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Sermon for June 9, 2024 — Proper 5, Ordinary Time

Welcome to this week’s episode, a special rerun from our Speaking of Life archive. We hope you find its timeless message as meaningful today as it was when it was first shared.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 3028 | Deep Weeping
Heber Ticas

Have you ever felt like you are at the bottom of the ocean crying for help?

In my many years of pastoral ministry, I have encountered many people that find themselves in this circumstance. Expressing their deepest pain through a fountain of tears.

Maybe you are in over your head but no one even knows you’re struggling. Or maybe you have sunk so deep in despair that you think no one could possibly hear or understand you. Sometimes it’s a deep wound in our soul that, even we, can’t wrap our mind around or see any possible healing from. Or maybe we have fallen into some deep-seated sin that seems impossible to overcome. For many of us, we may be looking around, reading the headlines, and feeling that the entire world is too broken, torn, and distorted to be pulled out of the mire. We all have a cry from the deep. The question is, “will we be heard?”

The Psalmist encourages his soul and ours with the reminder that the Lord does not keep a record of sins but rather he forgives and therefore can be trusted with all our deep brokenness. Listen to his cry from the deep:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning…” 
Psalm 130:1-6 (NRSV)

When God forgives, he doesn’t just overlook our situation with a flippant dismissal. Neither does he observe us in our deep pit and ask us what we did to fall in. No, he climbs down into the pit with us in order to lift us out. How far will he climb? All the way to the very bottom! Further in fact than we think we have fallen. He gets below our brokenness, underneath our wounds, as far down as necessary in order to completely redeem us. He descends below our depths to raise us up into new life without any hidden deep-seated scars to leave behind.

This process sometimes requires waiting on our part, but we can wait in hope knowing that the Lord does hear us and answers us according to his deep, redeeming love. Redemption is the Lord’s work and he has already heard our cries from the deep. Jesus voiced those cries for us on the cross and our Father answered him with resurrected life. The Father’s redeeming touch can’t get any deeper than the death of his own son.

The answer of the resurrection assures us that not only does he hear our cries from the deep, he will also answer.

Mi nombre es Heber Ticas, Hablando de Vida.

Psalm 138:1-8 · 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) · 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 · Mark 3:20-35

As we engage our neighbors, we will be exposed to the brokenness of the world. We will encounter those in pain, the marginalized, and the oppressed. It is important for us to know where God is in our struggles. The theme for this week is God in our afflictions. In the call to worship passage, the psalmist sings about a God who preserves him in the midst of trouble. In Samuel, we read about how Israel, in an effort to solve a temporary issue (the need for someone to succeed Samuel), chose to solve their problem apart from God. The consequences were devastating. In 2 Corinthians, Paul explained that our momentary afflictions cannot compare with the blessings Christ followers will receive in eternity. In the passage in Mark, we see Jesus model how to respond to rejection and condemnation, even by one’s own family.

When Words Hurt

Mark 3:20-35 NIV

Whoever said, “Sticks and stone will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was dead wrong. Words can hurt. Words can devastate. Words can destroy. We have all been harmed by words at one time or another. Yet, some of us have been taught not to acknowledge that harm, and stuff down our emotions. For some, it’s an effort to avoid conflict. So, they plaster on a smile while getting revenge through passive aggressive ways. Some believe it is permissible to explode with anger and rage when hurt by another’s words. They might see the admission of hurt as a weakness — a weakness that opens one up to potentially more hurt. They return the harm in an effort to keep themselves safe. Still others absorb the hurtful words spoken over them by others and turn the anger internally, sometimes engaging in self-destructive behavior because they feel like, in some way, they deserve the harmful words. Words can hurt. Words can devastate. Words can destroy.

This would be a good point to tell a story about when you were hurt by the words of another.

In our society, we do not do a very good job talking about our social and emotional health. Perhaps we do a decent job for children. Shows like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street taught generations of young people to navigate the social and emotional waters of elementary school. However, for most of us, our social and emotional education stopped after that. A survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published in February 2023 reported that in 2021, 57% of high school girls acknowledged experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year, up from 36% in 2011.  Additionally, nearly one in three girls seriously considered attempting suicide—up almost 60% from a decade earlier. Many of us do not know what healthy steps to take to deal with hurt inflicted upon us by the words of others. Unfortunately, as imperfect human beings, we will hurt others with our words, despite our best intentions. Therefore, knowing how to deal with hurtful words is an essential skill for human beings to learn.

Thankfully, Christ followers can turn to Jesus for guidance in how to be human. He endured every kind of pain so that he could be Lord of every situation, including times when people say hurtful things. In Mark 3:20-35, we read about some of the kinds of things Jesus suffered for our sake:

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35 NIV)

In this one passage, Jesus is said to be “out of his mind” by his own family; accused of being possessed by the prince of demons by the teachers of the law; and, said to have an impure spirit, a slur against Jesus’ beloved Holy Spirit. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how hurtful these words must have been. Jesus, God-the-Son, came to earth to save and redeem humanity. He had done nothing but good and was (is) perfect in all his ways. Yet, those closest to him, his very family, did not believe in him. Those who studied the scriptures that testify of him, the theological experts of his day, rejected him. In that culture a person’s position in society was determined by his heritage. Jesus countered that norm by redefining his affiliation as belonging to all who did his will.

Those whom he created in his image with the Father and Holy Spirit, called the Spirit at work in him “impure” instead of holy. Since Jesus always responded perfectly to those with whom he interacted, it is easy to overlook the hurt he had to endure. We do not see Jesus acting passive aggressively, with uncontrolled anger, or in a self-destructive way. However, Christ had (has) all of our emotions, so it would be unlikely these awful words would not leave emotional wounds. Words can hurt. Words can devastate. Words can destroy.

In an unexpected way, this story should bring us some comfort. When we bring the hurts caused by others’ words to God, we encounter someone who understands. Jesus understands our pain. We do not belong to a God far removed from us. We do not belong to a God who cannot understand the things we go through. We belong to a God who himself is one of us. He will not turn a blind eye to our suffering because he himself suffered. He will not ignore our cries because he himself cried. Praise the God who knows us and understands!

In the passage, we can learn from Jesus some things to keep in mind the next time hurtful words are said to us. While the passage does not provide step-by-step instructions on what to do when we are harmed by words, it does contain some useful wisdom. It should be said that God can heal us from the hurt words inflict on us; in some cases, we may need to seek professional help. We all need assistance at one time or another, and speaking with a skilled counselor can be beneficial.

We read in Mark that Jesus did not allow the words of others to change his identity and purpose. How did Jesus respond to his defamers? He invited them to draw near to him. He then took the time to teach his critics and warn them to avoid slandering the Holy Spirit. He opened himself up to them as he strove to redeem them. This is who Jesus is. He did not allow the hurtful words of others tempt him to dehumanize his detractors. He did not allow his hurt feelings to keep him from his Father’s work. Too often, we allow the words of others to change us. Too often, we give in to the temptation to respond in un-Christlike ways. Jesus neither exploded in anger nor shrank away from conflict. He spoke the truth in love, with the aim of seeing his defamers redeemed. Christ left a good example for us to follow.

We also see in the passage that Jesus focused on his provision in God. Harmful words almost always bring to mind our lack, or things we would like to be different. It is easy to focus on what we do not have instead of what we do have. Jesus could have bemoaned the lack of respect he received from the teachers of the law. He could have complained about the lack of support for his family. He could have been consumed by self-pity. Yet, none of these things happened. Instead of focusing on his lack he shifted his gaze to God’s provision. His mother and brothers, for the moment, did not understand him. He looked around and saw that God had provided him with those who were like mothers and brothers to him. Jesus chose to celebrate his blessings instead of sitting in his hurt. Relationships are important to God, and he always provides for his children. When an important relationship is harmful to us, God provides another connection to satisfy that relational need. Rather than try to force a hurtful relationship to be less so, we should give our attention to the relationships God provides and lean into them with gratitude.

What a blessing it is that Jesus bore all our suffering and showed us a better way to live. Thank God we are not in this life alone. The Lord is with us, guiding us to himself. Praise God for the life of Jesus Christ! He is a light unto our path. We do not have to figure things out on our own. Christ has gone before and has shown us the way.

Words can hurt. Words can devastate. Words can destroy. These are true statements. It is also true that Jesus heals. Jesus comforts. Jesus restores. Because he was hurt by words and prevailed, he can help us prevail. Let us turn to him and recognize him as the source of all forms of healing — even the wounds of the heart.

Rise Up w/ Chris Tilling W2

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June 9— Proper 5 in Ordinary Time
Mark 3:20-35, “Family Feud”

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Program Transcript

Rise Up w/ Chris Tilling W2

Anthony: All right, let’s pivot to the next passage of the month.

It’s Mark 3:20-35. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 5 in Ordinary Time, which is June 9. Chris, we’d be delighted if you’d read it for us, please.

Chris: Great.

Mark 3:20-35. This is for an Ordinary Time, June 9.

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 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. 28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 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. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Anthony: My wife and I occasionally watch British TV, and we always comment about how anything a Brit says, sounds fantastic. Well, done, sir. Well, done.

Chris: That’s the one card I’ve got going for me, I think, that one.

Anthony: Tell us about the God revealed in Jesus in this pericope.

Chris: Oh, wow. That is a big question. I suppose one of the things I’d want to talk about is how Jesus casts relationship with him, and therefore relationship with God, in familial terms, with familial metaphors.

It actually came as some shock to me to realize that the New Testament doesn’t tend to speak of Christ followers (it does, but not as often as you’d expect) as believers. Rather more often, with familial terms as brothers and sisters. And this is key in the teaching of Jesus. Richard Bauckham, who’s a New Testament scholar, he says of the Gospels, with every major area, there comes a new revelation of the name of God.

So, you had Adonai; you had the divine name, the Tetragrammaton; and with Jesus, you have “Father” as the divine name being revealed, which was a fascinating way of putting it. But one way or another, this is key to the understanding of Jesus with those who are around him. You are my brothers.

We’re called into a family; we’re called into a relationship with a Father who loves us even more than the best human fathers can love us. So that would be the first place I would go for understanding, but much more could be said, of course.

[00:18:04] Anthony: Wow. I’m just thinking about what you just said there. We so often want to make it our relationship with God. We talk in terms of judgment and not always as family. So that was brilliant. Whoever does the will of God is my, here we go, familial brother, sister and mother.

So sometimes we’re reductionist when we talk about the will of God. What’s the will of God for this or that? But just big picture: what is the will of the father in the context of this text?

Chris: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this question and realized it’s quite difficult to answer. Mark is famous for not giving us much content in terms of the actual teaching. There’s a lot of talk about what Jesus taught without going into the content of that teaching.

Matthew and Luke do that much more. Mark’s Gospel, which is often depicted as a lion with images, is fast-paced. It runs through texts with a lot of stories with lots of “immediately’s.” “This now happened.” “Immediately that” and “immediately this,” without stopping to pause and give us some more content.

So, there’s a sense in which — there isn’t too much to go on here, but what can we say? That the immediate pericope seems to link doing the will of God with works of power. And this isn’t something that is necessarily comfortable to hear but there Jesus is casting out demons. And it’s very much caught up in the debate about that.

And Jesus is not casting out demons by Beelzebub, but by the Spirit of God. And of course, linked to this as well, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. And therefore, the will of God must be something about honoring the Holy Spirit. But can I just say something about that, actually? Because this is a what has been known as a text of terror for some.

Anthony: Yes.

Chris: And for those, especially those who struggle with religious scrupulosity and obsessive compulsive disorders, this is a verse that many have given up faith because of this. Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin. Oh, have I committed that eternal sin?

And lots of introspection and pain and psychological trauma is based on this. Let me just say something about the word here. Aiónios is the Greek word behind eternal there. And I think it’s better to translate that not as eternal. Ethos would have been a better word to have in that particular passage. Maybe it’s until the age or for an age, is guilty of sin until or for the age, by the way.

So, I think that’s a better way of understanding that particular passage. And for those who worry that they’ve committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you almost certainly haven’t, because then you wouldn’t be worried about it.

It’s about the continued resistance that we put up against the Holy Spirit, which ultimately, I think God overcomes as well because God will be all in all. But there’s much more to talk about there. I just wanted to flag that particular passage.

Anthony: I’m glad you did. I thought about asking a question about it, but it seems to me when people come to this pericope, they get hung up there and they don’t see anything else within the text.

But even though it’s not in our passage here, in our focus, I think of our Lord on the cross. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The Spirit was there. And certainly, we were all blaspheming in some form or fashion against God. And Jesus’ words were, “Father, forgive them,” revealing the heart of God, not shielding us from an angry God, but revealing God’s heart as it’s always been.

Thank God for it. I appreciate your words.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Can you think of a time when you were hurt by someone’s words? How did you respond?
  • Is it comforting to know that Jesus knows what it feels like to be hurt by words? Why or why not?
  • What are some ways we can follow Jesus’ example and deal with hurtful words in a spiritually healthy way?

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