Sinning Against the Holy Spirit
Man, with these readings today there is no hope that I will be able to be as funny as Paul Tunkle, the supply priest who was here a couple of weeks ago.
Sorry about that!
This is an uncomfortable Gospel reading we hear this morning.
We have Jesus, exhausted, just trying to grab a meal.
The poor, those who are seeking, the outcast from society, and the desperate are pushing in on Jesus and his disciples.
They desperately need someone to give them good news.
And they had been getting it. Jesus preached hope for the poor. He didn’t treat them as the dregs of society—Jesus championed the poor. Called them Blessed. Told them they would inherit the kingdom of God. Assured them of God’s great love for them.
He preached acceptance to the outcast, touched the untouchables, forgave sins over and over and over again. He seemed to love everybody. And he preached that God loved them, too.
“How dare he?” the religious leaders asked?
So they decided to try and destroy Jesus’ credibility. When Jesus insisted that the love of God was for all, — they talked about his mental health and said he was channeling demons.
While Jesus healed, spoke out for the voiceless ones and forgave the sins of all he met— those in authority saw only evil. They called this talk of the love of God the devil. They called good, evil.
Jesus then said, “Truly I tell you—pay attention—these people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
What does Jesus just say is the sin against the Holy Spirit?
The unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit is what the scribes have just done: attributing the good work of the Holy Spirit to the power of the Evil one. Jesus reserves his enormous anger for those who can’t seem to recognize goodness, but, in fact, see good as evil.
When we call good — evil: we are attempting to kill God’s Spirit. Or we at least try and render it immobile. We—in effect– tie it up.
Jesus then goes into this story about tying up the strong man in order to plunder his house. He was talking about Satan, but I wonder if he might also have been referring to the scribes—and his own family’s– attempt to tie up the strong man—Jesus, to restrain his outrageous message of love so they can plunder at will.
It was bad enough that Jesus was saying and believing radical things—love all, heal those who are ill, everyone is forgiven, but the truly dangerous part was that he was acting on his beliefs.
When his family came they weren’t coming so much to change his mind- his beliefs, as they were coming to physically restrain him from healing, speaking, forgiving, and loving- outcasts.
If he didn’t have the appropriate restraints- they were thinking —they would be his restraints.
Because they knew that it’s not our beliefs, but our actions that define us.
You know, like the crowds, Jesus’ family and the scribes, we can be so certain that we have our faith, our spirituality—this whole Jesus thing—figured out.
We say we believe in the power of love. But how do we ACT.
Or to quote our Presiding Bishop:
- “When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again…
- When love is the way, poverty will become history.
- When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
- When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields…to study war no more.
- When love is the way, there’s plenty [of good room] for all of God’s children…. “
Then we realize that we still have a ways to go. We are still learning about the will of God, and the enormity of God’s love.
And we pray for clarity of thought. We ask for more light in our darkness.
But as Goethe says “what we need is not ‘light, light, more light’– but warmth, warmth, more warmth—for we die not of darkness but of the frost.”
Think about it—we can be scared of the dark, but it can’t kill us– it is cold that kills.
The cold of indifference. The cold of judgement. The cold of meanness.
It’s not our beliefs that define us. It’s how we act.
“Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around Jesus; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers and my sisters! Whoever DOES the will of God, is my brother and sister and mother.” Amen.