Rev. Laura Thornton
Today we have this little parable inside a story inside another story in Mark’s gospel. Jesus has been teaching and healing and casting out demons. And very quickly, word spreads and crowds appear wherever he goes. Jesus’ family comes to restrain him, take him home, protect him, they think he has lost his mind because of what they hear from other people.
Authorities from Jerusalem, scribes have come to accuse him, discredit him, saying that he is not only possessed by demons, but processed by the ruler of demons, and that is why the demons listen to him.The claim of the religious authorities is that he is demonic, Satan casting out his own demons from those he has healed. And Jesus answers them in what can only be described as irony!, saying “How can Satan cast out himself?” Doesn’t that defeat the evil purpose of Satan?
So we have this family story and this religious authority story, and right in the middle is a little parable of the strongman. Satan is cast as the strongman with a house and property. No one can go in and take what is his…unless you first tie up the strongman. In this parable, Jesus is the one who can do that.
He can overcome the powers of evil, the adversarial forces of the world, the house divided. And like any good parable, there is deeper meaning. We, as followers of Jesus, can also work against the forces of evil.
Jesus turns his attention back to the scribes, to say, If you are speaking against the Holy Spirit, there is no forgiveness. You are getting in the way of God’s work, that is the real blasphemy.
Then the people around Jesus, remind him that his family is outside, and he says “Who is my mother?” Those who are here with me, those who believe, those who follow my teaching and the will of God- they are my family.
Mark is writing during the rebellion in Jerusalem. He is writing the resistance and tries hard to reclaim how society should be structured from power systems to family systems. Mark’s gospel is full of stories of Jesus turning things upside down, inside out. And here we have another example that is not only figurative, but literal. His family and the scribes from Jerusalem are literally standing outside the house. Jesus and his followers are inside, so many that they can’t even eat. Imagine a crowd of people in your house and there’s not even room to get some food out of the fridge and eat.
Those who follow Jesus’ teachings and God’s way are inside, those who don’t are outside, but it’s never that clear cut. So Jesus, in all his inclusivity, talks about a house that cannot be divided. We can’t have this division. He stands firm in his work to bring a new way, God’s way, the way of love and inclusion.
Jesus is always pushing against the old systems. And still today, when activist push those boundaries, push for change and for justice, they are demonized, called crazy. And yet, we are called to do that work.
Those who are inside, those who are outside- Jesus tries to bring them all together. When we are doing that work, we are following the will of God and standing up to the power systems that continue to hurt people.
June is Pride month… A recognition and remembrance of a hate filled and oppressive past and also a celebration of life and love and hope for the present and the future. How are we standing up to the power systems that continue to hurt gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, queer people? How are we accepting and supporting transgender kids? I know some of you are thinking, “I just don’t understand, so I don’t know what to say or what to do.” I want to challenge you to move on from that reasoning, from that excuse to do nothing.
If you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent, friend or neighbor of a transgender child or youth, you need to learn how to be supportive. Start with The Trevor Project, which is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people. Their website can give you lots of resources. Find a podcast, a blog to read, find someone who is willing to share their story with you. Then- listen and learn and practice.
If you are not sure about using your pronouns, practice. If you are afraid of saying the wrong thing, practice. Do it at home with those you live with, and if you live alone, practice in the mirror with yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be intentional and sincere. These are children we love and they need to be assured that we love them, exactly as they are.
The same is true for children and youth struggling with mental health concerns, learning differences, social and emotional difficulties, differently abled bodies. We can support parents and children by learning more, using resources that are current, and pushing against the systems that push people to the margins. Standing up to the systems that continue along with the status quo because it benefits the cis gendered, the able bodied, the mentally stable. That is the strong man, the adversary which is blocking the way of God’s love. We have to confront those barriers, those systems and laws, those boundaries. Move from those things that divides us towards a more open and inclusive understanding.
Many times, most of the time, our transgender children and youth and their parents, our struggling children and youth and their parents, feel that they are on the outside, trying to find ways to normalize their experience. The truth is, the truth of Jesus is that they are all on the inside, they are crowded inside the house with Jesus. They are mother, parent, sister, brother, sibling. They are learning to love and live in the body and mind they were born in. And that is God’s way.