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The Bottom Line

6/10/2018 Third Sunday after Pentecost The text is Mark 3:20-35.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

There is no question about it…we live in a scary and angry world right now.  Between school shootings and mass murderers going for soft targets where the most carnage can be had…nobody is exempt from violence.   Unlike the years of my childhood, when the enemy was easily identified, we have no idea who the enemy is.  It could be our neighbor or someone with whom we share the road as we drive to work.  It could even be someone we feel we know quite well…but really don’t know at all.  So, we should know for what and whom we are willing to take a stand…what we are willing to die for.  What is the bottom line?

Robert Smith, a pastor of a Lutheran church, dealt with the realities of life early one the morning as he and his wife sat the breakfast table.  That’s when he and his wife, Kathy would spend time talking.  He said, “They are good talks.  It is our time together.  Coffee, newspaper, TV news are side shows.  The conversation one morning, not too long ago, was one to remember.  An article in the morning paper caught my wife’s eye.  A man had been shot to death at the front door of his home as he attempted to protect his wife by trying to shut the front door in the face of a pistol packin’ man with his hair parted in the middle.  It more than caught her eye, for the murdered man had owned a local doll house store.  Kathy had bought the kit for the doll house she was constructing from the murdered man.

She was angry and disgusted.  The article also disclosed that the killer might be the one that the dead man had complained to a few days earlier because he played his music too loudly from his powerful car stereo.  There was a hint of fear in Kathy’s voice.  My response did not help either.

I said something to the effect that we live in a scary and angry Denver right now.  Nobody is exempt from violence.  So, we should know for what and whom we are willing to take a stand.  “What am I willing to die for?”

What is the bottom line?  What is so important to you that you are willing to risk everything you have and are to defend?  This is a hard question and one which I hope none of us ever have to face.  But it is a question that Jesus had to face all the time as he was confronted by a wide variety of people who challenged what he was doing and saying in the name of God. 

Because people didn’t want to hear the hard word and people didn’t want to change, people dismissed Jesus as being insane or as one possessed by a demon…not because he was doing bad stuff.  He wasn’t.  Jesus was healing the sick, proclaiming God’s word, reaching out to the poor and outcast, doing all the good things that we hope God will do for us, BUT, all this was coming from Jesus…the son of Mary.  And in the scary and angry world in which he lived, that made him a target for ridicule and violence. 

Jesus’ family and friends were rightly concerned about him.  They were confused by what was happening for they refused to see Jesus in any way except through the conventional relationship of blood ties.  So his mother and brothers sought him out in order to bring him home and back to his senses.

Although this family confrontation may not seem as dramatic as the one faced by the murdered man in the story or even the fear generated by personally knowing the man who died, it was a turning point in Jesus’ life as Jesus refused to live down to his family’s expectations of him.  He refused to be the same old Jesus bar Joseph that he had always been to them.  He refused to be the good Jewish boy who did what his mother asked of him.

With the bottom line now clearly drawn in the sand, Jesus broadened the understanding of family to include all who believe.  And so, we, who believe, are brothers and sisters of our Lord…aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, cousins and all in between.  Through faith, we are part of a much bigger family than that to which we born.  And while we rejoice in this…in the scary and angry world in which Jesus lived, that made him a target for ridicule and violence.

For each of us there is a bottom line.  There is a time and a place for which a stand must be taken.  In the book, In This House of Brede, Rumor Goodden tells of a young girl who grew up in the sight of Brede Abbey and her dream was to become a Benedictine nun of Brede.  This was incomprehensible to her family, especially to her mother and to the young man that everyone thought she was going to marry.  Why couldn’t she marry and have lots of children?  Why wasn’t that good enough for her?  Even though hers was a Catholic family, the desire to become a nun, to seek the “narrow gate,” so to speak, seemed a useless and perhaps even frivolous goal.  Even as Sister Cecily, her name in religion, came to her solemn vows, her mother and former fiancé continued to reject her decision and tried to lure her back home.  Her family tried to interfere in her relationship with God and she refused to concede.  She stood firm in her vows even if it meant disappointing her kin.

Sometimes, the decisions we make and the stands we take run contrary to what our family and friends see as good for us.  Sometimes, our bottom line and theirs are not the same.  And, if this should happen, we may find ourselves standing over and against them, knowing that in their hearts can be found no malice, only a desire to protect.

Yet, from where is our protection to come?  Does it come from guns or shelters or the laws of the land?  Is it to come from others who are as frail as we – people whose life time is not without end?  Paul reminds us in his second letter to the people of Corinth that throughout our life, whether we like it or not, our physical capabilities decrease as we get older.  There is only one who is as powerful today as yesterday and will be as powerful tomorrow and in all times.  And that one is the Lord, our God…the one who is able to protect us and provide for us in a scary and violent world.

Jesus attested to the power of God as he drove out demons and healed all sorts of maladies.  Yet, his actions brought questions instead of a sense of security in a God who sent this Son of his into the world to save the people and provide a way to eternal life in God’s kingdom where pain and sorrow and death will be no more. Yet, no amount of questions, no amount of insults, no amount of threats against him could move Jesus from the bottom line.  He had come to do his Father’s will and share God’s mercy and grace, and that is exactly what he would do.  So, Jesus took his stand.  He took a position from which he would not move.  And he challenged those who challenged him with the word of God.  He stood firm in doing that for which he was sent, even if it meant giving his life to do so.

Where do we stand?  What is the bottom line for us?  From what will we not be moved?  Will we stand firm in our faith?  These are not simple questions.  They are questions of life and death.  They point to how we live and what we do.  They are questions of love and loyalty, and questions of trust.

What is the bottom line?  From what will we not be moved?  May the bottom line for us be found in Christ Jesus who makes us part of his family through faith.  May we trust above all others the one who will bring us from death into the glory of the life to come.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.





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