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First Sunday after Trinity

Addressing our inner conflict

1st Sunday after Trinity (Proper 4)                                                           MARK 3 20 – end

 

. . .and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’    And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’   And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?   If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.   And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.   And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.   But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.   ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;   but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—   for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’   Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.   A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘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!   Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

 

May these spoken/written words lead us to the living word – Jesus Christ. Amen

 

I am sure that at some time in our lives we all know what it is like to live a divided life.  Those times when your outside and your insides don’t seem to match up.  Mark describes this as a house divided.   It might be that you are one person at work and another at home. Or you act one way with certain people and a different way with other people.  Life gets divided into different pieces – rather like a jig-saw.  There is the work life, the family life, the prayer life, the social life the personal life and very soon we are fragmented.

 

In the same way buildings that have large cracks in the brickwork or the masonry become unstable and are in danger of falling down.  Mark has told us from the start of his gospel that Jesus has been dealing with divided houses and kingdoms.  He has cast out demons, healed Peter’s mother in law, cleansed a leper, and healed a paralytic man.               The houses of these people had been divided.  The strong man had invaded their lives and homes and they had inner conflict and turmoil. They had been separated from their community and their outer conditions of illness, paralysis and possession by demons point to inner conflict; the battle between health and disease, not just on a physical level, but more importantly on a spiritual level.

 

This inner conflict that causes division is a reality of the world we live in.  A marriage divided ends in separation or divorce.  A nation divided results in political opposition and in extreme cases civil war. An economy divided results in poverty and injustice.  A community divided by faith, race and culture leads to prejudice hatred and violence.  It seems on a personal, national or global level it seems that we are always trying to put the pieces of our lives back together.

 

Jesus always stands before us as the image of unity, wholeness and integration.  He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  He puts our lives and our houses back in order.  He offers us a different image of what our life might look like and he does this by showing us the division or turmoil in our lives, showing us the houses that cannot stand.  Even when the offer of a new life, when we are offered wholeness and forgiveness we often find it a hard place to be.  It usually means that one way or another change is going to have to happen and most of us don’t like change and we find it threatening and frightening.

 

This is the reaction of the crowd and the religious leaders in our story today. The people said ‘He has gone out of his mind’ and the religious authorities accuse him of forming an allegiance with Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. Jesus' family had turned up to restrain him.  The Greek text is very strong here and uses a word which means ‘to arrest.’ We might wonder why they wanted to take him home. Firstly if people were saying Jesus was mad they needed to get him to a safe place. They loved him – he was the elder brother and they knew that he was being harassed and not even being able to eat properly. Then there was his religious zeal; he was upsetting people and it was going to get him into trouble.  The religious leaders accused Jesus of being the prince of demons and using demons to perform exorcisms.

 

Jesus answered them clearly ‘how can Satan drive out Satan?' and gave them two examples. If a kingdom or a house is divided against itself it cannot stand. They all tried to project onto Jesus their own inner turmoil and fear.  They declared Jesus, who was holy, sacred, and sinless to be mad, and possessed by daemons. By accusing Jesus they avoid dealing with their own problems.

 

It is never easy to take a long hard look at ourselves or to let the Holy Spirit shine into the dark corners. We don’t like addressing the inner conflict in ourselves.  Think of your own experience. When you see a crack, what’s your first instinct? Push the pieces back together and patch it over. Eventually we have to come to terms with the bad news: there is a problem here, and if you don’t address it, before long the whole structure will be fundamentally compromised.  Then you begin to negotiate with yourself. I don’t know about you, but I have a surprising capacity to delude myself about how broken the structure is and with enough duct tape and rope, I will get back to normal. It is comparable to  “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!”

 

Maybe it is time to ask the questions, where is my house divided? Where are my relationships divided? Where is our church family divided?  What is it that fragments my life?   It will be different for each of us -  anger, resentment, insecurity, sorrow, loss, fear, envy, guilt or loneliness, the list is endless.  Of course there is a way to wholeness and we start by acknowledging our brokenness.  When we face the thing that causes us inner turmoil it reduces the hold it has on us.

 

Jesus answered those who were opposing him. ‘ But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man.'  What did he mean? The ‘strong’ man is Satan and his ‘house’ is the kingdom which he thinks he dominates here on earth.  His possessions or property are those he holds in bondage, and only one who is stronger can free the victims.  Jesus is the one who is stronger and he has been entering into Satan’s house and setting captives free.   Jesus used this logical argument to answer the accusations against him.

 

Nothing has changed since that day and we have to answer the same question that C.S Lewis posed many years ago:

‘Either this man was, and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.’

 

Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he is stronger than anything that fragments our lives.  He is the strong one that binds the forces that divide, heals the wounds that separate us from God and each other. He is the one that refashions the broken pieces of our lives into a new beginning.  There is nothing about your life or mine that cannot be put back together by the love of God found in Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Boy Jesus in Temple