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,

were saying

“this Jesus, he’s crazy.

He needs to be locked up.”

 

Granted,

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.”

 

In fact,

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 fact,

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.

 

Today,

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?

 

First,

we can recognize that situations like this

are no reflection on ourselves, or the Church

or on God for that matter.

 

Conflict,

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.

 

Ironically,

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.

Cantankerously,

Tom Merton would refuse to write when the abbot ordered him to.

In turn,

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.

Amen.