Last Sunday we heard about Jesus breaking the Sabbath rules out of compassion for the hungry and the sick. He insisted that love and mercy and serving people’s needs were the highest laws, and any laws that were unkind or unjust deserved to be broken in order to act with compassion. This week we will hear his family try to convince him to tone it down so he doesn’t get himself killed, as indeed the religious and political establishment has started to conspire to do. Then we will hear those authorities openly accuse him of being in league with Satan.
Jesus responds beautifully, and with breathtaking courage. He makes clear that he intends nothing less than to overturn the hard-hearted ways of the powerful and wealthy oligarchy, “binding the strong man that guards the house” so that the realm of God can be established instead. He goes on to say that his family is more than blood kin, it is all who follow God’s way. He rejects the ethnocentric, xenophobic, tribal, traditional exclusionary ways of his society. (Mark 3:20-35)
This is the Jesus who said follow me. If we find ourselves in a society that operates by laws that contradict God’s laws of love, mercy and justice and that reverse God’s preferential uplifting of the poor, the alien and the vulnerable, then we are called to be as courageous as Jesus was in our opposition to that society. If we are not taking controversial stands on behalf of the kind of people Jesus loved and served most, then we are not following him.
This may sound radical and revolutionary and inappropriately political, but we will be singing hymns that go back hundreds of years calling for faithful Christians to do just this, to rise and act as Jesus would. Jesus did not begin it, either—this tradition of standing boldly against a society that has gone wrong goes back over three thousand years through the Hebrew prophets to Moses.
The ultimate good news is that this is not about us being radical or political, it is all about God. As Psalm 130 says, “It is God who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.” Our task is to open to God’s love and life and light and do God’s will in our time and place with our unique gifts and opportunities, just as Jesus did.
We will be singing verses of nine stirring hymns in medley, all from the “Kingdom of God on Earth” section of the old Pilgrim Hymnal, including some favorites like “O Day of God, Draw Nigh” and others we may not have sung in this church for decades. The choir will sing an “Agnus Dei” by Iona’s John Bell, a Hebrew choral benediction, “Hashivenu,” and a setting of the Prayer of Saint Francis (Lord, make me an instrument of your piece) arranged by Peter Amidon. Pianist Annemieke McLane will play two spirituals and Prelude, Opus 11 Number 4 by A.Scriabin.
Please feel free to come sing with the choir any Sunday, just show up at 8:50, no prior experience or ongoing commitment necessary. Try it out!