Jesus went home and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 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. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 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.
“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”— 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. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
T.J. and Dave come out on stage and say, “Trust Us, This Is All Made Up.” The lights go off. No one knows where this is going. No one. Not the audience. Not even T.J. and Dave! This is improv. But it’s improv with no starting point. Just two guys on the barren stage looking at each other. Waiting. Waiting for one of them to begin. In the few minutes that takes waiting in the darkness, some people actually leave! They can’t take the tension of not knowing or even having a clue as to what comes next!
We humans like do patterns. We like to have clues and put clues together and anticipate how things will turn out. It’s helped us survive. We notice “leaves of three” and that pattern helps us make better hygiene decisions when camping. It’s why we like Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. It’s why, when T.J. or Dave eventually says something and the other responds, the tension in the theatre drops for everyone, including T.J. and Dave. Everyone gets a clue where it’s going. Those patterns of life are helpful… Well… helpful until they aren’t. What happens when something new comes along? What happens when old patterns no longer fit? What happens when someone begins to discover, explore and live into their true, authentic, self and that authentic self is suddenly very different?
What happens, is what happened in today’s Gospel. People who knew Jesus before… who knew his old patterns as a good, Jewish, son and brother… they were disturbed that Jesus wasn’t following those old, established patterns. They could no longer anticipate where he would go next so they forced him into a box they understood… they said he was crazy. The Scribes too, couldn’t see where he was coming from or where he was going. He didn’t fit the patterns. He healed on the Sabbath, which shouldn’t be possible! He was an unpredictable rebel in an occupied country. It scared them and so they forced him into a box they knew… they said he was possessed!
In both cases, they had trouble allowing Jesus to live into his true and authentic self as the Son of God. Now, from our perspective it’s easy to give the family and scribes grief for not catching on, but we have 2000 years of perspective. T.J. and Dave describe their improv process as stepping into complete darkness… into an abyss, and trusting that the next step will rise up and be there when they put their foot down. And that’s what Jesus’ family and the Scribes were being asked to do… step out into an abyss and trust that the next step would appear. If that was you, would you take that step? If that was you, would you trust the unseen or would you try to fit this never before seen thing into some other, more familiar box? If that was you, would you have let Jesus live into his true, authentic self?
It’s still a good question for us. How do we handle Jesus being his authentic self? How do we do with the death part of death and resurrection? How do we do with Salvation being for ALL of creation… including the mean people! What do we do with an angry Jesus and the parts of Scripture that make us uncomfortable? How are we at allowing God to be God and not insisting that God go into a box of our own making? And what about the regular people in our lives? Do we allow them to live into the authentic person they have been created to be? Do we give them the space and support to explore their next step, or do we have a step in mind for them? Are we willing to sit with them in their darkness, before the lights come up and someone finally speaks… are we willing to love them no matter who they are when those lights come on and they find their voice? Are we willing to love ourselves as we sit in our own darkness?
In this lesson there is a beautiful piece, in the middle of this story about Jesus, his family and the Scribes. It might not seem beautiful at first, but if you are willing to see it authentically, it is something wonderful. Jesus begins by saying, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.” This is Jesus telling us that as people stop fitting into old patterns and as they begin to explore, experience and experiment to find their truly authentic selves, there is infinite grace and forgiveness for them in their journey and for us as we struggle to keep up with them along the way. Regardless of the missteps and blunders and slips made along the way as we inevitably stumble not quite getting it right the first or even the fiftieth time. God knows this is a difficult, but holy journey and there is infinite grace as you walk this path and stumble along the way… and there is infinite grace for us as we struggle to support others as they look to walk their path.
The second part of that piece where Jesus says, “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” is harsh but not nearly as easy to commit as most people worry about. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means waging a relentless campaign against God. The word in Greek makes it clear, this isn’t about having questions, or searching… it’s not even about doubts or getting things terribly wrong… it’s not even about being frustrated, scared, angry or wandering lost in the darkness for a while. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit you have to oppose God relentlessly. To commit this sin, you need to insist that God has never and will never do anything new and you must slam the lid closed on the box you've built for God and sit on top of it without ever considering that God might just be doing something new.
This lesson is a call for us to allow God to be fully God. It is a call for us to be open to God doing new things in new places. This lesson is a call for us to set out on our own journey as well... a journey to discern our authentic selves and not limit ourselves to the standard, culturally approved boxes and paths. This lesson is a call to be gentle with those on that journey and grace for when we don't get it exactly right. This lesson is a call to sit in the darkness, knowing it will be okay, until God brings up the lights and the Holy Spirit provides the next step. So, this week, trust the Holy Spirit… sit in the darkness and open yourself to God’s new thing. Amen.