Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Year B Proper 3 WED 2018 Reframe Rethink Re-envision

Year B Proper 3 WEDNESDAY, 30 May 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
"Reframe Rethink Re-envision"

Matthew 12:43-50
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”
46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Reframing. A lot of Jesus' teaching is about reframing, thinking things through at a different and often higher level. As Einstein reminded us, “No problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it.” And that is why I think this is the way of Jesus, both in his teaching and in his approach to people. Think about the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or even Nicodemus from Sunday. They came in at one level, and Jesus invited them to reframe, rethink, re-envision how life could be.

This morning we have a lesson that is a parable about unclean spirits. In the second, we have a lesson through a teachable moment.

The unclean spirit parable is what we still find today. We can take people out of a situation, and they may seem better for a day, week, or month. But have the “corrected” person go back to the same situation, and old habits and old friends come streaming back, often with a vengeance. You may feel changed, but to create significant and substantive change one MUST change houses. It is like putting new wine in old wineskins. It just ain’t gonna work.

New wine in new wineskins. Get rid of your demons, but do not move out of the old house, and the demons can and will come back. When you change, change.

Even more shocking and scandalous is the comment about what makes up Jesus’ family. Here I think he is actually modeling the line he gives to the man who must go home to bury his father. “Let the dead bury the dead.” Is he saying here that we need to break familial bonds and identification? No. Absolutelty not. (Unless they are those demons that come back with a vengeance in the last parable.)

What he is saying here is that our understanding of what it means to be family, in caring, nurturing, supportive relationships needs to be expanded. In the Mark telling of this story, it is not that they come to speak with Jesus, they  come to take him home, “because he is beside himself.” Jesus, you have gone plumb crazy and we have come to bring you home. You have lost it. But Jesus then says, “Those who do the will of God are my mother, and sisters, and brothers.” Mark 3:20-35

In Matthew, the author replaces God (from Mark) with “my Father in heaven.” He is claiming his first identity as a child of God before he is a child of Mary or Joseph. When I do wedding ceremonies, I tell the bride and groom that they are now each other’s highest earthly priority. And I truly believe that. I also believe when Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom and his okaying of you, and everything else will fall into place.” (Glenn Hinson paraphrase, a seminary professor I had.)

To be the best husband and father and priest and me, I need to put God first. And then “my cup runneth over, ...and surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” But Rock, he sounds so rude to his family. And that is why they made sure that they wrote this down. It went head to head with cultural expectations, and in so doing it reframed the conversation. Who are my family, the ones I care for and take care of? The ones who seek out and do God’s will. Those, those are my family.

But think on it, one of his last breaths was used to tell the beloved disciple to behold his mother. Even from the cross he made sure that his family responsibilities were taken care of. Reframing, rethinking, re-envisioning. That is what he came to do, and enable us to do. Amen

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Blessings, Rock