First Congregational Church
June 7, 2015
Sunday School Appreciation, Sunday School Recognition and Communion Sunday
“Forests and Trees”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Q: How do trees get on the internet? A: They log in. Q: What must trees drink responsibly? A: Root beer. Q: What did the tree wear to the pool party? A: Swimming trunks!
It’s an interesting sermon title that I chose nearly two weeks ago, not thinking about the celebration of children - growing from acorns into great oak trees. To mix metaphors, if the shoe fits….
Our scripture passage for the day may not seem so fitting - at first. But perhaps when you think back on this message and the passage, perhaps God will do great things. Jesus had whirled through Galilee, had been baptized at the Jordan, walked by the sea and summoned fisher folk to follow; was in a synagogue where he taught with astounding authority; and numerous events of healing remained as markers of his route.
Mark 3:20-35 NIV
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 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.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 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. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Thank you, Al. There are a number of lines from this passage that get quoted, probably a great deal of the time - out of context. But I wonder how many of us, myself included, miss the fact that all the actions Jesus mentioned in the “parable” - were forgivable - as opposed to the one unpardonable sin - that of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. If it’s been a while since blaspheme was on your spelling test, it means to curse, to speak irreverently about, evil-speaking.
That may not seem like a fitting explanation for the scene that Al just read, unless we think about Jesus spelling out what that specific sin is in terms of what the scribes were doing to him. They tell everybody that the good Jesus is doing is not good, but evil. They say that Jesus is casting out evil, not with the power of God, but with the power of worldliness and mistrust and separation, which they name as “Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.” The injury is that they have mistaken good intentions for evil and evil intentions for good. On top of that, the Scribes don’t see themselves as the sinners, because they think themselves to be right. They can’t see the forest for the trees.
Sometimes it is hard to see the forest. Perhaps it’s financial pressures, obligations to care, limits of body and mind and the list can go on. That’s why it’s good to come together around the Lord’s Table on days like this, to remind ourselves to whom we belong.
To our graduating seniors, here are your mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. We will always be that to you, even when you are far away and doing great and wondrous things.
To those who are younger than our graduates, here are your mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. Like you, families sit down to eat - every-so-often - and today, we are sitting down to eat all together, so that you know - you are our family as much as we are your family.
To those who are visiting or new to this place and us folks, our common meal today reminds all of us - just how wide and far God’s love covers this globe upon which we sail. Bon Appetite.
To those who have chosen this place to call home, there’s just nothing like a Sunday dinner to bring back blessed memories and feelings of peace. There’s nothing like being with your chosen family with whom you do important things: like spending time together and eating and drinking together, doing those things that are holy despite their ordinariness.
So let us prepare our hearts and minds for the meal that Jesus gave us, asking for forgiveness where needed, lifting up joy where appropriate, always and always - listening to that which God has for us.
Let us pray. Gracious, Holy Spirit, we thank you for this good day. We thank you for your forgiveness and mercy, your peace and relationships. Help us to see forests and trees, that we may take in all you have for us. Help us to be mindful of causing you pain, that we might avoid those moments that can be so hurtful. For this family, for the family you give us in and across this world, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.