Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1
Mark 3:20-35

This past week we had not one but two celebrity deaths. But you think with all the celebrities in the world, and with people dying every day, this might not be too big a deal. But what stood out about these two is that both of them died from apparent suicide. Both celebrities, fashion designer Kate Spade and chef and global tv food personality Anthony Bourdain both suffered from depression which led them to take their own lives at the height of their careers. Granted, I honestly never heard of these of these two before they died, much to the surprise of all my friends, but I am told both are very popular and have truly earned their “celebrity” status.

And so people began to revisit the talk around mental health. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but it seems like we wait for something drastic like this to feel the urgency to come out of our comfort zones and talk about it. It takes a lot to draw us out and try to hash out some of the mental and emotional difficulties we face, and look into getting the proper help.

And I’m not just talking about celebrities or other people, but I’m talking about us, because we too face these hardships and real difficulties. Sure, we might not have straight up suicidal thoughts, but how many times do we feel deflated to the point we feel useless, or we feel sad for longer than usual for no apparent reason, or even feel uncontrollably angry at kids who half flood your bathroom?

I’m not saying that all of us have mental health issues, but I’m saying that we often ignore what might be early warning signs and just think that we’re ok, or we brush it off with “I’ll deal with it” or maybe we feel a couple things of alcohol and we’ll be right as rain. We make excuses for ourselves, we justify our actions, and we put ourselves on the very lowest rung of the priority ladder so maybe we won’t have to face up to this very difficult situation that we might be going through.

Before I continue, I do want to encourage any of you who might be facing anything like this, that you do actively reach out to talk to someone, be it a family member, a friend, or a pastor, and know that you’re loved by at least one person who cares about your wellbeing and wouldn’t want you to go through this hardship alone. Or, if you know someone who seems to be showing some symptoms, reach out to them. You never know when it might be too late.

As I was saying, it really does seem that it takes a lot before we even bring up the topic. Big things like suicide, or mass shootings, or whatever kind of loss of life. I think it is sad that something as important as mental health is so under wraps until some kind of tragedy happens, and then we see the great need to bring this out into the light and find the proper help and support for those who are affected.

People saw the need to bring this up in today’s gospel story. The text tells us that Jesus was just chillin’ at home and a group of people (or mob if you will) crowds the house, convinced that Jesus is unwell and perhaps even unstable. Jesus’ family, who we rarely hear about aside from Mary and Joseph and even that is scarce, is called in to deal with this man who everyone just assumes has gone out of his mind. Like actually they thought Jesus was crazy. He was disrupting the peace, rebelling against the good order of society, and being a general nuisance to all around him.

And then Jesus doesn’t seem to help the situation the way he goes off on the crowd after he catches wind that his family is there for an intervention of sorts. He goes on this rant about how division is the downfall of any house or kingdom, talks about eternal unforgivable sins, and then tops it off with actually disowning his very family that everyone was hoping could talk him down. Well, mission failed and Jesus now seems even crazier than ever. I mean he is talking about taking down empires, gives out a strategy for effective breaking and entering, and pretty much condemns them to eternal damnation.

You know if I weren’t a pastor living 2000 years after the fact, I’d admit that this does sound crazy. I think about those street preachers with the megaphones and soapboxes and how they just yell out damnation language to anyone passing by. I mean, as a preacher myself I can understand and appreciate the conviction, but it’d be a lie if I were to say that I don’t think that there are a few screws loose there. But there is something left out of this story as it’s presented to us in today’s reading. Sure, Jesus’ actions at this point make him look pretty crazy, but what did he do to draw the crowd in to begin with? What things did he yell to make them think he was crazy in the first place? What are the events and actions of Jesus that filled the plot of the prequel to this situation?

Well, looking back at just the headings of the stories in the couple of chapters before this part of Mark, we read things like, “Jesus Drives out Impure Spirit”, “Jesus Forgives and Heals and Paralyzed Man”, “Jesus Eats with Sinners”.

Jesus heals… Jesus forgives… Jesus eats with, sits with, fellowships with those on the margins, those on the outside, those who no one else, even the religious superpowers, care about.

This is what they thought was crazy? If we read these headings like newspaper headlines, then we’d think that this is awesome. This guy Jesus is finally making a stand and doing something to make the world a better and safer place. I mean we’re talking about mental health and here we read someone is actually proactively doing something about it by being with and caring for those who perhaps make us the most uncomfortable and thus probably need it the most.

So we feel a bit sick when we read the people’s reaction to all this. I mean, this is why people thought Jesus was crazy. This is why they wanted Jesus to be intervened for by his family. This is why they needed to open that uncomfortable door and talk about mental health, because this guy Jesus was so clearly off his gourd that something needed to be done before any real damage was done.

We feel a bit angry when we see that the world in those days was so indoctrinated by the religious powers that be that they couldn’t even recognise a simple act of compassion as something willed, empowered, and ordained by God. Rather they saw it as a breach of what was appropriate, a rebellion against what was allowed, and even a rejection of what was considered sane.

We feel frustrated, disturbed, maybe even a little disgusted when we see that Jesus was thought to be crazy just for showing compassion and love. We might shake our heads in disbelief when we see how so far removed from God’s plans of grace and mercy these people are. We might face palm at the thought of a world so selfish, so self-centered, so self-righteous that any sign of including or even loving the other would be seen as actions of insanity.

But really, can we blame them?

We are living in a world where we would rather throw away unused food than to feed the hungry. We are living in a world where we would rather employ children to work long inhumane hours than to pay more for a pair of shoes. We are living in a world where we would rather have more stores and parking lots to feed our consumerism than to provide affordable housing to those among us who cannot survive otherwise.

Wouldn’t someone today, who would sit with and feed those squeegee kids on the street corners, who would openly embrace and hug the obvious drug addicts and disease victims of the lower East Side, who would rather deny their own family than to be held back from their mission of compassion and care, be seen as crazy?

And so what I am thinking now isn’t how can we get the world to change its mind on what is crazy or not, but why isn’t the Christian church seen more as crazy in this day and age?

Now, I know the church is seen as crazy in many respects, namely around things like closing their doors to certain people, shunning those who are seen as sinners, and vehemently disallowing certain practices within their doors, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. Sometimes that kind of crazy is really just crazy. That isn’t what I am advocating here.

What I’m talking about is why isn’t the church seen as crazy in the way that it so openly cares for and accepts people? Why isn’t the church seen as out of their mind in how it protects the needs of the poor and marginalized? Why isn’t the church disrupting the powers that be in terms of charity, selflessness, and welcome?

I’m not saying we should go and be nuts for the sake of being nuts, but maybe we need to learn to be unafraid to stand up for community and equality. Maybe we need to learn to more openly give to and provide for the marginalized of our society. Maybe we need to learn to love so unabashedly that others are left scratching their heads wondering “how on earth did they do that?”

Our answer is because God wills it. God empowers us to do it. God blesses us with God’s presence and Spirit, enabling us to be heralds of God’s gospel, bearers of God’s peace, and proclaimers of God’s promises that the world might truly know and see that God’s love has no bounds, has no limits, and has no disqualifiers that will allow anyone to say ‘sorry, but you don’t deserve this in your life.’

This is just the kind of crazy love that is strong enough to unify us, renewing us each day to mend all divisions, to bring us all together as a whole human race bound by justice and peace and called sisters and brothers of Christ. This is the love that God graciously gives, that Jesus confidently showed all he encountered, and that the Spirit fans within us all as God’s beloved children.

As we embark into this season after Pentecost, may we see new ways of being uncharacteristically loving, unashamedly generous, out-of-mindedly compassionate to all people, proclaiming God’s grace and peace to all the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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