“When his family heard it, they went out to retrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” Mark 3:21
Jesus “has gone out of his mind.” That’s what people said in our Gospel reading today according to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Other translations put it differently. In the old King James, Jesus is “beside himself.” In The Message, Jesus was “getting carried away with himself.” I particularly like the Contemporary English Version the best: “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.”
I imagine one of Mary’s Nazareth neighbors knocking on her door, stepping inside and asking, “Have you heard from your oldest lately?” And then saying that her brother was in Capernaum a few days ago and that he learned Jesus of Nazareth was causing all kinds of trouble in that sea-side village. On a Sabbath morning in the middle of worship, Jesus released evil spirits from a man and then later healed people from diseases and forced out demons. All that was O.K. But then he touched unclean lepers, forgave sins, ate with tax collectors and other unsavory characters, blatantly broke the Sabbath law and got into arguments with religious leaders. “Are your sure this was my Jesus?” Mary asks. The neighbor nodded. Before long, a family conference was called and an intervention planned. Jesus is crazy and they need to get him under control.
The religious authorities are feeling the same way. Who does he think he is? He’s brand new in town and all hell has broken loose or could it be all heaven, which might be even more frightening. Now the ones who were kept on the outside, people possessed by demons, those maimed or born with some physical limitation or defect and therefore were assumed to be cursed or to have sinned and therefore deserved to be ostracized, are being forgiven and healed by Jesus. Everyone. No exceptions for he puts the needs of the people he encounters above the religious traditions that regulate the lives of the people. It’s not that he thinks the traditions are unimportant, for at the center of each tradition is an encounter with the heart of God, but when traditions become mere shells without the heart, they get in the way. When following rules are put ahead of meeting needs, we misuse the very rules God gives us to help us flourish. Instead, Jesus takes us into the heart of God, were everyone is loved and all of creation is precious. This is why Jesus is called crazy.
If we’ve been paying attention we really shouldn’t be surprised. Remember some of the crazy things Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor and poor in spirit, the merciful, the compassionate, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the peacemakers, the persecuted” and just about everything else in his Sermon on the Mount including, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus was crazy. He knew what would await him in Jerusalem, how the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David” would change to “Crucify him!” and he went anyway. Then, on the dark Friday of his death, from the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” Now that’s crazy!
Bishop Michael Curry, the one preached at the Royal Wedding a few weeks ago, wrote, “What the Church, what this world needs, are some Christian who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God – like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something closer to the dream that God dreams for it.” So, what does that look like?
It looks like Melissa and Christopher carrying their beloved son, Tyler Christopher, to the font to be baptized, just as they did with their daughter, Annalynne, two years ago. In doing this they give their child back to God. Washed in the water, Tyler dies and rises again. Baptized into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he is given his identity as a child of God. Think about this – who Tyler is and will become is not determined by what he what he will do or achieve, not by his nationality, his race, his heritage, not by how much money he earns or the experiences he has. Tyler is a child of God! Today his parents, god-parents and every one of us, make promises to raise him so that he never forgets he’s loved unconditionally. As you are, as I am too! Tyler’s middle name, Christopher, means carrier of Christ, and will always remind him of who he is, one of the crazy Christians.
It looks like 20 St. John’s youth and adults spending their summer vacation in the hills and hollows of rural Kentucky where they will work to make homes warmer, safer, drier through the Appalachian Service Project. Instead of going down the shore or up to the mountains, they will sleep in bunks, get up early, work hard all day, return to their home base, have dinner, reflect and pray, and begin again the next day. In September when asked “What did you do on your summer vacation?” they’ll probably talk about Kentucky and the wonderful people they met there, being the crazy Christians that they are.
It looks like Matuor Alier running for school board in West Fargo, North Dakota. He grew up in South Sudan, and when the war came to his village walked hundreds of miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia and then came here to Phoenixville. Matuor’s running because he wants to ensure all the students, especially immigrants and refugees, have what they need to learn and because he wants to give back to the community and country that has done so much for him. The election is Tuesday and just maybe this crazy Christian will become the first of the lost “Boys of Sudan” to hold an elected office in the United States.
It looks like Vacation Bible School where in eight days more than a hundred children and a staff of youth and adults will engage in “Time Travel” that will take them from creation to eternity with Jesus. Seeds of faith will be planted along with lots of fun. “I can’t wait,” one of our young crazy Christians told her mother, “It’s the best!”
It looks like Christians who are crazy enough to think they can change the world and they do. We need to take this seriously for we have a national crisis of hopelessness, loneliness and despair in our country. The suicides of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade this week, along with a report that shows the suicide rate has risen in nearly every state over the past 20 years, with half the states, including Pennsylvania, seeing increases of 30 percent or more is evidence of a serious crisis. At the same time fewer people are participating in religious communities, including our own. I suspect there’s a connection, for if all we have to believe in is ourselves, it’s not enough and never will be. People desperately need real, live invitations to faith in God and community in Christ. Being friends is more than clicking like on Facebook. We need to go beyond doing what we have always done and find new ways to share God’s love.
Bishop Curry writes “Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us. Comfortable, demure Christianity may have worked once upon a time, but it won’t carry the gospel anymore.” He continues, “We need some crazy Christians who believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death. Crazy enough to believe as Martin Luther King, Jr often said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Then he concludes, “We need some Christians who are crazy enough to catch a glimpse of the crazy, transforming, transfiguring, life-changing vision of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christian who are crazy enough to follow him into the work of helping God to realize God’s dream for all people and creation.” These crazy Christians are the ones Jesus calls his brothers and sisters, his family. Amen.
Thank you to Michael Curry who introduced me to this translation in Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, Morehouse Publishing, 2013, chapter 1.
David Lose, http://www.davidlose.net/2018/06/pentecost-3-b-crazy-love/
Michael Curry, kindle location 181.
Ibid, Kindle location 271.