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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

Crazy Love

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? Not lyrics – or a poem – but a commercial. An infamous commercial that aired during a Super bowl many years ago. The voiceover read those words as images of Einstein, Dr. King, Amelia Earhart, Jim Henson, Picasso, Gandhi, and others of that ilk filled the screen. Culminating in the iconic image of an apple, bitten into – with the words – Think Different, inscribed underneath.

Here’s to the crazy ones – because the people who are crazy enough to think they can

change the world, are the ones who do. People thought Jesus was crazy. Even people who loved him – his mother and his brothers – were concerned, were embarrassed – that Jesus was literally – in the Greek – out of his mind. So they went to find him – and hopefully get him to stop talking nonsense – stop thinking different – and just come home.

There are a couple of things in this morning’s gospel that are crazy, or at least somewhat odd. Like these sayings about a house being plundered while a strongman is tied up, or Satan being divided. What does Jesus mean when he says there are those who will be found guilty of committing an eternal sin? How could those two words even fit together?

There is a preaching joke that if you’re worried about having committed an eternal sin – then most likely, you have not. More seriously – I hear Jesus speaking out against a person who would claim that another human being is unclean – that the Holy Spirit within them was unworthy. As children of God that is impossible Which is what has the scribes so angry – for that is what Jesus claims to be.

And he goes on to make the crazy claim – that every person can claim that divine family connection – without their relationship being mediated by the rules of a religious institution. It’s what we heard him say last week – as he was breaking a rule about healing in worship – Sabbath isn’t made for humankind – humankind is made for the Sabbath.

His “eternal sin” statement connects with the many other times Jesus boils things down – the only sin is the ultimate sin – to believe or to have another person believe – they have irreparably broken their relationship with God. Look, John the Baptist said when Jesus entered the world – See, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)

Our relationship with God cannot be severed or denied us. And the Holy Spirit given to us is the Advocate who shouts and whispers – always remember whose you are.

This gospel passage reminds us of the ways in which we tame, sentimentalize the message of Christ. Christianity – being a Christian – is very strongly connected with family, right? God, family, country – or something like that. The family that prays together – stays together. Maybe.

The phrase – family values – for a time pervaded our public dialogue and was often linked to an evangelical Christianity built upon boundaries and categories of exclusion.

But what does Jesus himself say about family in the gospels?

Surprise – Jesus does not encourage us to put our immediate family first. Jesus says following my teachings means that daughter will turn against mother – father against son, etc. (Luke 12:53) Jesus says to follow him means leaving your parents behind – let the dead bury the dead he says to one young man who wants to tend to his family responsibilities first (Lk 9:60) No – let them go – and look towards the family you are joining.

And here – Jesus rebukes his mother and his brothers – and those wanting him to show familial respect. Who are my mother and my brothers – he says? Those who do the will of God. Those who welcome – instead of deny. Those who include – instead of exclude. Those who forgive – not judge. Those who enact love – not hate.

The crazy ones – who believe love can save the world. Those are my people, my family – says our Savior.

Jesus Christ was born to save. Jesus stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross so that all might come within the reach of his saving embrace. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea.

These words of our hymns and our prayers – name this all-encompassing nature of God. A force so expansive – as to be infinite in scope – and simultaneously personal and intimate with each and every heart. How is it that some are unable to connect to this reality? How can it be that for some of us there are times when we are filled with such a despondent sense of alone-ness and isolation – that the reality of being alive becomes unbearable?

Two people pervaded some of the news cycle this week because they ended their own lives. Two people who were famous – had gobs of money – had incredible success – had brand names and designer clothes. A man and a woman – who were parents – who had friends and loving relationships – and by all appearances – had everything – and even so, definitively and violently chose to stop living.

As I was taking in the news around Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths – most of the coverage was on the accomplishments of their lives, and yes, I get that, and it matters. But there was far less on wrestling with the open-ended question of why people as wealthy and as connected and as resourced as Spade and Bourdain were unable to get the help they needed. We are (still) a society that shames people into believing that our appearance, how we present – matters more than a reality of overwhelming darkness we may know on the inside.

One radio show had women calling in about the first Kate Spade handbag or shoes they purchased – and how it made them feel powerful – rich – like they had made it. Ok, I know that feeling to – but that’s part of the problem, right? We want to buy into a falsehood that objects and things, or the value of our name, determines how we are to feel ourselves, what our worth is? That is an empty golden calf. We don’t need to talk about that idol – we need to smash it.

One piece of good news this scripture offers – Jesus does not care how he is presenting himself to the outside world – to the crowd, the scribes – or his family. He cares about living a whole and meaningful life – and helping people realize how they can be made whole – healing and restoring people to right relationship within themselves and with God.

Severe depression is a real illness – even though it does not present the way other illnesses do. Severe depression is not something I have known – but my sister did, along with bi-polar and bulimia – and so she spent a life-time struggling with and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol - that culminated with her ending her life.

I say this not for your sympathy – though thank you. I’m saying this because, if this is your reality in your life or in the life of someone you love – and you are about to give up – please talk to me. I will listen and support you as I can. And if you don’t want to talk to me, talk to someone who will listen, and I mean someone who will really listen without interrupting you ever 2 minutes with their advice or critiques. And if you want help in finding that person – I can do that too. And if you, like me know what it is to be a sister or parent or friend – who struggles with how to help – then share your story so that people know they are not alone.

We are so quick these days to discount what we’re going through as being “First world problems” – yet our first world comforts don’t fill the hole in our hearts. We feel like we are enough when we believe we belong in the human family.

Crazy people choose to listen even when something can’t be changed or fixed because they know supportive listening matters a lot. Crazy people share their story – even when they worry its embarrassing or not as bad as what someone else is going through. God’s crazy family will risk anything – even their pride – to let someone know they belong and they matter.

If family ties – are the ties that bind – there is one that binds us to everyone – and God to the depths of our hearts. We are on this earth but a little while – William Blake wrote – but to bear the beams of love. In whatever way you can – in whatever way you need to – be and seek out the family you need to remember that you are loved. Amen.

If you or someone you know needs this, here's the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. "

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