark. Our story is found beginning in verse 19.
I need to take a minute here and paint with some broad strokes. We’re going back to the beginning of Jesus’ story in the gospel of Mark because today is the beginning of a new season and a new series. Today marks the beginning of a long stretch on the church calendar called Ordinary Time. This is the time of the year when we aren’t celebrating the big festivals and holy days. Can we name those big days? Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. That all happens between November and May. Last week was Trinity Sunday. Now it’s summer time. The dust of all those celebrations has settled. Now its time to look at life without all the pomp and circumstance. We slow down just a little and let the warm sun spill all around us. This is the time when we look at how Jesus interacts in the ordinary spaces of life.
This whole summer we want to look at the stories and teachings of Jesus through these lenses. We’re calling the series Do the Ordinary: Meeting God in everyday spaces.
That’s why we’re going back to the beginning of Jesus life. We’re going to look at the everyday stories of Jesus and see how they relate to the everyday spaces of our lives.
Get it? Good.
Let’s get back to this story, then. People are accusing Jesus. The leaders are angry with Jesus. Jesus’ family caught wind of this and they came out to Jesus to try to rein him in before he got hurt. “Come on now Jesus, let’s not get carried away. You’ve had your fun.” I get the sense here that his family is both concerned for his safety, but also a little embarrassed of his reputation. You can just imagine them looking at each other like, “oh no, Jesus got out of the house again. I wonder what he did this time?”
Then there’s the religious leaders. They’re saying to Jesus, “Are you crazy? What would possess you to do these things?” In fact, they answered their own question. The leaders said, “we know exactly what would posses you to do these things. Satan would. You are in league with Beelzebub, the prince of demons, and it is by his power that you are casting out demons.”
It hurts, doesn’t it? Even God gets hurt when he’s accused of being evil when all he wants is our good.
Jesus is totally misunderstood. His family thinks he’s a little crazy and the religious leaders think he’s demon possessed.
I wonder if you’ve been in this situation before. I think there’s a lesson here for us on both sides of this equation.
Sometimes it is easy to be too quick to judge someone, or a group of people for what they’re doing. This happens a lot with new churches, or with young pastors who are trying out new things. We can look at them and think, “they can’t dress that way, or have a tattoo, or welcome those people in their church, or play that kind of music. And they call themselves Christians. Well, I never…” That’s just what the religious leaders did to Jesus.
Or, maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of those accusations. I’ll tell you right now, one of the most painful things to experience is when you’ve poured your heart out as a pastor to do what you believe God has asked you to do and you get one of those emails that basically tells you that you’re demon possessed.
What do we do in those situations?
I just love how Jesus responds to this accusation. Allow me to paraphrase. He looks at them and says, “really!?! You might want to think that through again. If I’m working for Satan, why would I be casting out Satan. The truth is that I have defeated Satan. The strong man is bound. How dare you call God’s work the work of Satan. That grieves God’s heart.”
Do you see what’s going on here? What has Jesus been doing so far in the story? In chapters one and two of Mark, Jesus has been healing the sick, restoring the broken, casting out evil spirits, and reconciling the outcasts. He’s doing good. He’s doing what people are supposed to do. But, what do the religious leaders see? All they can see is that he’s working on the Sabbath and hanging out with “those” people. Obviously, this man is crazy, and he is possessed.
Do you know why they misunderstood him? Because he didn’t follow the religious rules. He didn’t fit the mold. According to the religious people you were supposed to meet God in the religious places. God is in the box. You come to the box to do God things. Those people out there are outside the box and that’s where God wants them. If they want God, they can come to the box.
But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus went outside the box and went to the people out there, in the ordinary spaces of life.
Let me ask you this. Where do you meet God?
Some people would say that you meet God in church. You have to come to church, because this is God’s house. Other people say that God is everywhere and you don’t have to go to church at all because you can meet God anywhere.
So which is it? It’s both and neither.
We meet God in both spaces, but in different ways. We do need to meet God in this space. Not because this is where God lives. What makes this space special is the fact that God has gathered us together, as a community. It’s not the building that makes it special, it’s the gathering. When we gather to worship the Father, we gather around the resurrected Jesus. God calls us together to be encouraged and equipped. We are the body and we need to gather together around the table of God’s forgiveness regularly.
But then, the Spirit of God sends us out into the ordinary spaces to meet God in the daily lives of everyone we meet, everywhere we go. The Spirit of God is like wind that blows about through all spaces, speaking to people and kindling the fire inside of the most unlikely people. We go into the ordinary spaces of life to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to see what God is up to.
Here’s what I think it looks like in Anoka county, or up at the cabin this summer. You’re standing on the sidelines of your kids’ game and the parents start up a conversation. First of all, you put down your cell phone, stop playing Angry Birds, and engage in conversation. When the conversation starts turning to gossip and trash talk about so-and-so, you stick up for the person and turn the conversation into a positive, life-giving one, instead of a negative, life-draining one. That is a simple form of healing.
Or, maybe you’re at the park, or you’re riding the train into the city, and you see the person sitting all alone that seems really sad and lonely. Sit by them. Strike up a conversation. Listen to their story. Who knows, you may be the only person who’s taken time to notice them in weeks. That is a simple restoration.
Or maybe you’re out for your lunch break, sitting with some co-workers in the sunshine, enjoying the nice weather, and the guy with the cardboard sign comes up to you. What if you invited him to sit down and split your lunch with him? What would your co-workers think?
I have no idea where you will be this summer, but I know you will spend a lot of time in ordinary spaces. What if we changed the way we viewed our spaces and took a clue from Jesus’ story. What if we not only gathered in this space to meet God, but what if we transformed our ordinary spaces into places where we can meet God’s Spirit and see him transform it into places of healing and reconciliation?
Two things will happen. The first is that lives will be changed. Maybe not in dramatic ways, but healing touches can come in many forms. The second thing that will happen is that some people will think you’re crazy. Some people might even see you sitting next to “that” person and get the wrong idea. You know what? Let them think it. We’ll be in good company.
Here’s my challenge for this week. As you go about your everyday routines, talk to God about it. Ask God to show you where He is in those spaces. Who is the Spirit prompting you to talk to. Or how is God asking you to look at things differently. Let’s meet God in our everyday spaces.