Crazy Is A Compliment - Mark 3:19b-27
It probably comes to no surprise to many of your that there are times where I operate outside of the norm…whether it is in joking around, or simply stating something in an unexpected way, there are times where I have come across as just not right. There have been quite a few times over the years where I have done or said something, and folks give me a look as if to say, “something’s wrong with you.” Others don’t stop with the look, they will go on to say, “You’re crazy Pastor Lee” or “You’re crazy Daddy.” My quick and ready response is always, “You’re right…and I’ve got the papers to prove it.”
Now don’t get me wrong, mental illness is not a joke. It is serious and so many folks struggle with it. For years it has been a stigma—with folks afraid to confess that they struggle with it, or family members living in denial of it, or, if they accept it, trying to hide it from the rest of the world. Many of our homeless and some who struggle to stay out of jail find themselves that way because they struggle with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. So, as we continue on with this message, know that mental illness is something, personal experience included, that I take very seriously.
Why am I bringing all this up? Well because there are times where folks might think us crazy for our faith. The fact that we gather to worship a God we cannot see…the fact we say Eternal Life has come to us through someone put to death on a cross…the fact that we stop whatever we are doing, and gather with other folks on often beautiful Sunday mornings when they turn off the alarm clock or head to the Cape…the fact that we share a meal of bread and juice calling it body and blood…list could go on and on if we are living faithfully, someone is going to think we are crazy.
How should we respond? The last thing we want to do is get defensive or go on the attack. The best thing to do is offer an unexpected response just as quickly as I do with folks who call me crazy. The best response? “Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment. That puts me in good company.”
Yeah…that’s the look I was talking about…some of you are giving it to me now.
You see, coming across as being a little off, or even a lot off, to those operating wholly according to intellectual or common-sense standards, would be the rule rather than the exception for many of the heroes of our faith. I want you to try to turn off, for just a moment, all of your knowledge of the Biblical story. Now I want you to try and place yourself in these stories as I share them.
You are growing up in a rural setting. You and each of your neighbors has enough land not only to grow crops, but also to leave some wooded for hunting. You travel from place to place wherever the resources are rich. You have lived in this area where there seem to be plenty of earthen springs to keep the ground moist and the soil rich, with streams flowing to feed your livestock and attract game. One day you wake to find your neighbor has begun cutting the timber on his land down, each and every one of the gopher wood trees. You notice he is building some sort of huge structure and that animals are gathering on his land, but he is not killing them for food nor running them off. The structure begins to resemble a boat, not just a little boat, but a massive boat, one bigger than any body of water you have ever seen. You hear your neighbor talk about rain and floods. Someone questions him about rain. He explains that it will be water falling from the sky, and that the water will sweep over all the land, drowning all not found in the ark. Water from the sky…its never happened before…all those animals…that neighbor…he’s got to be a lot looney…
You are part of the royal army. You are marching after those Hebrew people who really believed that the Pharaoh would let them leave Egypt…and not only did they think they could leave, but now they appear to think they could, with all their women and children and livestock, outrun a marching army with many on horseback. As they continue their determined path, you watch as they walk strait toward the Red Sea. They are trapping themselves. There will be no where to go. Yes, it is low tide as they march toward the water. Yes, the winds have picked up and started pushing the water a little further back, but Moses is leading them away from the swords of the Egyptians and right into a watery grave. You think to yourself, you’ve encountered saner bedbugs.
Speaking of tiny things…think of being in a different army…the Hebrew army, in fact. You have been gathered with them on one side of the valley for days and weeks as some crazed giant of a man comes out and challenges y’all to select one person to fight him…winner take all. No one has moved. Suddenly on the scene, the little brother of some of your fellow soldiers shows up with lunch. He begins to suggest that you are all faithless cowards and are making God look bad…that he’ll take on that Goliath. That boy goes down to the creek, picks up a few rocks, and with sling in hand walks into the center of the valley and calls out Goliath, ready to fight. That boy’s staircase doesn’t quite make it to the top of the lighthouse.
Now you are own a mountainside. You are one of four hundred and fifty priests of Baal serving under Queen Jezebel. You are watching some of your fellow priests prepare a bull on the altar while at the same time Elijah prepares one on a separate altar. You know that y’all are just trying to placate this lunatic prophet Elijah, but your colleagues begin calling on Baal just as loudly as they can, asking him to come down and consume the sacrifice y’all are offering. You don’t really expect anything to happen and doesn’t. You watch as Elijah steps up to take his turn. He’ll be doing the same thing, with the same results. If there was any doubt as to his level of sanity, it is removed as you watch him direct those around him to take four jars of water and pour it over the wood that is supposed to blaze up to consume the sacrifice. He doesn’t just have them douse the wood one time with four jars of water, but he has them water the logs a total of three times. Then he begins to pray. You think to yourself that man is crazier than a loon.
Next you find yourself in Galilee, in the small town of Nazareth, one of those small towns where local gossip flows freer than the water of the sea. You hear about this crazy teenager that has “disappeared” to her cousin’s home. Though “with child” she claimed that she was still innocent and that this was God’s doing.
O, to be considered as crazy as Noah…as Moses…as David…as Elijah…as Mary…each appeared…
Better yet, the ultimate compliment, to be considered as crazy as Jesus was…
“What a minute preacher…you’ve lost all connection with reality and treading on blasphemy if you are calling Jesus crazy.”
No, I’m not calling Jesus crazy…I’m saying how blessed we should considered ourselves if we are considered as crazy as folks considered Jesus. If we don’t think folks considered Jesus crazy, reflect back on our reading this morning: “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
Picture yourself listening to Jesus, now, for the first time. You are living on the other side of empty tomb.
You watch as this emerging rabbi begins to gather disciples to follow him…among them fishermen and tax collectors and you know those men weren’t considered smart enough to make the cut with other rabbis.
You watch as he takes his “disciples” into places of ill-repute and breaks bread together with those who sell their bodies and their clientele.
You listen as he says love your enemies and pray FOR those who persecute you. You hear him say to turn the other cheek if someone strikes you.
You watch as he walks among the Gentile tombs and talks with a madman.
You see as he asks a Samaritan woman to draw him a drink from the well, knowing that a holy man in his right mind would never talk with a single woman, much less a Samaritan half-breed.
You hear him say that the old widow’s two coins were of more value to God than all the gold and silver the wealthy had deposited in the Temple treasury.
You watch as overturns tables and takes a whip to the moneychangers and animal sellers in the Temple Courtyard.
You see him at Passover take bread and wine and say, “This is my body, eat…This is my blood, drink…”
You hear him say to one of his disciples when the Temple Guard come to arrest him… “put away your sword, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
You hear about his discussion with Pilate…how He is a king, but that His Kingdom is not of this world, suggesting in many ways that He and those who follow Him stand in stark contrast to and above the kingdoms of this world.
You watch as the Romans nail him to a cross and hear him say, “Father, forgive them….”. Then you watch him die.
Now from that side of the empty tomb…do those sound like the words and actions of someone sane?
Yet we gather together on this side of the empty tomb…the fact that we gather is our declaration that Noah, Moses, David, Elijah, Mary, and above all else, Jesus were sane—for rather than cling to what is temporary, they embraced the Eternal. So, you see…if our faith causes us to be ridiculed as a little crazy…we fall in good company—we find ourselves among that great cloud of witnesses of Noah, Moses, David, Elijah, Mary, and Jesus. As we gather around the Table today, breaking bread and sharing the cup, we declare that if we’re considered crazy for our faith, we’ll take that as a compliment.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.