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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT Jesus the Teacher - Mark 3:20-35

As we progress through Mark’s gospel we meet Jesus as healer, as prophet, as priest, as sacrificial victim…and ultimately as risen Savior. In this reading, Mark introduces us to Jesus the Teacher.

While Christ’s lessons are revolutionary, his teaching technique is effectively familiar. Jesus teaches by example. His obedience to the will of the Father… his humility… his love for the least among us… all his actions speak louder than words. But it is his words and their timeless lesson that we focus on this morning. Using the question and answer Socratic Method, the Teacher methodically reveals his divine nature.

First, Jesus asks: How can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided against itself… will not stand. It’s a simple enough proposition but think of the implications. In the first chapter of Mark, the unclean spirit recognizes Jesus and proclaims him: The Holy One of God. And the buzz begins: Who is this guy? In Chapter Two, Jesus not only demonstrates his power over life and death, he claims mastery over good and evil, when he tells Lazarus: Your sins are forgiven.

His listeners are shocked. What’s going on here? Only God can forgive sins. Some immediately try to discredit him, questioning: If Jesus has power over good and evil, where does he get that power… from good or from evil?
Then a scribe, sent from Jerusalem to challenge this rustic wonder worker, cuts right to the chase charging that: By the ruler of demons, he casts out demons.

With simple but irrefutable reasoning, Jesus destroys this accusation. It is nonsense to suggest that Satan goes around driving out Satan. That power is God’s alone. Clearly, Jesus has the power of God at his command. How else could he rout Satan from his hiding places? And while the declaration is yet to be made, the implication is plain for all to see: Who else but God commands the power of God?

There is a lesson here that should resonate particularly with 21st Century Christians. Our society tells us that everything is relative. The concept of sin is so passé. The lines between good and evil are blurred. Our values are subject to situational vagaries. If it’s good for me, it must be good. But Jesus isn’t buying any of this smoke screen of sophistry. He died for our sins, not for some vaguely defined differences of ethical opinion. In its essence, sin is a rejection of God in thought, word or deed. Jesus is the antidote for sin, the personification of God’s love, the instrument of his mercy.

In these gospel accounts of Christ’s early ministry, Jesus is using plain words and simple sentences to lay the foundation for the most revolutionary concept since Creation.
Evil has met its match. God’s unconquerable love is revealed in the astounding identity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World.

In posing and answering his second question, Jesus tells us these lessons are far from academic. Neither are they the private preserve of a privileged priesthood, nor the legacy of a single nation. The good news is to be shared with all of God’s family.

To make the case, Jesus asks: Who is my mother and my brothers? Then he immediately provides the answer: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. This is not the answer the learned scribe expected from a low-born Nazarene carpenter. This is the Son of God embracing us as his family. But that embrace comes with a condition… that we do the will of God.

And what is that will? What is our family obligation? In Mark 12, Jesus gives us a concise answer: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul… Love your neighbor as yourself. Baptism is the outward sign of our acceptance of God’s will… of our repentance for sin… of our infusion of grace.

In the context of this gospel, it also means we are family. In Yiddish to say: You are mishpocheh describes this relationship best. It tells us: Relax. You are totally accepted. You are one of us. To do the will of God is to be mishpocheh with Jesus.
We have a long way to go in Mark’s gospel. There are many lessons yet to learn. But with each question asked and answered, we have a much better idea of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. We have been invited into brotherhood with Christ and through him into the family of God. The dimensions and direction of God’s plan are coming into focus.

With more questions to be asked and answered, the Teacher continually reveals himself to his easily distracted, all too human students. Patiently, he prepares us for all of life’s lessons... as he lovingly leads us to our graduation to glory.
eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - Based on RCL Proper 5, Year B: Genesis 3:8-15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

They said to [Jesus], ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’ Mark 3: 34

Jesus’ statement seems harsh and yet he is not dismissing his actual family. He is widening the circle of belonging, including all in the community. This acceptance doesn’t mean that Jesus approves of all motives, behaviors, and social arrangements. Jesus intends to have a good, loving, and just influence on all people. His presence creates more love, greater inclusion, and wider acceptance.

Challenge and Opportunity:

There is a truth here about today’s church. The parish which has not grown beyond mere institutional flavor to community is the poorer for it. It’s only when a church becomes a network of caring relationships with elements of trust, companionship, inclusion, and mutual understanding, that we begin to reflect Christ’s will and hope for us. I ask each of us to take our part in this good vision.
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck In Good Faith: The Royal Power of Love

I’m not much of a royal watcher. I find a figurehead monarchy whose yoke we overthrew
200 years ago less than compelling. Sure, at the insistence of my wife, I watched a few episodes of The Crown on Netflix, but I generally prefer my kings and queens relegated to the chess board.

Attending an early morning Royal Wedding watch party was never going to happen. Partly because I just can’t pull off the fascinator look, but also because I figured I’d see all the photos the next time I’m on line at the grocery store staring at the tabloids as the person in front of me inevitably pays with a check.

I did perk up when I heard Harry and Meghan invited Bishop Michael Curry to preach. As an Episcopalian, Bishop Curry is the head of my denomination; he is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. I’ve heard him preach several times and I thought to myself, “Do these royals have any idea what they just signed up for? They better hang onto their fancy hats!”

And sure enough, Bishop Curry — one of the foremost preachers in America — nearly blew the walls off St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. What captivated everyone was Bishop Curry’s ability to speak simultaneously and forcefully to both the royal couple and the entire world. His mere presence, as a passionate black man in a mostly staid white context, was as powerful as his words. His message about the power of love stood in stark relief to a global context crying out for
justice, mercy, and hope.

In his inimitable style, Bishop Curry quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. on the “redemptive power of love;” spoke of the “revolutionary movement” Jesus began that was “grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world;” and proclaimed the power of love’s ability to change the world. His words resonated because we all need this message more than ever in a world that feels increasingly divided, divisive, and violent. And they were so moving because, in a sermon that transcended national lines and denominational barriers, Bishop Curry was speaking to humanity as a whole, in addition to the royal family.

For Americans, the Royal Wedding took place the day after yet another school shooting, this time at Santa Fe High School in Texas. People were tuning in for an escape from the daily images of violence that dance across their screens — I think that’s the true allure of the machinations of the royal family — and they were given the gift of hope. For that’s what Bishop Curry was so powerfully preaching about; hope in the midst of adversity and the power of love to overcome the trials and travails of this world.

The aftermath of Bishop Curry’s sermon has been a joy to behold. I never thought I’d live to see the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church joking with Whoopi Goldberg on The View or helping Al Roker with his weather report on The Today Show or getting parodied on Saturday Night
Yet Michael Curry understands better than anyone that while celebrity is fleeting, the power of love endures. The question is, will we embrace this love, share it with one another, and allow ourselves and our world to be transformed? Or will we simply chase after the next shiny object and be swept up in the succeeding news cycle? If you were among the two billion people who watched the Royal Wedding, you have a choice to make.

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