Homily: June 7, 2015
PROPER 5, YEAR B; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar Jesus’ family is worried about him.
In our gospel lesson today
they’ve come to do the ancient equivalent of a group intervention.
People including Jesus’ relatives,
“this Jesus, he’s crazy.
He needs to be locked up.”
It’s a rough time for everybody-
Too much to do,
No time even to eat-
Pressures mount on every side,
the leaders of Israel are already plotting Jesus’ death.
But, it strikes me as odd that Jesus’s own family would be leading the pack.
I was taught growing up
that Mary, Joseph and Jesus
formed the perfect family.
We hardly expect the family of the Messiah to have “issues.”
Jesus ups the ante even more
by declaring that he’s forming a new type of family,
one based not on blood relations,
but on a shared commitment to doing God’s will.
What about God’s will?
Shouldn’t that be primary?
I’m not quite sure I like that any better.
In my experience
relationships often crumble when people
begin to assume and to claim
that they know and understand
exactly what God wants for themselves,
and for everyone else also.
People who go around invoking God’s will
sometimes have big issues in their own life.
Claiming divine authority for themselves is one way they can cope.
When I was a teenager,
there was a split in my parent’s church denomination,
the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Congregations were divided,
Families torn apart
over who had the correct way of interpreting the Bible.
In my own home faith community
there was a rift a mile wide,
involving my god-parents and some other members.
I stood by and watched as the people who had taught me Sunday school
and had played bridge with my parents
and had attended my confirmation party
tore each other to shreds.
I remember thinking to myself,
“How can these people even call themselves Christians-
with their bickering and arguing
and their mutual condemnations?”
We can probably all recount stories about some occasion,
or perhaps a number of times,
when the behavior of fellow church members disappointed us.
Forty years later,
I still work with such issues every day in my consulting work
with Roman Catholic parishes and schools.
Dozens of parishes right here in Minnesota
have experienced the tragic trauma of clergy sexual abuse.
It surfaced in the papers again last Friday
As the Roman Catholic Archdiocese itself is now facing criminal charges-
The first in the nation to do so.
Other folk have found themselves censured
or cast out of churches they have loved since childhood
because of their “incorrect” beliefs, practices or politics.
Some of us here today are those people.
What can we do?
we can recognize that situations like this
are no reflection on ourselves, or the Church
or on God for that matter.
whether in churches, families, neighborhoods or nations,
is simply part of being human.
Jesus’s family came after him to restrain him….
because they cared about him,
because they themselves were human.
The more we acknowledge
the humanity common to all of us,
even of those with whom we disagree,
the better off we ALL will be.
The second truth is that our deepest relationships
relationships which really seek and express God’s will
as Jesus suggests,
are marked by a profound humility.
This goes for parents and children, brothers and sisters,
Husbands and wives,
priests, deacons, bishops and even popes.
In order to be in proper relationship with each other,
we are called to acknowledge the other
as in some sense better than ourselves,
just as much ,
if not even more entitled,
to God’s good gifts,
and to be right,
as we ourselves are.
The New Age writer Adyashanti said it this way
"Until the whole world is free
to agree with you or disagree with you,
until you have given the freedom to everyone
to like you or not like you,
to love you or hate you,
to see things as you see them,
or to see things differently –
until you have given the whole world its freedom –
you'll never have your freedom."
Such humility is both the foundation for a healthy respect for God,
And a secure anchor for our human relationships with each other.
Humility is one sure pathway to knowing and doing God’s will.
When we listen thoughtfully to those who disagree with us,
When we continue to love and respect them
Even while we disagree-
that is truly a gift from God.
Humility’s opposite, pride,
is the very definition of sin itself.
This is part of what makes the accusation
leveled against Jesus in our reading today so ironic.
The leaders of Israel claim:
“He has Beelzebul
and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”
The primary sin of Satan or Bellzebul, was pride,
raising up his own will and life and activities
against the God who created him.
In our gospel reading today
the very folk who are accusing Jesus of prideful behavior
are demonstrating it themselves.
Now that’s an interesting church fight!
But with the practice of humility
The fires are calmed on all sides,
At least for a time.
The crowd disperses and the harmony God intends has at least
a chance of being restored.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk,
a writer and mystic who lived in the middle of the last century.
He was deeply spiritual,
a wonderfully caring human being.
He led an ecumenical movement
In the mid 1960’s when
after centuries of separation
Eastern Buddhist monks began finally
to meet their Western Christian counterparts.
Both began to discover how very much they shared in common
after centuries of mutual disdain and antagonism.
Like the family of Jesus,
Thomas Merton had a less flattering side.
He was also feisty.
Behind the scenes he fought repeatedly
with the publishing house
Which eventually printed all his many helpful books.
More publicly he battled with the abbot of his own monastery.
Tom Merton would refuse to write when the abbot ordered him to.
when the abbot gave him a different assignment
Merton would lock himself in his cell
and write new books furiously.
ignoring the messages and pleas from his superior
to come out and take up the work he had been assigned.
But deep inside
Tom Merton knew that humility and openness
Which mark the best of all our relationships.
That attitude is well expressed
in what is perhaps Thomas Merton’s most famous prayer,
From his book Seeds of Contemplation.
|“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you
and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road
although I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.