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I pray that this finds you well.
I would like to take this opportunity to bring you news of three things that are happening within our church community.
Firstly, we will be returning to in-person worship on Sunday 23rd May and services will be held weekly as normal. As with the previous times we have met together there are restrictions in place and these include:
Secondly, with the return to in-person worship the Sunday morning Zoom service finished on Sunday 16th May. Instead we will be launching an evening zoom service on the first and third Sunday of the month, starting at 6:45pm. The content of this service will be different to the morning service or worship booklet. We will trial these services over the summer and review them in September.
Lastly, I am organising monthly bible studies which will look at a different topic each month. This means the each study is stand alone and people are free to pop in and out over the months as they wish. The first study will be on Wednesday 26th May at 10:30am or Thursday 27th May at 2pm and we will be looking at Prayer and whether our prayers are sometimes unanswered. Studies will be held on zoom at least until August when we will review the possibililty of meeting in person.
We will also continue with our Coffee, Chat and Craft morning which meets on the second Tuesday of the month on Zoom starting at 10:30am.
I am hoping to start visiting members of the congregation as restrictions continue to ease and I will be in touch in due course. As always my contact details are
If you require any zoom information simply contact us and we will reply as soon as possible with the relevant information.
Take care, stay safe and God bless.
Reading :Mark 3:20 – 35
20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— 30 for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33 And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’
The preceding verses in this chapter give us some context to the events in today’s passage and are split into three stories. The first is the account of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The second is Jesus’ encounter with a great multitude by the shore when some were healed, and some had demons cast out. The third story is about Jesus’ appointment of the twelve disciples who would be sent to proclaim the gospel and were given the authority to cast out demons. It is from this context that Mark weaves together the two stories that make up today’s reading.
One involved Jesus’ family. They had been listening to the stories that were circulating about him and having decided that he must have some mental health issue they felt it was time to take Jesus back home where he could be cared for. The second story involved the Scribes who had come down from Jerusalem to challenge his ministry. His family appeared to be acting in the best interests of Jesus and the Scribes appeared to be acting in the best interests of the community and yet both groups had misinterpreted Jesus and his mission.
The Scribes levelled a serious accusation at Jesus. Rather than recognising his work as being from God, they accuse Jesus of being the devil, implying that only the ruler of demons could cast out a demon. I am always amazed at Jesus apparent calmness in such situations. He didn’t appear to raise his voice but began to speak to them in parables, and the Scribes had to work out what Jesus was saying.
The first parable (v23 – 26) talked about how a kingdom or house that was divided cannot survive. This challenged the Scribes perception that Jesus was the ruler of demons simply because he cast out demons. Both Jesus and the Scribes knew that casting out demons brought healing to the person, not harm. Did the Scribes really think that someone who was evil would participate in something that showed mercy? If someone was evil, would they grant powers to others so that healing work could continue? Jesus told the Scribes that this did not make sense. This type of behaviour would undermine the very principles of evil and such a kingdom would be destroyed by those actions.
The second parable (v27) helped give an alternative understanding to Jesus’ work. If Jesus was not the ruler of demons, then the only reason he had the ability to cast out demons was because this power came from God. In this parable, Satan was the strong man whose house Jesus, with his miracles and teachings, was plundering. Casting out demons was a way to tie the strong man up. It was a way to weakening Satan’s hold on the world, and this made it easier for people to hear and respond to the Gospel.
At the end of the two parables Jesus hoped that the Scribes understood that his power came from God via the Holy Spirit. To challenge that validity of that power and say that Jesus work came anyone other than God was paramount to blaspheming the Holy Spirit and this was considered an unforgivable sin. This phrase is challenging to understand. This is not about one-off rejections of a miracle or denial of Jesus power but about the sustained and decisive rejection of Jesus, his life and his work throughout one’s life. This was a warning to the Scribes and provided them an opportunity to change their views.
The story then turned back to Jesus’ family with the arrival of his mother and brothers. When Jesus was told his family had arrived, rather than inviting them into the house, he kept them outside and asks those gathered “Who are my mother and my brothers?” This response seems cold and calculating to our ears, but we must think about the context in which Jesus spoke. Jesus’ family did not appear to understand his mission. They had been listening to gossip and had decided that it was in their best interests that Jesus stopped what he was doing and returned home with them. This was a culture where one’s identity, responsibility and opportunities were linked to the family. Jesus being in trouble with the religious authorities, Jesus breaking the sabbath laws, Jesus making a name for himself all reflect on them as a family. Their appearance in the story was a way of trying to limit the damage Jesus could do to their family name.
Jesus understood what was going on and in some way his rejection of his family helped break the ties that they had. However, Jesus didn’t simply reject his biological family, he looked around those gathered and announced that they were now his family. They were not bound together by blood but by a shared mission. For some of those present this would have been welcome news. Having found themselves estranged from their own families because they had followed Jesus, now they had a new family with him.
This passage challenges us to stop and think about what we hold as absolutes in our faith and how we discern how different views and change are “of God”. The Scribes were quick to label Jesus’ work as not being from God because to acknowledge that God was working through Jesus, would challenge they own beliefs, and their understanding of how God worked. If healing on the Sabbath came from God what did that mean for the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy and the laws that dictated what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. This is just one example but there were others – most of the Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus challenging conventional interpretations of the law and telling the people a different perspective.
We still encounter this today. I recently purchased the book “Constance: Pioneer, Pastor, Preacher” and I’m looking forward to reading this over the coming weeks. Constance Coltman was the first woman to be ordained within a mainstream Christian denomination in Britain, being ordained in the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1917. She is one of the many women who have made it possible for me to do what I do today, and I am forever thankful for her determination and example. However, 102 years later, women ministers are not recognised in all denominations or even congregations with denominations who do ordain women. The ordination of women is just one of a number of topics that the church has debated and continues to debate whether or not it is “of God”.
Sometimes it is difficult to discern if something is of God, especially when Scripture is not clear on some of the topics that challenge us today. Within this passage I hear a warning for us to be cautious when passing judgement simply because it doesn’t fit within our belief system or out of fear. This does not mean we cannot have different views and that because we are “family” we have to agree on everything. Of course not. It is about taking the time to consider that some different, that something new, that even the return of something long forgotten, maybe God at work to bring change and transformation to our lives and our communities.
• Think about times when things about your faith have been challenged, how did you respond, and would you respond differently now?
• Give thanks to God for those who have been pioneers in our faith, challenging long held ideas to stretch our thinking and help us understand a bit more about God and his work.
• Bring things that you find difficult before God and ask for God’s guidance and strength.
Red, yellow, tan, copper, light green, beige, Different trees, different colours, Some branches bare, some still laden with leaves, Lord, the changes in the trees remind me of the changes in me, I am not the same now as I was this time last year, I am not the same in the morning as I am in the evening, At times I want nothing more than to come into your presence and worship you, At other times I go on my way without a thought for you.
Lord, as the trees become bare and the leaves flutter to the ground I know that this is temporary and new life will follow after a period of rest, Lord, this reminds me that there are parts of my life that need to die so you can become a greater part of me.
Lord, the evergreen trees remind me of your faithfulness Faithfulness through the different seasons of my life Lord, I thank you that you are evergreen.
Lord I thank you for Autumn and the lessons that it teaches. Lord I thank you for the colour change and the promise of new life that it brings But I thank you most of all for the evergreen……