Jesus warned them not to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. [Mark 3:29] I use to wonder what he meant. Now I’ve come to believe that we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit whenever we deny what is holy in ourselves or in others. The scribes denied that Jesus’ healing power was divine. They thought his power was diabolic. When any of us deny who we truly are, the power and the passion and the promise that God planted in each of us, we are blaspheming the Holy Spirit that is in us. Jesus refused to do that and so must we.
At some point in our lives, almost all of us have had a sense of what it’s like to be stuck in a black hole with no hope of escape. The women who gathered at the tomb early on the first day of the week were trapped in the black hole of their grief. And they had no more idea of how to escape than they had for how to remove the stone that was sealing the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid. By the time they arrived with their spices to prepare the body for a decent burial, the sun had just risen and they could now see that the stone was already rolled away. Surprised but not yet scared, they went into the tomb. It wasn’t until they saw a young man sitting instead of a dead man lying that they got spooked. So the words of the young man didn’t compute. All they knew is that Jesus was not there. What the women heard but could not yet understand is that Jesus had risen. Against all of our expectations, all of our knowledge about what is physically possible, Jesus had escaped the black hole of death.
But I’m appalled to learn that this take on the text takes this text completely out of context. As I read commentaries for this sermon, I realized that we pastors have been misusing the widow’s mite in order to beg for money. So, in an act of repentance, what I want to do today is to look more closely at the widow’s situation so we can better understand her story.
To those who still can’t let go of their ego, Jesus says, “Let me welcome that child in you who was always afraid to be last, always worried that someone would think they were least, always waiting for someone to tell them to get lost. Give that child to me, and then I will give you the strength to welcome every such child in my name. By loving and serving the last in your world, you will come to know what it’s like to be first in mine.”
So this morning, we ask, “What would Jesus say about this country’s original sin of racism?” This isn’t just an academic question. It hits much closer to home than that. What would he say in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville? What would he say about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson or Trayvon Martin in Florida or Oscar Grant in Oakland or earlier this year Stephon Clark in Sacramento? What would he say about the despicable bullying of an African American student that took place in a dorm room in San Jose?
So, in my mind, while walking on water or feeding the 5,000 is pretty impressive, the miracle that truly amazes me is when Jesus climbed on that untrained donkey and went riding off down the road. All I can say is, he must have been a donkey whisperer, because somehow the colt knew that he could trust Jesus and that he would be safe with him even when the crowd started jumping and shouting and waving branches around. Somehow the donkey knew that it was ok to go with Jesus even though he didn’t know where Jesus was going. If only we could be less like those fearful disciples and more like that little donkey.
The Bible is the best-selling guidebook of all time, better than Frommers or Lonely Planet or any of the others. The Bible tells stories of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and these men were always on the move. Take Jesus. Not only did he travel all over Galilee and Judea, but he was, in essence, a tour director for his disciples. He told them the same thing he tells each one of us: "Follow me." In other words, "Join me on the journey."
So this is what it all means to me: Lose this life that doesn't really know life, deny this self that doesn't know how to love itself, take up this cross and carry it until it teaches you that your weaknesses can become the source of others' strength and the story of your getting lost can lead others to being found.
Last year, Hurricane Harvey dumped over 40 inches of rain in many parts of Texas. The flooding in Houston overwhelmed the capacity of first responders to rescue everyone who needed to be rescued. Enter the "Cajun Navy," an all-volunteer force of people with bass boats, jet skis, canoes, trucks and even dune buggies, who jumped in to rescue the folks that the fire fighters, police and national guard couldn't get to. And the video footage of their rescue efforts says it all: Americans are more united than we think we are. No one paid any attention to race or class, gender or religion. No one asked any questions about political persuasion or sexual orientation or country of origin. They just acted on the belief that we are one human family and we are all in this together.
Here's what I like about today's Gospel reading. It's refreshing to think that the disciples were embarrassed into silence when they got caught arguing about who was the greatest. I'm afraid boasting about how great you are doesn't cause much embarrassment these days. Here in Silicon Valley, it's almost a requirement.