Sermon for Proper 5, Year B, June 6, 2021

Genesis 3:8-15                           Psalm 130                                   2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1                     Mark 3:20-35

                Today’s gospel reading is one of those challenges me.  I firmly believe the gospels contain the Good News of God’s love for us – but in this particular passage Jesus says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  He says this in response to having been accused of receiving his power to heal from Satan.  In order to heal, he must break Satan’s hold over people.  So, he asks, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”  

          He may be speaking in parables, but the statement that a kingdom divided cannot stand frightens me.  We live in a time when the people of our nation are divided.  We live in a time when the nations of our world are divided.  Those in power seek to maintain order, but protests and violence and injustice throughout the world are in the news nearly every day. 

          I’ve never been one to believe “the end is near,” nor have I believed the Book of Revelations is the prediction of an apocalyptic time of judgment – but hearing Jesus say, a house divided against itself cannot stand, is a frightening reminder that nations do rise and nations do fall.  Was January 6th an indication that our nation is about to fall?   Is our nation so divided that we can no longer call ourselves the United States of America? 

          I honestly don’t know what to think, but I do know that we, as a nation, are struggling with uncomfortable truths – truths we do not wish to face.   Our founding principles include protecting religious freedom and a belief that we were all created equal – but all does not mean all.  White, straight, Christian men established these principles for themselves not for women, people of color, and people from other faiths and with other sexual identities.    

          To our credit, amendments to the constitution and our laws have expanded our views of equal rights and protection – but we as a people still struggle with our beliefs and attitudes and we do not respect the dignity of every human being.  We are divided. 

          Jesus goes on to say, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”  In the scriptures, the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the spirit of truth, and as the giver of life.  So to “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit” is to disregard the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us.  To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to reject life.

          Seeing the divisions of today may frighten me, but I do have faith that the Holy Spirit is at work in our world today.  For many of us, we seek change only when we become uncomfortable.   We may be unhappy with things as they are, but we don’t make the effort to change until we can no longer tolerate the way things are.  Today, it is appropriate to pray for non-violent change.

          This month is National Pride Month – a month in which we may stand in solidarity with people who celebrate our differences and appreciate the contributions of our LGBTQ+ community.  In Batesville, we will have the opportunity to do so on June 19th from 4-8 pm at the Batesville PRIDE Festival which will be held in the Pocket Park.  Last year I attended a Black Lives Matter rally, a Blue Lives Matter rally, and I plan to attend the PRIDE Festival because I believe that we need to let others know that equal rights and protection should be for all people.  All needs to mean all.

          I may worry about our nation and our world, but I do believe the divisions that exist today can be healed when we allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light of truth into our lives.  Jesus speaks of the divided house which cannot stand – I believe we are at time in our lives together when we must face the truth and began work on repairing the structural integrity of our nation.  The foundational principles of justice and freedom for all are important for us to keep, but the walls that divide us one from another need to be removed. 

          Our nation can be united again, if we acknowledge and respect our differences and if we confess our sins.  In our Confession of Sin, we confess our sins against God “in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”  We have left too much undone, people in our community are in need of help.  In our confession we say that we have not loved God with our whole heart and “we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”  To love our neighbors means we want what is best for them, we want them to experience love and meaning in their lives – it does not mean they need to be or believe the same as us.  It can be helpful to acknowledge our differences as long as we also learn to see how we are similar – to see that we are all created in the image of God and are children of the same God.

          The bible contains stories of people of great faith who got it wrong – over and over again.  Our nation’s history is full of men and women who were people of great faith – who were also guilty of enslaving others and profiting from the abuses of others.  Acknowledging this is not disrespectful, but it is necessary for us to see the need for change.           

          Just one week after the anniversary of George Floyd’s death we began PRIDE month.  Injustice and oppression are not things of the past; they are the source of much of the unrest in our society today.  Still, I find hope in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.   He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  As uncomfortable as it is to talk and read about systemic discrimination, these conversations are necessary for change to occur.  It is the light and love of Christ that can overcome the destructive forces that threaten to bring our house down. 

          At the dismissal I will say, “Let us go forth to love and serve the Lord.”  What I want you to hear is, “Let us go forth with love to drive out hate.  Let us go forth shining the light of truth into the darkness of fear so that we might find our way to loving one another and celebrating our differences. 

Let us pray.

          Loving God, we give you thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit and we pray that the truth of your love for all of creation might be known by all.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.