What makes the Christian stand out from any other individual? We don’t look different than others. We have family, jobs, concerns just as others do. In our passage from Mark one of the attributes which stands out is being slightly out of our minds.
Text: Mark 3: 20-35
Out of your Mind
Are you out of your mind?
That’s pretty much what my dad said to me when I got my ear pierced at 15. I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time and I needed a decision that I could own.
A few years later I got my first tattoo. The response, this time from my mum, was the same. Are you sure? That was the polite way for parents to say are you out of your mind?
Several years later I joined the Canadian Forces primary reserve as an Infantry Solider. Same response, a bit stronger? You sure about this?
Oddly enough when I later in life decided to go to seminary in order to become a minister my parents didn’t say “Are you out of your mind?”
Each of these is a relatively minor case of being asked if you are out of your mind. I imagine each of you have had someone in your own life ask if you were out of your mind on a decision you were making. I suspect you have also asked or thought that of a decision someone else was making.
Are you out of your mind!
The crowds gathered around Jesus that day and they said, “He is out of his mind.”
For many years, centuries even, Christianity has been a dominant voice. No longer. So, we must be out of our minds to continue following the teachings of this ancient book. We must be out of our minds because we believe that God is good and that God sent his son to show us a better way. We must be out of our minds for following a God who allowed himself to be killed. We must be out of our minds because clearly, we believe the stuff of fairy tales.
We must be out of our minds for believing that this same God who allowed himself to be killed did so to show us that cycles of violence don’t work. Two thousand years later and we still haven’t understood the message. We must be out of our minds because Jesus Christ taught a radical message of inclusion. Something which our polarized, highly politized, society has not heard.
We must be out of our minds because we still show up on a Sunday morning and worship. Meanwhile statistics show that fewer and fewer people believe in God. That people do not have faith in the institution which is the church and can you blame them? Personally, I’m less interested in propping up how good the church is and far more interested in demonstrating how good God is.
I read an interesting quote this week from the Rev. Dr. Sarah Travis. Sarah is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. She offered this as a result of some of the discussion which occurred at General Assembly this past week. Sarah writes, “Our task, as Christians, is not to ensure the survival of the church. The church does not belong to us. And after all, resurrection has a prerequisite. Perhaps the church is called to ‘lay down its life for its friends.’ Resistance, radical hospitality and subverting the powers might get us killed. But have we forgotten that it is in dying that we rise?”
It seems to me that as the church, as Christianity, has emerged over the centuries this idea of being out of our minds has diminished. We’ve lost the impact of this passage. Those who first saw Jesus and the work that he was doing thought he was out of his mind. His own family thinks he’s out of his mind. We seem hesitant to take risks that our faith might require.
Today we have welcomed elders into the Session. Next week we are welcoming new members, to these events some people might say ‘Are you out of your mind?’
All this reminds me of a scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. That’s the very first Star Wars film.
Luke Skywalker says to Han Solo, “You don’t believe in the Force, do you?”
Han Solo replies, “Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”
And we all laugh when Han says those words because we know that in the Star Wars universe the Force is real and the Force is at work in his life. Do you see the irony? We buy into the myth of Star Wars and what it offers us. But in our own lives, in this world we are skeptical, we doubt. We live in a cultural which says you must be nuts!
Friends, God is with us, the Holy Spirit is at work and she is guiding us.
Truth is we don’t want people saying to us we are out of our minds. As the church we have found ways to be harmless and benign. We’ve gone about doing our thing, watered down the difficult bits, made the radical ordinary and turned hard truths into pleasantries. Stanley Hauerwas wrote, “Christians in modernity thought their task was to make the Gospel intelligible to the world rather than to help the world understand why it could not be intelligible without the Gospel.” (https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5174).
It is as if we are afraid of offending people because we believe in equality for all people. That people might laugh at the notion that everyone deserves a fair chance at life. That people might think we are weak because we propose an alternative to violence. That we shouldn’t comfort those who mourn or provide justice for those who are oppressed. That we shouldn’t offer forgiveness, just as we believe we have been forgiven. Clearly, we are out of our minds for wanting a more peaceable world. For standing up for God’s kingdom.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5: 11-12
We forget that Christianity is a religion founded on suffering. The suffering God hanging on a cross. Suffering because people didn’t listen then and we still don’t listen now.
Though with a scornful wonder the world sees us oppressed, by schism rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up “How long?” But soon the night of weeping shall be the mourn of song.” – The church’s one foundation
The message of the gospel is radical and it is counter-cultural. People should be saying we are out of our minds. And when they do and they will, know that you are in good company. Amen.