Sermon for Sunday, June 7, 2015 || Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5B || Genesis 3: 8-15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5:1; Mark 3: 20-35 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Sometimes I wonder if it’s totally crazy of us in this day and age to try to live the way God calls us to live. Surely it’s crazy if social acceptance is a high priority for us. Because unless we’re closet believers who live some strange sort of double-life, there’s no way to avoid the blank expressions, awkward silences, or even dumbfounded scorn, of our non-church-going friends and colleagues when they discover that we do in fact like to go to church; that yes, we really do believe in God (and in science); and that we don’t just pay lip service to the self-negating demands of our faith, we take them seriously.
Living the way God calls us to live—when it doesn’t jive with the dominant culture—has never been popular. Look at today’s gospel: Jesus is living the way God has called him to live—forgiving sinners, healing people, eating with outcasts, and exorcising demons.
Jesus is living more perfectly in accord with God’s will than anyone has ever lived before or since. And what happens? The folks at home think he’s either crazy or possessed. “He has gone out of his mind,” some are saying. “He has Beelzebul,” others claim.
In fact, the negative chatter about Jesus is so widespread that his own family tries, unsuccessfully, to intervene. But who can blame them? From their perspective, and from the perspective of the dominant culture, Jesus is running around with a rag-tag bunch of losers he hardly even knows, violating all social and religious convention, talking like a crazy person. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asks. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Doing God’s will, Jesus says, is the number one most important thing in the world to him. And others who do God’s will, he says, are more important to him than his own family. In fact, they are his family!
No wonder so many thought Jesus had gone ‘round the bend! But doing God’s will – instead of what everyone else is doing, or what’s easy or popular or normative, always looks that way.
Let’s go back even further and look at the Old Testament lesson: If Adam and Eve had done God’s will, instead of caving in to peer pressure from the serpent, the serpent would’ve thought they were crazy, too. You’d have to be crazy to pass up a chance to be godlike, right? But no worries there for Adam and Eve. Seduced by the serpent’s suggestion, they defied God’s will and did what the serpent wanted. They took the path of least resistance, the so-called “easier softer” way. And just as soon as they did, they knew: They knew everything had been changed forever and that there was no going back. They knew they were now somehow separate from God in a way they hadn’t been before. They knew they’d chosen kinship with the serpent over kinship with God. And for the first time in their lives, they knew fear.
So what did they do? When they heard God coming, they hid!
I think I’ve shared with you before how I envision their next encounter with God: You know how when you play peek-a-boo with babies, they cover their eyes and think that since they can’t see you, you can’t possibly see them? Or how when you play hide and seek with four year olds, they’ll crouch behind a wooden chair or a potted plant to hide, and you walk around pretending you have no idea where they are? That’s how I picture this scene: Adam and Eve, crouching behind a tree in full sight, imagining they can hide from God’s presence. And God in the role of the one who’s “it,” walking around in the evening breeze as if he has no idea where they are, calling, “Oh, A-dam! Ee-eve…Where are you?”
Talk about crazy! Can you imagine trying to hide from God? It’s a good thing we never do anything like that. But of course, we do. We all have our serpents—those inner voices that seduce us into ignoring what we know is God’s will and doing something else instead. Like the voice that tells us that only crazy-people talk about Jesus in public, or only crazy radicals fight for social justice, or that being a good Christian means going to church on Sunday but only crazy people try to live like that the rest of the week.
Or how about the inner voice that tells us giving money to the church is a good thing to do but that giving 10% would be totally crazy…and the one that tells us loving our neighbors as ourselves is a nice ideal but that good guys finish last so watching out for number one is a lot more realistic, i.e. less crazy. How about that crafty voice that tells us we need to be self-reliant and independent, and to trust no one with our deepest fears or wildest dreams, because heaven forbid they might think we’re crazy…
We all have our serpents— those deceptive, seductive voices that separate us from God’s will for us. From the One whose voice always calls us out of our comfort zone and into an ever-deeper and more profound relationship with Him and with each other and with all of creation.
God’s Presence, calling us—always calling us, and we try to hide from it! Isn’t that what’s really crazy? Like Adam and Eve we try to hide among the trees of our gardens…Trees with names like work and responsibility; social norms and financial security; sports, entertainment and addiction; family obligations and civic duty.
Like four year olds playing hide and seek, we crouch behind the wooden chairs and potted plants of our choosing—and tell ourselves God doesn’t see us. And God, in the form of the risen Christ, plays “it”—strolling through the garden in the evening breeze, pretending he doesn’t see us, and calling, “Where are you, my brother and my sister and my mother? It’s me, the One for whom you long with all your heart. It’s me, the One who loves you like no other. It’s me, the One who can set you free!”
Did you ever wonder what would happen if we were to stop hiding? What would happen if we dared to talk about our faith respectfully but invitingly? What if we joined forces across political parties to advocate for social and economic justice? How might our lives be transformed if we risked being more generous, if we were willing to be last instead of first first, if we laid ourselves bare by asking each other for help, and if we trusted one another with our deepest fears and wildest dreams?
Does that sound crazy? Is it, in fact, totally crazy of us in this day and age to try to live the way God calls us to live?
“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” They thought Jesus was crazy when he said that. Doing God’s will has always seemed crazy to the dominant culture. This day and age is no different. But if you think about it, the alternative is even crazier.
Yet if we try…if we try with all of our heart and our mind and our soul to live the way God calls us to live and to follow in the footsteps of Christ… well, at least we know we’ll be in the very best of company. Amen.