Posts Tagged ‘Mark 3:20-35’

Jesus Is Storming That Castle 6-10-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 3:20-35, I explore the difficult issue of Mental Illness and Suicide. Jesus makes a small comment, almost throw-away. And yet it reveals a promise on our behalf.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/jesus-is-storming-that-castle-6-10-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday morning I found myself looking through Facebook, as I often do, and I came across a captioned picture, or meme we call it that caught my attention. It was a picture of a fish, specifically a tilapia, which is of course a very commonly consumed species…and it made a lot of pretty odd claims.
Now these claims included calling tilapia a mutant fish, which cannot be found in the wild…it is skinless and boneless…and it is killing our families…clearly the person who produced this picture is not a fan of tilapia.

Now…as I was reading these claims, I was skeptical…I won’t tell the word that came out of my mouth, but I’m sure you can guess…because in my own experience, I have eaten tilapia that was caught in the wild…fresh out of the Sea of Galilee in Israel as a matter of fact…and I CAN confirm, from the way that it was prepared…that tilapia does in fact have both skin and bones, as I had to remove both before I could eat it…and I can also attest that it is not deadly to consume, because I ate it, and I’m still alive.

My own personal experience serves as testimony to what I believe is true…now jokes and humor aside, I need to shift gears into something more serious…something that I believe falls within the personal experience of many who are here today, if not all of you. And because of that you KNOW…it to be true. Mental illness and suicide.

I bring this up because it was a topic in the news more than once this past week, as two different celebrities, one a fashion designer and one a traveling chef, fell to the powers of darkness and took their own lives. It almost seems like a trend in recent history…and as I thought about it Friday morning, I realized just how much it has touched our community in recent years.

We’ve had two here within our congregation and community in the years that I’ve been here. There are more several more who have made attempts.  Earlier this spring, during our Lenten services several of our speakers shared their stories and how suicide has touched them. I myself, in addition the 2 in which I conducted the funeral, have been connected with 3 others, one of which was my cousin.

It is an unfortunate reality, but we live in a society where pretty much everyone will be touched by suicide at some point in their life, whether in their own actions or in the actions of someone they are connected to…I can’t speak to the cause, but what I do believe is this…there are powers at work in this world. Powers of darkness and pain…powers that manifest themselves in many different ways, but in one that I don’t think any of us are really comfortable talking about…and one that the church has really come up short on…and that’s the issue of mental health.

In the situations that I’ve encountered in which the individual either committed or attempted suicide, I can only think that there was something at work…something that was so strong that it overcame their ability to think straight. I do not believe for a second that it was ever intentional or even selfish, though we can and do think that when we encounter these situations.  Rather I believe that there are forces at work that literally manage to mess up an individual’s brain chemistry.  Now mental illness takes on many forms…but it is a disease…and it is a disease that can and does kill.

I wish I knew what caused it…and I wish I was better at reading the signs of it because if I was, I know of 5 different people who might still be alive today…and if we look around this room and apply the same wish, who knows how big that number might be.

Mental illness is something that unfortunately tends to exist in the shadows…and many suffer in silence…caught up in the stigma that our society has placed upon it…considering it a weakness…one that goes against the idea of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Perhaps some of you sitting out there right now are in this hell right now…afraid to reach out…silenced by fear or anxiety or shame…silenced by the lies that are whispered in your ear or in the back of your head by this terrible situation that you aren’t good enough to get help, or you’re not worthy of it…those same lies that can and all too often do culminate in another person…another beloved child of God lost to suicide.

I don’t know where it comes from…and perhaps the only way that we can think about it today is to recognize that there are forces in this reality that seek to hinder…to break…to destroy…to hold us back from the good existence that God has intended for each and every one of us.

We call these forces many different things…and so do the scriptures. Pain, death, sickness, disease…demons…powers, principalities…even Satan…a name that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel. Now I can’t say if Jesus thought there is some sort of physical being or entity that he calls Satan or the Adversary…or if its just some force at work that is in opposition to whatever it is that God is up to in the world. But I do believe that Jesus knows that power is out there…and it is precisely because of this power…these forces of darkness that seek to break us down…that actively work to hurt and kill and destroy, that God has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world, empowered through the Holy Spirit to do something about it.

Jesus makes a tiny, almost throw away comment right in the midst of things today…one that it might be easy to overlook, but I think we need to zero in on it today. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (pause)

I can’t help but think that whatever those dark forces are…whether we want to call them Satan or something else…that’s the strong man…and the house…we can call it hell…or we can say that it’s the realm where Satan has dominion…we could probably call it a lot of things…but Jesus is the one who’s coming in. Jesus is storming that castle…and he is the one who holds the power to bind the force that is actively seeking to kill and destroy…the force that seeks to hold us captive in ANY WAY it can…to hold us back from the good life…the good existence that God intends for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US upon the creation of humanity which has been called VERY GOOD.

The basis for this battle that Jesus is raging is God’s amazing love for all of us…a love which has manifest itself in the life and death and resurrection of a man who is also God…a man who willing took on the power of death and overcame it because there is nothing that separates us from that love, even in times when it doesn’t feel like it…even in those times when we are suffering silently…thinking and feeling like we’re alone…In those times when we are listening to the lies that say we are worthless…the lies that say we lack value…Jesus lived and died and rose again in order to show us that those lies are utter bullshit…my apologies for using strong language, but I think its true.

You are seen…you are claimed you are loved…and Jesus has stormed Satan’s house, tied him up, and plundered his goods…and those goods are the lives and the souls that Satan has fought tooth and nail to tie up…to hold onto…to lay claim to…those goods are God’s children…they are you…for in one way or another we are all bound up by the powers that act out against us.

But we have a God who is more powerful…who is able to bind up Satan’s power…and who has already done so because you are God’s beloved child, as you are…right here right now and nothing changes that…now matter how much the forces of darkness might try to…nothing overcomes God’s perfect love for each one us, not even death. God knows your name. God knows your pain…and God loves you through it all…even through death…and yes this might sound familiar but I think we need to hear it over and over again so that we might cling to it as a promise in the midst of the darkness that we feel.

I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing separates you from God’s love…no barrier that we try to set up…no lies or powers that the enemy puts in front of us…nothing…that’s the glory of the Gospel…that no matter what the barrier…no matter how strong of a defense the powers of darkness…Jesus Christ has already stormed that castle and called you by name.

We can’t do it alone…and its folly to think that we can…so if this hits close to home…please please please reach out…because you are loved and you are worthy and you are known. And not just to us, but to the one who will never forsake you. There is no shame in admitting that we need help…and even the gospel tells us this…that none of us are able to do it alone…but it also promises us, that we don’t have to. Amen.

What Will It Take 6-7-15

In this sermon I explore the opposition that Jesus faces early in his ministry as the experts try to explain away his deeds and discredit his message, even going so far as to saying that he is possessed by Satan. This story is found in Mark 3:20-35.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-will-it-take-6-7-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

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

There have been many times in the past that people have asked me “Pastor, what’s your favorite Bible story?” or a similar question of “What’s your favorite worship service through the year?” It’s difficult to narrow it down to any single event or story, because there are a lot of great ones, but if I was to try and offer any sort of answer to that question, I would have to offer my top 3, and say that they all sort of count. 2 of them are pretty obvious, Christmas and Easter…and the third one is the day of Pentecost.

And likely the reason that I love these three days and Bible stories so much is because the event that we celebrate on each day is just so unexpected. Who would ever expect God to become human…and yet at Christmas, that’s exactly what happens…And then, after God has become human…who could ever anticipate, even with a ton of warnings…that God would die…much less be raised from the dead? And yet through Holy Week and Easter…that, is exactly what happens…And then finally, who would ever expect that the power of God would flow through the world to embolden and in some way, even empower regular people to do amazing things…and yet at Pentecost, that’s exactly what happens.

And as today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, that particular one should be pretty fresh in our memories…complete with my warm fuzzy feelings of having led worship and preached on that amazing story…except that I don’t have those warm fuzzies…because as you may recall I was gone on vacation that weekend…Bummer…

But then I read this week’s gospel lesson and I remember thinking to myself…wow…this sounds sorta familiar…this sorta sounds like Pentecost…just a touch anyway…because here we have someone…empowered by God, well, because it is God in this case…proclaiming the gospel that the kingdom has come near…and not only that but he’s been performing amazing deeds, displaying the power of God within him, as he casts out demons and heals the sick over and over again…attracting large crowds…and within those crowds…dissention…opposition…and finally…people who make incredibly bizarre statements trying to explain away what’s going on. (pause)

Sounds about like Pentecost right? (pause) Maybe today’s lesson is God’s way of offering me a make-up date after missing Pentecost.

Here we are, quite early on in Mark’s gospel…coming back around to Mark after quite a few weeks away from it…and now, here at the beginning of the season of Pentecost, as we slowly march through the theme of the church growth through the ages…we see Jesus, early in his ministry…he really hasn’t been around the block that long, but he’s making a stir…attracting attention…and with it, of course, opposition.

And I’ve often sat and wondered why…what is it about the gospel that Jesus is proclaiming that’s so darn offensive…or scandalous…or controversial? (pause)

There must be something…because the opposition that he’s facing here is pretty major…we hear that his family has come to try and slam the brakes on what he’s doing…even going so far as to saying “he’s out of his mind.” (pause) And then…to add insult to injury…the scribes come in from Jerusalem…these individuals who are the EXPERTS in the law of Moses…EXPERTS in the proper theology of the day…these guys come in…to make the final ruling.

Because think about what Jesus has been doing…in addition to preaching a simple message that the kingdom has come near…he’s been healing and casting out demons…and huge crowds have witnessed it…and no one can discount that he is, in fact doing these things…he’s no simple charlatan putting on parlor tricks…and so they’ve reached two possible conclusions…that either this is some dark magic, or its from God…but when the experts come in, and they find teachings contrary to what they’ve always believed…well that can’t be right can it…and so they deduce that surely he is possessed of Satan…the lord of the demons…and THAT, is how is does these things (pause).

Isn’t this all a little crazy as we sit here and think about it today…to think that the so called experts in the things that pertain to God would mess this up so badly…would mis-interpret, or mis-judge what they were witnessing…and perhaps even more shocking than that…that Jesus own family and friends from his hometown are trying to do the exact same thing…these are the people that should be supporting him…and yet they don’t…and because they can’t explain it away…they make excuses…which to me anyway, seem really petty and foolish…and so as I read this story today and think about this confrontation, I find myself wondering just what is it about the gospel of Jesus Christ that they find so offensive? (pause)

Whatever it is…whatever irritates these people so much in this story…this story that happens so early on in the ministry of Jesus himself…it hasn’t gone away.

Sometimes its easy to forget about the opposition to the Gospel…at least it is for me personally. I get to stand here in front of you week after week and talk openly about the Good News of Jesus Christ…I get to speak openly about the nature of confession and forgiveness…about how God became human…lived, died, and rose again and not worry that someone is going to stand up and debate me…or worse yet…accuse me of being possessed by the mortal enemy of the one that I represent….but I’m here preaching to the choir as they say.

But what about those times when we step out of these doors. Let’s face it, most of spend all of a couple hours a week inside these walls and we live our lives out there…among everyone else. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people disagree with us. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people don’t care about the message of Christ. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people think we are delusional…crazy…paranoid people that cling to a ridiculous notion that there is a loving God out there that chose to take our place in death and punishment.

But don’t be fooled. We live in a world that is, unfortunately, very cynical. We live in a world filled with people that have turned their backs on the savior of humanity…some of them know and some of them don’t…and that is a sad, sad reality. A reality that the church has faced since the beginning…and a reality that God has faced much longer than that.

The reality, both 2000 years ago and all the way through our history up to today, is that some many people will go to any lengths to discredit the Gospel of Jesus Christ…any length. Whether its presenting scientific proof that the world is millions of years old…or to say that no amount of squinting our eyes shut tight and sending out our positive brainwaves towards the giant policeman in the sky will ever change things for anyone…there are people who will oppose us. They may do it in pleasant debate and conversation, or they may ridicule our beliefs by calling us weak minded fools and Bible beaters and church freaks, or they may do it by hijacking a plane and flying it into a building killing thousands of innocent people.

We can ask the question all day long…Why God? Why does Jesus offend? Why aren’t people open to the best news…the news despite our brokenness…despite our inability to overcome our own sinful natures…despite all that you chose to live and die so to overcome it. WHY!?!

(pause)

This is an age old question. Why is something that seems so simple and so wonderful so hard to accept? What will it take to convince these people? When will it be enough? When will they come around? Will they? Are they doomed? Is humanity as a whole just too far gone?

(pause)

This is a question that has been around for a very long time…its been around since the foundation of the church through Jesus and disciples…and it occurred within the days of the prophets as well…and we hear from the prophet Joel many years before Jesus lived that “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people.” ALL PEOPLE. Men, women, young and old, slaves and free…ALL PEOPLE…In the last days.

But what do we do in the mean time? How do we get from now till those last days? (pause) Well today, Jesus simply tells us to do the will of God…and the funny thing is that in Mark’s gospel, the will of God is never revealed…and about the closest thing we get to answer for this question is simply to follow Christ to the best of our abilities…and yes we will stumble and fall…we will have our failings…and when we do we simply confess them and cling to the grace of God for forgiveness. (pause)
We do this each and every day…and one day people will understand. One day people will stop making excuses…they’ll stop poking fun…they’ll stop the snide comments…they’ll stop the hate because they’ll understand the love…the love of God in Christ Jesus…ONE DAY!!!
And so we pray for that day…and we ask that God would pour out his spirit upon us now…a spirit of boldness…a spirit of patience…a spirit of understanding…but most importantly a spirit of love for our neighbors…for those neighbors that do not understand…for those neighbors that are still offended by the good news.

We pray that this same spirit would fall upon them so that they would understand…and just as 2000 years of our church history has done, we continue to stand strong in the faith that God has granted…living in the promise that God has given us that he is always with us…and will always be with us…despite the opposition that we face. And be encouraged because it is exactly these times that the Spirit is…at…work…in and through you. If it was not true then the church would have died out with those first followers of Christ. If the spirit was not at work, then the church would not exist…but look around…you exist…the church…exists.

So don’t sit idly by…listen to the Spirit at work within you. Use the gifts that the spirit has given you…let God use you…and one day…one glorious day…every knee will bow and every tongue WILL confess…that Jesus is Lord.

Amen.