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  • Writer's pictureFather Nicholas Lang

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

“Are you crazy? That’s a reaction a lot of parents likely have after their kids suggest something weird or risky they want to do or, maybe, already did. “You want to go where and do what? Are you crazy?” Ring a bell?

 

But did you hear it? That’s what happens to Jesus. “He’s out of his mind! He’s nuts!” That’s what his family and friends say about him. In the original Greek in which the Gospel was first written, the word used was existemi – εξιϭτεμι. “He’s crazy. Off his rocker.”

 

Jesus is back in the old neighborhood and his family wants to be proud of this young, articulate rabbi. To their chagrin, they are embarrassed by the reaction of the crowds who shout: “Existemi! He is out of his mind!” That’s what happens when Jesus proclaims a very different sort of reality, one that is counter to their expectations and cultural norms.

 

In fact, Jesus is not only out of his mind, but he is also in another frame of reference: the Kingdom of God—a place, a system of values, an ethos, a set of assumptions, a way of conducting business that is counter to, and often in conflict with, the way the world works.


A photocopied sign was posted inside a church office. It was one of those humorous full-page slogans that people in different offices duplicate and pass among themselves. Many of us have seen this particular message, I suppose, but posted in a church office, the words took on a new meaning.


There it was, taped to the cinder blocks behind the secretary's desk. The sign read, "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it sure helps."


At one level, why not put a sign like that in church? Many churches are busy, hectic, confusing places. On a deeper level, there is a great deal of truth to that sign. There is something strange about the church. We are not just another club or civic organization.


The church's view of reality is increasingly out of phase from a lot of prevailing views. In the church, we do and say things that do not always make sense to people outside of this house. Here we are, gathered on the weekend, sitting on hard pews instead of lawn chairs.


People we know are outside, working in their gardens or washing their cars, or walking at Silver Sands, while we gather here, inside, to lift our voices in prayer and song. As a lot of people are planning a barbecue or sipping a Bloody Mary, reading the New York Times, we come together on a morning like this to break the bread and drink the cup.


I often see a few people walking by our church looking it over and walking right past us. I wonder what they think about what we’re doing here. To some outsiders, it must look a little bit crazy. According to the scripture text we heard a few minutes ago, this perception may reveal something of what it means to be the church.


And what about those people who feel called to ordination? Given the amount of preparation, the hoops through which they need to jump, the cost of seminary education, and the unlikelihood that they will find full time work, are they really out of their minds?


Has the world changed at all because of Jesus? If nothing has changed, then the future is an endless string of oppression, misery, and defeat. But if the reign of God has intruded upon the status quo, then we can act like Jesus. We can confront the powers of evil as if God rules over heaven and earth. We can gather in a place like this, singing praises to God who has already assured us of the world's redemption.


We can stand around the baptismal font to claim God's desire for justice and peace and for care of one another and for the gift of all creation. Trusting in the final triumph of God, we can act like Jesus even when the world calls us crazy.


I wonder if every time we gather here to pray, to hear God’s Word, to try to make sense of our lives and mission, to open our hands to receive the Gifts of God, the Body of Christ, to lay hands on people and pray for their healing, to bring food to the hungry, minister to the Veterans, support children in need, and care for one another, and serve in various ministries, the world looks at this odd assembly and thinks, “They’ve got to be out of their minds!”


Maybe that's what we are: crazy cousins with our odd uncle Jesus. When we live as if God's reign has already come, we find ourselves in a strange new family called "church."

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr once preached: "Let us be as maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could look into the eyes of the men and women of his generation and cry out, 'Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.' " Yes, the world likely thinks that’s just crazy.


Today we’re celebrating the laying of the cornerstone of this church building. It’s a big chunk of stone. The real cornerstone is right in here—the commitment we make to Christ and the way we live in the world and preach the Gospel by the way we treat others. Maybe that office sign has some truth for us: "We don't have to be crazy to sign up for all that, but it sure helps."

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