“Get In the Boat”

June 20, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

| Centering Prayer |

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asks.

Why are you afraid?

There are many things in this world that frighten us.

This being Father’s day,

I recall the feeling before each of my two sons were born;

Wondering if I’d be a good enough father.

I was afraid of failing,

Of not loving each child enough,

Of not passing to each child the values and faith

My father had passed on to me.

My fears, so far, – knock wood – have proved to be baseless.

God has shown me the way.

God has provided.

Why are you afraid? Jesus asks.

According to the Mass Shooting Tracker project

Between January 1st and May 31st  Mass shootings in the United States have killed 283,

Injured 1,005,

For a total of 1,288.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2021)

Why are you afraid? Jesus asks.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

28 people die every day

– one person every 52 minutes –

– 10,142 people in 2019 –

Due to drunk-driving crashes.

(https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving)

Why are you afraid? Jesus asks.

According to the New York Times

599,485 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of June 15, 2021.

(https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html)

Is it the apparent randomness?

Is it the frailty of life?

We fear that life is a gamble

Every time we walk out of the house in the morning.

The angry driver committing road rage,

The moronic fundamentalist,

Or, for many of our sisters and brothers of color,

The possible knee on the neck;

They all cause us to fear,

To hibernate,

To gather weapons,

To throw down neighbors

And build up walls.

Anyone, anything, at any time

Can end life as we know it in a millisecond

And there isn’t a thing we can do to stop it.

We are afraid

Even though God has provided silent protection all our days.

We are here today,

Because God has wanted us to be here today.

By His mercy,

Our fears have been unjustified.

Why are you afraid?

The older we all get the more aware we become of our mortality.

Family and friends receive that dreaded life-ending,

Often life-defining,

Diagnosis,

And we stand vigil

Hoping and praying with all our heart

That they survive.

Yet, many have gone,

Disappeared,

And we can only hope and pray we meet our loved ones again

Gathered around God’s heavenly throne.

There is no greater fear than

The harm or death

Of a child, grandchild, or soul mate.

Fear can be paralyzing.

When will the sword of Damocles drop?

I wonder about

My own mortality,

Of pain, suffering, and the potential of life being cut too short.

With every sunrise,

With every breath and heartbeat,

Our fears have yet to be realized,

Wholly and simply

By the grace of God.

Why are you afraid? Jesus asks when he is roused.

It’s it obvious?

The boat is sinking and we are all going to drown!

Keep calm

and consider for a moment

The God of creation.

Out of chaos,

God created all things.

From the far corners of the cosmos,

God gathered the seas and filled them with life.

God raised the land,

And filled it with plenty.

God created the wind and filled it with birds of the air.

God created man and woman in God’s own image.

All this is God’s!

When seas roll and the wind howl

And our ship is tossed towards the rocks,

Jesus commands, “Peace! Be still!”

Our God, Father and Son,

Created it

and can

Still it

– SNAP –

In a New York minute.

Let there be no doubt,

When the police officer comes to your door,

When standing in the ICU,

Even when looking down the barrel of a gun (God forbid),

Jesus is with you,

Ready to loose his thunder:

“Peace! Be still!”

But, we protest,

Evil still acts,

Cancer still strikes,

Alzheimer’s steals memories and neurons one-by-one.

Bad things happen to good people,

And hatred, oppression, and injustice

Continues to suck humanity dry!

“Peace! Be still!” Jesus commands the wind and the sea.

“Have you still no faith?” Jesus asks.

But I don’t want to adult!

I don’t want to grow up.

I just want to be left alone.

I just want to return to the simplicity of my spiritual childhood

When Andy Taylor was Sheriff and

Captain Kirk streaked across the universe.

Ah! There we have it.

Jesus teases the fear right to the surface,

Just as he instantly saved his disciples and filled them with great awe.

We long to return to Egypt, even though we were slaves to Pharaoh.

We want to go back to our “Leave It to Beaver” household of our childhood.

We remember life when it appeared simpler and as pure as a mountain stream.

We just want a safe, predictable, pain-free life for our families and ourselves.

“Have you still no faith?”

Buck up, Buttercup,

Jesus commands today.

Get in the boat with Jesus

The storms of life will certainly take your life

If you’re not safe and secure in the boat.

Get in the boat,

Which symbolizes the Church,

Because this boat protects us.

This boat

Holds us together

Through every storm.

Get in the boat and stay in the boat.

Oh, it’s tempting to abandon the boat,

To fish other seas,

To explore on our own,

But there is no fate quicker than death,

Than to be caught outside the boat.

“Have you still no faith?”

Buck up, Buttercup.

The consequence of sin is death.

Biology drives cellular senescence, damage, and death.

Physics drops the anvil, the piano, the random bolt of lightning.

We try to rid the world and our lives of sin.

We attempt to prolong life even at the expense of living.

We spend billions in the attempt to create a risk-free world.

Yet, in the end,

We can’t save others.

We can’t even save ourselves.

That’s why we’ve been given a Savior to still our storms.

This boat is Christ’s boat.

This is where Christ resides.

This is where Christ abides.

So, get in the boat!

The same God who created the wind and seas can still them.

The same God who granted free will to man and woman to sin

Sent his Son to wash that same sin away.

The same God who breathed life into our lungs and gave us His Spirit,

Is the same God who will one day,

Safely bring each of us home.

Sometimes we float lazily on inner tubes along this river of faith.

Other times we batten down the hatches, hoping to survive the hurricane.

The apostle Peter accurately reports,

“… that with the Lord

One day is as a thousand years,

And a thousand years as one day.”

– 2 Peter 3:8

There isn’t a storm Jesus hasn’t stilled.

There isn’t a gale that God hasn’t quelled.

Spiritually, it is time to grow up,

Claim our Savior,

And dive deep into a discipleship relationship with Him.

Let us always

Have the will and the faith

To cry out to Jesus in the midst of our storms

With confidence

That Jesus is here to save us.

Amen.

“Kingdom Parables”

Proper 6B, June 13, 2021

Mark 4:26-34

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 4:26-34

    He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

    He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

    With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

| Centering Prayer |

We have two different, but similar, parables from Jesus this morning.

The intent of each is to describe the kingdom of God.

One is about one who scatters seed,

Goes to bed,

And rises to find that the seeds mysteriously grew.

The second parable is about a tiny mustard seed,

When sown

It grows to become the greatest shrub.

Jesus often taught in parables,

– Teaching by telling stories –

As opposed to speaking plainly and forthrightly.

Behind closed doors,

and in the presence of his disciples,

Jesus was obviously more direct.

But when in public,

Jesus often chose parables as

A literary style of choice.

Many have hypothesized why.

1. Some suggest that Jesus taught in parables as a means of self-preservation.

If the religious authorities witnessed Jesus challenging

their corruption of God’s perfect institution,

they may have him prematurely put to death.

So, Jesus could be just obscure enough

to keep him out of trouble,

yet clear enough

to get his point across.

Plausible deniability.

2. By their very nature, parables are simple,

memorable, using common, humble imagery.

Like a great joke, parables are easy to remember and retell.

Their memorable nature suggest

Jesus wants his message to be retained and spread.

Teaching in parables reveals

Jesus thinking and planning for a future growing Church.

Think: Grow deep; grow wide.

Think: Discipleship and evangelism.

3. Still others hypothesize

Jesus used parables as a means

of provoking thought and coaxing the listener

Into participating more actively in the story.

Scholars generally caution preachers

Of over-explaining parables,

Of pushing them too far.

When the listener has to do mental work to figure out a parable

It makes the parable much more personal and memorable.

Jesus probably had these three reasons, and more for speaking in parables.

This is my approach when preaching or teaching his parables:

Keep it simple.

Don’t over analyze them or try to push them too far.

Speak parables aloud,

Reflect on them,

Maul them over in your mind.

Let the Spirit speak.

And draw your own conclusions.

The two parables Jesus teach this morning are about the kingdom of God.

They are kingdom parables.

Kingdom is a word not often used today,

Especially in western, American culture.

We held a revolution and fought a war to break free from a king and his oppressive kingdom.

However, kingdom certainly had meaning in ancient times,

during the Middle Ages,

through the renaissance, and has meaning today for many people of the world.

Kingdoms have kings;

Rulers who are men,

Holding massive wealth,

Inheriting both fortunes and authority.

Some became king by birth,

others by violent insurrection from within,

or victory on the battlefield from without.

Still others become king by marriage.

Kings create the rules,

enforce the rules,

and passed judgment upon those accused of breaking the rules.

Every member of the kingdom works for the benefit of the king

in exchange for safety and protection.

Benevolent kings ran good kingdoms.

But often, power, riches, and authority cause many to turn bad.

City-sized kingdoms grew into regional kingdoms,

like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.

Seeking ever more size, wealth, power, status, legacy

Kings turned upon Kings.

Kingdoms turned on kingdoms,

Each rising and falling in cyclical fashion.

Prosperity is followed by weakening, fall, regeneration, and prosperity all over again.

People tire of the cycle.

People tire of sacrificing their youth to war,

Their prosperity to taxes,

Their freedom to slavery.

But each new charismatic despot takes advantage of people’s short memory and the promise of personal gain or glory.

Original sin finds a way to endlessly mutate and replicate.

Holocaust becomes a cycle of sin.

War and violence continue with unending ferocity.

Creative depravity knows no end.

Such was the kingdom of Rome in the time of Jesus.

The search for God

May be just as motivated by a desire to get out of this place

and these cruel cyclical circumstances

as much as it might be for higher or nobler reasons.

The serf or slave thinks to themselves:

Let’s dump our king

And follow God instead.

Applying the human metaphor,

We make God king,

Give God all authority to create law, enforce the law, and pass judgment upon those who transgress the law.

We return gifts to God.

We learn God’s ways.

We follow God’s will.

It isn’t a perfect metaphor,

Applying the imperfect to the Divine,

But it works pretty well for Jesus.

The metaphor works because kings and kingdoms was the environmental reality.

So he teaches about God’s kingdom.

To the dull or the uninspired,

kingdom talk may have been received as a threat to those in power;

Namely Rome, and the Jewish authorities.

But to those who were tired of this earthly cycle

and were searching for something more,

Thinking about the kingdom of God

was like

A key that unlocked the imagination of how life can be lived

Under the dominion of

A benevolent, loving, heavenly king.

Dream with me, people.

Dream with me of rewarding life that can be lived with God as our king!

Today we have two parables about the kingdom of God.

(Explanations for these two parables and conclusion can be attributed to the exceptional work of Sharon H. Ringe, Professor of New Testament, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC; as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=6/14/2009&tab=4)

In the first parable, the search for the cast of characters is difficult.

If God is the sower

Like we often think of God as being a sower

We are puzzled by the fact that the sower doesn’t know how the seed grows.

That doesn’t work.

So, try this: we are the gardener and God is responsible for the growth.

Yet, the harvest belongs to the sower.

But this doesn’t work either because we know the harvest belongs to the God, not to us.

Hum.

Time to step back and take a look at the big picture.

Mark’s audience was the first century Church.

They expected Christ to return at any moment.

All would be judged.

The kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.

This was the confident expectation.

Consider the possibility that

this parable is designed to

provoke the audience to respond

in a predictable way.

Consider

The reign of God is not “like”

The farmer

The seed

The earth

The process of growth

Or, the harvest.

Rather, consider the possibility that

The kingdom of God is “sorta like

each of them

and all of them taken together.

In God’s kingdom

Seeds are sown

Germinate

And grow.

God’s kingdom grows.

In God’s kingdom,

Judgment

– the harvest –

is unavoidable.

The harvest comes to every citizen of God’s kingdom

Like it

Or not.

I’m suggesting this parable demands a response.

Prepare for judgment, people!

Get ready for the harvest.

How will you respond?

What kind of changes can you make in your life this very moment

To prepare to stand before Jesus

And face his judgment?

Are you following God’s laws?

If not, this would be a good time to make a necessary course correction.

Are you loving God, neighbor, and enemy just like Jesus tells us?

If not, consider ways to become more loving.

Are you a living vessel in which the Holy Spirit can live and work?

If not, perhaps it is time to invite the Spirit in.

Are you bearing witness, leading the world to Jesus?

If not, this is the time to go bold.

Are you prepared?

The second parable

Is also simple and easy for our Lord’s

Agrarian audience to grasp.

One would think.

The problem is

In the next breath

Jesus compares the kingdom of God with a weed!

They just seem like un-natural dance partners.

Farmers in the crowd would scratch their heads

Because not one of them would intentionally plant mustard

Any more than one of us would plant dandelions or thistles.

They spent their days toiling to rid themselves of mustard.

They wouldn’t plant it.

Members of the audience also would notice

Mustard seeds aren’t the smallest

And mustard bushes aren’t the biggest.

Exaggeration follows absurdity.

What gives, Jesus?

Again, consider the big picture.

Jesus creates contrast between the small seed and the large plant.

This works well as an image for the reign of God.

This is good news to people aware of Jesus’ humble beginnings.

This is good news to people with struggling faith.

The predatory ability of an aggressive weed like mustard

Would crowd out EVEN the orderly but oppressive kingdom of Rome.

Even birds taking shelter in their branches

Would peck away at the carefully planted crops.

Understanding would have produced a cacophony of chuckles in the crowd.

The idea that God empire would subvert the enterprises of Rome,

Now that’s Good News!

The days are coming

When the powers and principalities of this world

Will fall

And be replaced by God’s emerging kingdom.

Deeper still,

The faithful farming community would have been drawn to the similar imagery from Ezekiel 17:22-24:

“Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.”

Ezekiel is a book that paints a picture of end-times.

This sacred Hebrew text is referred to as apocalyptic.

God plants a tiny cedar twig on a high mountain.

The twig becomes a large and fruitful tree

Under whose branches every kind of bird finds shelter.

The birds are like all the nations of the world.

All who flock to Israel’s God,

Who find shelter in the Lord’s branches,

Will be saved on the glorious day when the Lord returns with judgment.

This picture in both Ezekiel and referenced by Jesus in today’s Gospel

Envisions a day when God’s sovereignty and life giving power

Will embrace, shelter, and save those under God’s protection.

Now that’s Good News!

Pay attention all you birders!

So, what’s the take home?

How should you and I respond?

The answer isn’t easy,

But consider this.

We live in an ordered, planned, linear, logical world

Filled with cyclical violence, sin, and evil.

The world is consumed with greed and lust for power.

Injustice and oppression are pervasive.

There are many in this world

Determined to drag each of us straight to hell.

Contrast this with what Christ is offering:

A new life

A fresh start

In God’s kingdom.

“Behold, I make all things new,” our king proclaims. (Revelation 21:5)

God is making new a different world,

One filled with mysteries and surprises,

Abundant grace and love,

Forgiveness and salvation.

In this new world

We are invited to work on the Lord’s behalf.

God’s emerging kingdom clashes with this world.

Powerful kings of this world

Are threatened by God and each of us

Who seek to follow God’s ways.

This makes you and me troublemakers

To the kings and principalities of today’s society.

As disciples of Jesus

Work to break the cycle of oppression and sin.

Labor to oust the false rulers and principalities of this world.

Seek to replace

every oppressive despot and

every false messiah.

In their place  

Recognize the Lord as our only king.

Christianity is revolutionary –

– In a dumping over the money changing tables sort of way.

We seek to turn the world upside down,

Breaking open vaults and treasuries,

Re-forging swords and hammer them into plowshares.

God’s people are called to crowd out the high and mighty,

To raise up those left behind in the shadows of dark valleys.

When the last, the least, the lost, the left behind, the other-ly abled, the widows, children, and the aged

Are raised from dark valleys

Rough places are made plain.

Emancipation is granted.

Freedom is won.

Each child of God is brought into the light

And invited to take a seat at our King’s banquet.

We test the “sorta like” stories.

We dip our toe into God’s kingdom.

What we discover

Is delightful,

Refreshing change.

A new wind is blowing.

This is Good News

The business-as-usual of this world

Isn’t going to last forever.

Not if we can help it.

Not with God as our King.

Amen.

“The Only Unforgivable Sin”

June 6, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 3:20-35

“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.””

| Centering Prayer |

If you are troubled by persistent thoughts of

Wanting to harm yourself or others,

Speak up, tell someone you trust, and ask for help.

If you suspect someone else of thinking about homicide or suicide,

Be direct.

Tell them you care for them.

Ask them directly if they are having persistent thoughts

Of harming themselves or others.

If so, use every influence you possess

To lead them into the care of a physician or mental health professional.

Occasional thoughts are normal;

Persistent thoughts of suicide or homicide are not.

They are a sign of an illness or medical condition

That is treatable with proven interventions.

Relief is achievable.

Lives can be saved

If only we 

Overcome the stigma,

Speak up and speak out, and

Commit our lives to wellness.

I’m leading this message

With straight talk about suicide and homicide because

The Church taught from the mid-13th century on

That suicide was an unforgivable sin.

This terrible legacy continues to this day.

It was Thomas Aquinas who listed six unforgiveable sins

That go against the Holy Spirit,

The first being despair,

Which consists of thinking that

“One’s own malice

Is greater than Divine Goodness.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_sin)

The flaw:

God’s goodness is limitless,

The intention to do evil or ill will is finite.

God wins, all the time.

Goodness overcomes evil.

God’s amazing grace saves even those

Who harm themselves or others.

So, no.

Suicide is not an unforgiveable sin,

Nor does it condemn one to hell.

Suicide is not an act of despair.

Suicide is always a personal, family, and community tragedy.

Hearts are broken by suicide.

God’s heart is broken.

Healing comes with time, faith, and the love and support of others,

Redeeming the life and memory of the loved one

Who took their own life.

Hearts are repaired when we experience God’s empathy,

Relating our loss to God’s loss of His beloved Son,

Who, through his resurrection,

“We die into the loving, tender arms of God.”

(https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/7-things-to-know-about-suicide)

Jesus speaks about one sin that can not be forgiven

In this third chapter of Mark,

Blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. 

He teaches,

“whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

Can never have forgiveness,

But is guilty of an eternal sin.”

(3:28-29)

Blaspheme is a verb meaning

To “speak irreverently about God or sacred things”.

(Oxford Languages, as found at Google dot com)

You might think this harsh of Jesus.

Simply speaking irreverently is worse than

Breaking one of the Ten Commandments or

Breaking one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

It doesn’t sound right.

There is more to the story.

Understanding comes with context.

Allow me to set the Gospel playing field.

Jesus had just been baptized by John and

Endured forty days of temptations by

The head of the Department of Evil,

Satan in the flesh.

Jesus had started his Galilean ministry,

Called his first disciples, and

Casted out an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue. 

He heals, preaches, calls followers, and

Appoints twelve of his followers

He named “apostles” to do three things:

“Be with him,

Proclaim the message, and

To have authority to cast out demons.” (3:14b-15)

Jesus is in the exorcism business

And business was booming.

Jesus wants his apprentices to

Take up some of the demand and follow in his footsteps.

Today’s gospel is like an Oreo cookie.

It is one narrative

Split by a second story,

A common characteristic of the Gospel of Mark.

It begins with a family context,

Pauses,

Speaks about accusations made by scribes from Jerusalem,

Pauses, and

Concludes with a return statement about family.

Let’s talk about the family of Jesus.

Jesus returns home,

Bringing a crowd with him inside his house.

His family comes to restrain him,

But they can’t get to him because the room was too crowded.

Their assessment of Jesus?

He was insane,

Beside himself.

He, and his brother love traveling salvation show,

were just plain nuts.

Someone is going to get hurt.

Get the straight jacket on him.

Get him out of there.

Take Jesus to a safe place,

Cool his jets, and

Talk some sense into him.

His own family look at Jesus from the outside

And make an incorrect assessment.

His mother, brothers (plural), and sisters (also plural) ask for Jesus. (3:32)

He hears the request, then teaches

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (3:35)

If his own family didn’t get it right,

What chance do you or I have?

What do we fail to hear or see in Jesus

That God longs for us know?

Let’s talk about the cream in the middle

That separates the two ends of the chocolate cookie.

Scribes are like pop up killers throughout Mark.

They pop in and out of the story,

Taking pot shots at Jesus

Throughout his ministry.

Scribes come from Jerusalem to confront Jesus

In a similar way his family confronts him.

But they come to a different, incorrect conclusion.

They didn’t fear for his sanity.

The scribes made a theological claim that

Jesus was the ruler of all demons,

Named Beelzebul,

Associated with the pagan, Canaanite god Baal.

The scribes did not attribute the power of casting out demons to the Holy Spirit.

They claimed Jesus was able to cast out demons

Because he was the head demon,

The leader of the Department of Evil.

Their recursive flaw is obvious:

Satan vs. Satan means the self-destruction of evil.

“If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come,” Jesus teaches. (3:26)

They look to Jesus and see the work of the devil,

Not the work of the Holy Spirit.

This is the context for “unforgiveable sin.”

The unforgiveable sin, Jesus explains,

Is more than blasphemous or disrespectful talk about God.

It is claiming that the work of the Holy Spirit

In Jesus’s words and actions

Is the work of Satan.

To attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan

Is to thwart the dynamics of forgiveness,

Is to walk away and close the door to redemption,

Is to reject the grace God is granting to us.

To claim that Jesus does Satan’s work

Is to remain shut outside the house,

With the scribes and Jesus’ family,

While his true kindred are inside the house

Doing the will of God

At the feet of Jesus.

Therein lays hell.

Hell is of our own creation,

Our choice to shut ourselves outside,

Making false and misleading claims about Jesus.  

It isn’t so much as belief or unbelief,

Hell is about a stubborn refusal to come into the house of Jesus

And attribute his power and grace to God.

Free choice implies

The free choice to walk away from God.

I can’t make you behave, and neither can God.

It’s a bad choice, but

It is yours to choose. 

Look to Jesus.

What is it that you see?

I see Jesus inviting us to come in from the outside.

There is a place for you and me

To abide in his house,

At his feet.

I see the Holy Spirit,

God working in the words and actions of Jesus.

I see Jesus victorious over Satan,

Casting him and every other demon out from those who are possessed.

I see Jesus winning over the power of evil

Every single time.

Look to Jesus.

What is it that you see?

Amen.