Ordinary Sunday 10B (06-06-2021)

The following service was streamed live via Zoom  on June 6th at 10:30am.

The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day.   Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

-oOo-

“Your treasure house is within.
It contains all you will ever need.
Use it fully instead of
seeking vainly outside yourself.”
                                          (Hui Hai)

CALL TO CELEBRATION

Come  to this time, where the ordinary is sanctified, the human is celebrated, the compassionate is expected. Come to this time. Together we make it a holy time with our every act of worship. Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Let the light fall warm and gentle on the earth.
Let the carrawongs sing their morning song, and let God’s people say…

R: Let it be so with us.

L: Let the tools be stored away.
Let the work be over and done, and let God’s people say…

R: Let it be so with us

L: Let the sun rise up and vegetables grow.
Let hearts be glad and minds be calm, and let God’s people say…

R: Let it be so with us

ACT OF AWARENESS

God, help us to listen to our inner spirit; to the inner yearning to belong to something greater than ourselves. Help us to listen to our inner spirits, and find there the presence of your good encouraging spirit. Amen.

HYMN 437 – “Blessed Jesus, At Your Word” (click here to listen)  

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

     Meditation – “Mystery” by Gordon B. McKeeman.

How does one address a mystery?

Cautiously…
Let us go cautiously, then, to the end of our certainty,
to the boundary of all we know, to the rim of uncertainty,
to the perimeter of the unknown which surrounds us.

Reverently…
Let us go with a sense of awe, a feeling of approaching the powerful holy whose lightning slashes the sky, whose persistence splits concrete with green sprouts,
whose miracles are present in every place and moment.

Hopefully…
Out of our need for wholeness in our own lives, the reconciliation of mind and heart, the conjunction of reason and passion, the intersection of the timeless with time.

Quietly…
For no words will explain the inarticulate or summon the presence that is always present, even in our absence.

Simply be in the intimate presence of mystery, unashamed, unadorned, unafraid.

     Silence

Let us now commit ourselves to be in silence, to rest for a moment, to enter a time of peaceful reflection. Let us allow this space, this place, to offer its care to us, restful in its quiet, away from the busyness of our everyday life.
(at least 30 seconds silence)

A REFLECTION ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD 

L: We have life, and the power to live it, from God.   Let us acknowledge it and admit our faults.

R: We fail to live the lives God wants;  we are ungrateful to God and to other people.  Arrogant and self-confident when things go well;  frightened and despairing when things go wrong; we forget the goodness of God and the needs of other people.  We are short of love and faith.  Living God, give us love for others and for you; set us free from fear and despair; keep us humble and aware of the source of our power; so that we may express our gratitude to you by living the lives which you intend for us, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THE ASSURANCE (Psalm 57:10)

L:   …the door to life has been opened for us.
R:  Thanks be to God!

FROM THE WORLD AROUND US  “A Gentle Presence”

For the church to call itself to work as Jesus did,
in poverty and under oppression, is to seek an unaccustomed stance.

      • It is to be, stand, and operate from the point of view
        of the world’s victims and losers.
      • It is to live and preach the gospel from the bottom up.
      • It is a falling down, a downward mobility, if you will,
        into the commonality of human existence.
      • It is neither nice nor comfortable.
      • In addition, it is confrontational and conflictual.

Because of such a stance, the church, while it is committed
to and in the world, will also be at odds with the world ‘as it is’. Such obedience to God will necessarily mean it will be
a minority phenomenon, a threat to any political or cultural status quo.

The ramifications are many, the cost is high.

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – 1 Samuel 16:10-23 

     Introduction

Saul’s depression, described as “a distressing spirit from God” in v.14-15, can be understood as a psychological equivalent of the result of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is mentioned in today’s gospel reading.  The first 23 verses deal with God’s choice of David as Saul’s successor to the throne of Israel.  From a human point of view the choice of David is puzzling, given the obvious qualities of his older brothers, and thus the story has an appropriate warning about second-guessing God.   However, the point to be taken today is that God’s spirit creates in each of us the person God requires for the purposes of the Kingdom.

If we allow that new creation to be born in us we, like David, can be the start of a new dynasty of God’s children.  If we choose to deny election to that purpose, we foil God’s will and stunt our own growth: we fail to become whom we were meant to be, and like Saul, life will flee from us.

10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skilful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”

17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”

18 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skilful in playing, a mighty man of valour, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.”

19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armour bearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favour in my sight.” 23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.

HYMN 685 – “Lord, I Come to You” (click here to listen)

FROM THE GOSPELS – Mark 3:20-35

     Introduction

This reading begins with one of those very, very few instances of a passage in Mark that is not copied by Luke and Matthew.The reason is obvious, for it describes Jesus as somewhat out of control, perhaps even a little mad. We should ask the question: What was going on in Jesus?

That which follows is one of the most provocative incidents in the gospels, because Jesus, who had been proclaiming the unlimited forgiveness of sin, now announces that there is one sin which is never forgiven.  This comes on the heels of an accusation by the scribes that he is in league with Beelzebub; therefore, it is that accusation which Jesus labels a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  What is it about this accusation which makes it unforgivable to a God who will forgive anything as many times as is necessary?

20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and said 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 is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about 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 around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS

Rather than give a sermon today, I would like you to ponder some questions about the Gospel reading (Mark 3:20-35).  Most of the following questions have no answer, but rather require a response from you.  Those few questions that actually have an answer are easily answered by reference to the Bible.  For reference, I have put my responses to the questions at the end of this service.  First, here are a couple quotes that may prime your thinking: 

“We should mark and know of a very truth that all manner of virtue and goodness, and even that Eternal Good, which is God Himself, can never make a man virtuous, good or happy so long as it is outside the soul, that is, so long as the man is holding converse with outward things through his senses and reason, and doth not  withdraw into himself and learn to understand his own life, who and what he is.”
(Anonymous 14th century)

“To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least, for no one can know God who has not first known himself.  Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place of the Most High, to the roots, to the heights; for all that God can do is focussed there.”                                                            (Meister Johannes Eckhardt)

  Verses 20-21

20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” 

This is an unusual passage, for it is one of only a very few verses not copied by the authors of Matthew and Luke. Mark was the first gospel and it was obviously available to the writers of Matthew and Luke, because almost all of the original version of Mark is found (sometimes word for word) in Matthew and Luke.  

Why might these verses not have been copied?

The passage above is from the Revised Standard version; have a look at a couple more modern translations: 

20 Then he went home. Such a large crowd gathered again that Jesus and his disciples couldn’t even eat. 21 When his family heard about it, they went to restrain him, because they kept saying, “He’s out of his mind!”
(International Standard version)

20-21 Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was believing his own press. (The Message)

Verse 22

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

What is your impression of Jesus in this passage?

 Of what is Jesus being accused?  By whom?

 What are they saying about Jesus’ source? 

and who is Beelzebul (a.k.a. Beelzebub)?
Who is he in relationship to God? 

From where does this opinion come?  

 Do they believe what they are saying ?

Verses 23-25

23 And he called them to him, and said 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 is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

What is Jesus’ response here?

How does it compare to the accusation of the Pharisees?

What is Jesus implying about the Scribes?

What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

 In case you are not sure of the definition, ‘blasphemy’ is speaking sacrilege against God.

What is the reason for this accusation?

Why can it NOT be forgiven?   This is especially striking, as Jesus is very big on forgiveness

Matthew adds this bit,
“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the one to come”(12:31-32),
as an explanation to try, I think, to help people understand this particular form of blasphemy.

What distinction is Jesus making here?

Who is the Son of Man?
What is Jesus 
saying about himself? 

Verses 31-35

31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about 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 around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

What is your impression of Jesus here?

What is Jesus’ reaction to being told his family is outside?

Who is his family in verse 35?

 Therefore, what is the basis of a real relationship with Jesus?

What would be the impact of this on his hearers?

What, for 2000 years, has the church said was the basis for a relationship with Jesus? 

HYMN 712 – “Create in Me a Clean Heart” (Click here to listen)

A LITANY IN TIMES OF CHANGE AND TRAVELLING ON

L: When hope invites us to journey elusive, beckoning onward, but never in our grasp:

R: God of wisdom and promise give us courage to travel on.

L: When dreams glimmer in the distance, fading, clouded and hidden or shining with new brightness:

R: God of wisdom and promise give us courage to travel on.

L: When established patterns collapse into the uncertainty of the unknown and security dissolves into a memory:

R: God of wisdom and promise give us courage to travel on.

L: When the illusion of success threatens to divert us and silence our souls’ yearning:

R: God of wisdom and promise give us courage to travel on.

L: When we think our journey has ended in the star-lit glow, only to find the end is a new beginning:

R: God of wisdom and promise give us courage to travel on. 

PRAYER OF PETITION: DECISIONS! by Bruce Prewer

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Creator God, help us, Spirit of Truth guide us, Jesus Christ save us!

Although we find ourselves excited by the brilliant achievements of this new age, we become exhausted by its ethical challenges and confusions. There are moments, Lord, when we hanker for the simpler days of our great-grandparents, for whom the path of morality was simply defined by church authority. But now it seems as if our technological cleverness constantly outruns our ideas of goodness and we cannot catch up.

Be with us, loving God, with all your compassion and wisdom. Be with us as we make decisions about genetic engineering or virtual reality, body transplants or brain enhancing drugs, space exploration or the adventures of cyberspace, the artificial maintenance of life or the quality of life and euthanasia. Through all the changing scenes of life, enable us to seek first your kingdom and its true-goodness.

Jesus Christ, make us clever as serpents and gentle as doves.
Spirit of Truth, keep us sharp witted and love-directed.
Father of all mercies, help us to so trust you that all thingsmay work together for good to those who love you.

In the name of the one who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 478 – I Bind Unto Myself Today” (click here to listen)

THE SENDING OUT

L: The time has now come for us to leave this sacred place. As we do, may we embrace the challenges of our lives and our world. Go in peace,

R: embraced by the light and warmth of our gathering.

L: Go in love,

R: ready again to struggle on.

L: Go in beauty,

R: shining forth like a lamp for freedom 

BENEDICTION

Go into this week, held together by the love of God
clothed with the nature of Jesus our Companion
reinforced by the strength of the Holy Spirit. May it be so.

-oOo-

“We must learn to find and procure the advantage of God. For God does not give gifts, nor did he ever give one, so that man might keep it and take satisfaction in it; but all were given – all he ever gave on earth or in heaven – that he might give this one more: himself… Therefore I say that we must learn to look through every gift and every event to God, and never be content with the thing itself.There is no stopping place in this life – no, nor was there ever one for any man, no matter how far along his way he’d gone. This above all, then, be ready at all times for the gifts of God and always for new ones.”        (Meister Johannes Eckhardt)

-oOo-

BOB’S RESPONSES

Why might this verse not have been copied? (It depicts Jesus in a negative light. In modern terms, Jesus has ‘lost it’.)

What is your impression of Jesus in this verse? (He is human, having human reactions & human weaknesses)

Verse 22

What is Jesus being accused of here? (being in the thrall of the ‘dark side’)
By whom? (The scribes)
What are they saying about Jesus’ source? (Beelzebub)

And who is Beelzebul? (the name is derived from a Philistine god and in Judaism became associated with the Caananite god, Baal. In later Judaism and Christianity (as Beelzebub) it is used as another name for Satan.)

And who is  Satan in relationship to God? (This answer is complex: Satan makes his biblical entrance in the Book of Job as God’s ‘devil’s advocate’, but for the purpose of this passage, the scribes would have understood Satan, as least in the author’s mind, as the major demon, and thus as a purveyor of evil.)

From where does this opinion come from?  There is a certain degree of logic and reason in the way the scribes’ opinion is put, albeit, as Jesus shows, faulty logic; however, it more likely arises from fear; a fear of which they may well not conscious, thus giving rise to the faulty logic.)

Do they believe what they are saying?  (Whilst they may well be trying to lay a false charge on Jesus in order to diminish his popular appeal, I think they believe what they are saying.)

Verses 23-24

What is Jesus’ response here?  (He replies with a logical, rational argument)     

Verses 28-29

What is Jesus implying about the Scribes? (That they have committed the one unforgivable sin)

What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? What is the reason for this accusation?

(It is a lie against what they really know deep down, denying the beginnings of life within them; they identify the source of life and rename it as evil)

Why can it NOT be forgiven?  (It reverses good and evil, sets the source of life against itself, and cuts oneself off from the very source of forgiveness, so it is not a case of God setting limits on forgiveness; rather, that the sinner has removed him/herself from God’s forgiving presence, and God cannot do anything about it.)

What distinction is Jesus making here? (separating ‘everyday’ sinfulness, e.g. breach of the commandments, which is entirely forgivable, from the special sin against the Holy Spirit, i.e. cutting oneself off from the source of forgiveness)

Who is the Son of Man?  What is he saying about himself?  (In this instance, Jesus is using the “Son of Man” as a reference to himself; hence he is saying, “I am not the source of forgiveness.”)

Verse 31-35

What is your impression of Jesus here?  (Very much into his chosen role)

What is Jesus’ reaction to being told his family is outside? (Uses this to emphasise the difference in importance between being a member of a human family and God’s family)

Who is his family in verse 35? (Those who have joined him in seeking the will of God_

What is the basis of a real relationship with Jesus? (following him, living his way)

What would be the impact of this on his hearers?  (The utter importance of following Jesus is driven home here)

What, for 2000 years, has the church said was the basis for a relationship with Jesus? (The church has stressed the importance of believing in Jesus so that one might be saved; whereas Jesus did not seem at all interested in what people believe, but what they do.  Jesus is saying here, “I’m not the one who is important here; salvation is not mine to give or withhold. The source of life is in you, and you alone are responsible for seeking it and obeying it, so follow my lead.”) 

-oOo-

ESCAPE
The Master became a legend in his lifetime.  It was said that God once sought his advice:
“I want to play a game of hide-and-seek with humankind.
I’ve asked angels as to where is the best place to hide.
Some say the depths of the ocean;
others, the top of the highest mountain;
others still, the far side of the moon or a distant star.  

What do you suggest?”
Said the Master, “Hide in the human heart.  That is the last place they will think of looking!”
from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony de Mello, S.J.

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