Is there any sanity in this text or is it an invitation to madness?
by Roy M. Terry IV
Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35
For Sunday, June 10, 2012: Year B − Ordinary 10
It is hard to differentiate the voices in your head.
Oh, come on now, you all have them, the “voices” that is. Admit it. Our minds are a flurry of questions, doubts, fears, struggles and even ego trips. Determining which of the voices is of God or “Satan,” well that’s where it gets difficult.
We live in the illusion of sanity and that illusion is defined by community allegiance, talk radio, agendas we support, hip new authors and our desire to be content. How we define sanity is really a result of which narratives we believe to be true, practical and contribute to our comfort and survival. Everything outside of that, well that’s crazy!
Accusation of Insanity
The text for this week is full of conflict and tension. The crowds have grown so large that Jesus cannot even get around. His family is trapped in their quarters and Jesus is basically cornered for display.
The accusations rise and the crowd becomes combative. All this “in-breaking kingdom” stuff, with healing, miracles, demons, well—to be quite honest—is getting out of control.
There has to be a solid rational reason for all this stuff that’s going on through Jesus. “Satan!” Ah, the good old Satan “rational”. It makes sense doesn’t it? Fueled by the Scribes and the Pharisees the crowd starts to label Jesus as “…out of his mind,” “Beelzebul,” everything but God.
The Satan-source might make more sense because we can see the evil in the world, the brokenness, the crazy magicians throughout the ages who perform spectacles and sorcery, but God? As revealed in Jesus? Well, that just doesn’t make sense.
The Only Sanity in the Text
Amidst the flash mob of speculation, Jesus’ family might appear to be the only truly sane people in the group. Concerned for his wellbeing they try their best to get him out of the scene.
The plea of insanity can spare a life or destroy it. The Scribes seek to use it for destruction, Jesus’ family seeks to use it to get him out of the situation. If one can convince the crowd someone is insane, we can justify it all and get on with our ordinary self-centered lives again. But then we are left with Jesus, who by the end of the text has distanced himself from everyone – mob, Scribes and family.
Jesus’ teaching and life step far outside that which would be considered normal.
The Imagination of a Madman
I remember sitting in a class on eschatology being taught by Dr. Willie Jennings. On one particular day Dr. Jennings was explaining the gift of imaginative space. He went on to share how God has gifted us with the ability to think beyond what is possible. Imagination is a gift and the freedom to use it can be dangerous, for it opens the mind to possibilities beyond what appears possible.
The danger is that usually others bound in the illusions of normalcy will find such freedom “to imagine” a threat. That is why for centuries much of the church has taught that using your imagination could lead to sin – or worse “Satan!” Dr. Jennings went on to say, “You see I am confident in this gift, for in Jesus I believe in the imagination of a madman.”
The Hardest Question
Aside from all the blasphemy and eternal damnation is this text an invitation to madness?
Rev. Roy Terry serves as the pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL. In addition to working at the church, Roy enjoys supporting his wife and daughters equestrian pursuits, playing in the Holy Moly Band, getting a few tattoos and singing classic rock tunes at the local sports pub. He has been published in Christian Century, Duke Divinity Schools publication Divinity, The Ekklesia Project, and was a contributor in Diana Butler Bass’s work on re-traditioning churches, From Nomads to Pilgrims and Christianity for the Rest of Us.