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2 Pentecost - Mark 3:20-35

Today at Shepherd of the Valley we honor graduates, who have learned so much, and who also have still so much to learn.

This week's calendar brought this home to me.

In school I learned about June 6, D-Day, when heroic Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, turning the tide in World War II and ultimately putting a stop to Hitler's racist atrocities.

I did not learn about June 1, when the US national guard responded to terrorism in Tulsa by arresting black survivors of the violent white rioters who decimated their neighborhood scot-free.

I did learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but when I mentioned him to my family, I was told that he was a violent man responsible for the Watts riots; when I questioned this, I was screamed at and shamed for my inexcusable defiance and disrespect of authority.

I did not learn that many of the values my family instilled in me—pursuing objectivity, keeping quiet to avoid conflict, distrusting and overcoming feelings, stability, perfectionism, urgency, the primacy of the written word, doing everything the one right way—are all cultural signatures of white supremacy.

I graduated three times with honors still mistaking these things for the will and expectation of God, who still, to my constant astonishment, has not given up on me.

There is no graduating from church—confirmation and death are just new beginnings.

There is no outgrowing our need for God or mastering the Mystery and then moving on.

The more we learn, the more there is to learn, and to unlearn.

That's the hard and painful part.

The family that nourished you with food and shelter and love won't always understand.

The teachers and friends who mean so much don't get everything right.

The pastor, as you already know, makes a lot of mistakes; so does the church.

So will you.

The anchors in your life, which have kept you grounded and safe, can also hold you back.

You have so much to appreciate, so much to be thankful for, but there is so much more beyond the horizon of harbor and home.

Adventures, adulthood, all kinds of wonders and weather await.

Life is exhilerating and lonely, enlightening and disillusioning, exciting and confusing.

Some of what you hold dear will become dead weight.

Jesus has a word of advice: aphiemi.

Let it go—or to use the more common translation, forgive.

This is harder than it sounds.


Since we took an Easter detour through the gospel of John, we have missed some important

developments in the gospel of Mark.

Rock star rabbi Jesus now has a full entourage of posse, groupies, and critics.

He forgave the sins of a paralyzed man and proved it by empowering him to walk.

He cast our demons, called disciples, and caused a stir by healing on the sabbath.

Along the way he said, No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.

Now the tearing and bursting begins.

He went home.


Turns out that enormous schoolyard in which I played kickball at recess isn't actually that big.

The large house in which I grew up is actually kinda small.

The world into which God sent me is so much bigger and more complicated than the one that shaped me.

Now Jesus is a big deal in a small town.

And the old wineskins can't contain him.


His family thinks he has lost his mind and tries to seize him, which is the same verb Mark uses when Jesus and John get arrested.

His school district, the scribes from Jerusalem who safeguard the faith, accuse him of being

possessed by evil spirits rather than the Holy one.

We religious types tend to trust the old cloak and wine more than the new, untested stuff.

Family types tend to cling to one another even if it means sacrificing the truth.

Jesus refuses to play these games or bow to these false gods.

He organizes his life and community of misfits (now named church) around the will of God rather than religion, identity group, social location, or DNA.

And that means conflict.

That means misunderstanding and pain.

That means hearts torn and relationships ruined.

Religion, family, expectations, and other false gods don't let go of you; you have to let go of them.

Systems are addicted to stability and the equilibrium it secures; new realizations, new behavior, new allegiances, new cloth and wine tear the fabric.

Change is punished.

Growth is strangled.

Better to kill the kid's spirit than to risk the nuclear fallout if it turns out Dr. King was right.

Better to restrain Jesus before the whole family suffers the implications of his teachings and their terrifying power.

Better ... to have one man to die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed, Caiaphas explained.

If you break the mold, you have to pay for it.

In Jesus' case, the mold broke him.

He visualized this for his disciples, tearing a loaf of bread and saying, This is my body, given for you.

What the world rejects and breaks, Jesus blesses and gives away.

And what the world tries to hoard and protect, Jesus blesses and gives away.

So he tells that world that he is robbing its house, tying up the bully who ties up others in fear and worry and anxiety and despair, taking the locks off the doors and throwing it open for everyone trapped insi