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Reader: Cheryl Mcpherson.

Scripture Reading: Mark 3: 20-35 

Well, that was quite the reading wasn’t it!  I couldn’t help but think what a leap we’ve taken in one week, from the cracked pots theme of last week to craziness and demon possession of this week.  What’s going on!?!  Why is Jesus getting so much flack when really, all he’s doing is revealing what God’s realm is and then acting on it by restoring people to wholeness.  


Let’s take a closer look at some of the dynamics going in in today’s passage.


We see that there are 3 groups of people involved in the drama of the reading.


The first is the crowds.  Jesus was popular with them, and as we heard he was mobbed by people wherever he went, so much so that he could barely find time and space to grab a bite to eat.  His message to the crowds that God is love, and that each person has a place in God’s love which always leads to wholeness and restoration.  Many in the crowd were labelled - and excluded - because they did not fit into the rigid societal and religious norms of the time.  And Jesus showed them, by his message which was backed up by his actions, that there was a place of inclusion and restoration and wholeness for them.  


The next group is the Scribes and Pharisees who have shown up to check Jesus out. Now I think that sometimes they get a bad rap, because really, they weren’t bad people.  They were living their lives within the context of their norms and teachings, and were faithful in following the law.  And for Yet, they seemed not to understand that not everyone could fit into their narrow way - a way that was possible only if you happened to have enough money and status and resources to be able to keep the law and thus be in God’s good graces.  They had rules for everything, including when healing could and could not be accomplished.  Into their tidy, ordered world came Jesus, who broke just about every law they had by healing when there was a need, not a rule, by creating inclusion and restoration when it was God’s time, not Pharisee time.  The Pharisees were made uncomfortable by what Jesus message and actions were, and so they tried to stop him.  One way of trying to stop someone who is threatening is to label them...using words like crazy or demon possessed or unnatural.  They did their best to use every tool they could to discredit Jesus, so that they didn’t have to change their preferred way of seeing and doing things - not because they were necessarily bad - but because they did not want to see their world and their way of doing things through God’s values.


The third group is Jesus’ family.  Can’t you just picture their anxiety?  Seeing their loved one doing such scandalous things, breaking the rules, raising up people they were told were untouchable and to be avoided at all costs?  In our language they would have likely implored him not to rock the boat, to put a lid on it … because what he was doing was going to make them look bad.  And we all know what it feels like when we look bad to our friends, neighbours and people in our social circles.


The human condition was no different back then than it is today, don’t you think?  People were doing what they knew how to do - to order their world by a set of predetermined religious and social values that kept them comfortable, and that didn’t have a place for those who could not conform.  We wrestle with that today, in our own faith communities.  In our social and religious circles, we may not go about killing people, like they ended up doing to Jesus - but we kill peoples’ spirits, dash peoples’ hopes, and exclude people from finding a place on the path to wholeness and restoration - all because we have our own understandings and experiences of who we think ought to be included or left out.


So today’s message is all about hospitality and all that that word entails around doing what Jesus did - removing labels, breaking open societal norms, opening up narrow religious practices, and taking us right to the heart of God’s hospitality.  And if we are to be about God’s kind of hospitality, not only do we have to be cracked pots to do that, we apparently have to be a little crazy too.  We can’t be just about asking how it is that Jesus is getting so much flack.  We may have to start asking ourselves how it is that we aren’t getting much more flack!  Are we doing enough to push those boundaries of what is religiously and socially acceptable - are we showing that surprising, upsetting, socially ridiculous, radically inclusive, life changing love of God both inside this sanctuary and outside these walls?  


In a short while we will be sharing communion together.  This is the ultimate experience of inclusion that the church has to offer, where we are welcomed and where we have a place in God’s realm, no matter what.  No one is outside God’s love.  No one has to earn a place - there is a place prepared that has each of our names with a huge welcome sign.  Our task is to receive that welcome, and then to take it from within this safe sanctuary and give it away, freely and without conditions, to someone who might not have experienced, or is not experiencing, that welcome which gives new life, new hope, new courage, and new identity.


And if along the way you encounter someone who tells you you are crazy for what you are doing out there - well, maybe that’s the absolutely best compliment you will ever get.  Amen.