Weird Uncle Wayne
#WeirdUncleWayne is the podcast for June 10, 2018. We have to hang out with Weird Uncle Wayne at Christmas. What does this tell us about our relationship with our parish? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark #Mark3 #Beelzebul #Devil #Demons #Satan #CastingOut #Family #Thanksgiving #Christmas #Easter #Help #TheOther
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (For our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
[For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/10/2018 The 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 3.20-35.]
Everyone has a Weird Uncle Wayne, or a Strange Aunt Thelma. Everyone has at least one person, if not many people. that we are forced through blood lines to meet with every Thanksgiving (in the United States), Christmas, and Easter, with whom we would not otherwise meet any other day of the year. As children, we would be told by our parents, “Just watch out for Uncle Wayne. He is weird, so stay away from him.” Or as kids, we would talk about “Strange Aunt Thelma: why is she always saying weird things to us?”
The point here is that we often are asked by family bonds, which are taken very seriously in Scripture, to have to tolerate people we would not want to tolerate simply because they share a common ancestry. A report by Science Magazine, May 2018, has a study that shows that the time we spent with family during the Holidays was 30 to 50 minutes shorter since the election in 2016. This is troubling because it shows that political discourse is tearing apart families and families are very important.
Scripture enjoins us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Though we should be wary of Wayne and Thelma, we are still obligated to make sure they are not destitute. Spending a few hours listening to their opinions is a way of giving them life.
So, the bonds of a family, if we look at this situation as presented in the Scriptures, are such that we are obligated to love and take care of people we cannot stand. It really is a brilliant way for the Lord to ensure that the unwanted in society have a natural safety net. It also speaks to the nature of life itself: we are not called really to a life of ease, but a life of shared burden. The bonds are supposed to be beyond our own desires and will when it comes to the well-being of the other.
The Post-Tribune[, a Northwest Indiana Newspaper] had a report last week of a man who was found in his home under piles of garbage. It seems that his brother died almost ten years ago the same exact way. If they were required to attend family functions at Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving [in the United States], then there would be a natural check on their well-being. Or, if there were family involved in their lives, then there would be a strong commitment, a bond, that would require others to know or at least check on how they were.
As we approach the way that family fits into our understanding of the Gospel of Mark, we need to understand the context within the Gospel of this quote from Jesus, “Who are my mother, my brothers, and my sisters?”
Just before this passage in Chapter 3, Jesus appoints the disciples. He gives them authority to cast out demons, to preach, to be dynamic in their appropriation of the power of God. They go out and do great deeds in Jesus’ name. Because no good deed goes unpunished, the leaders of the Temple want to discredit Jesus by questioning how it is that they and he cast out demons. Unwittingly complicit with the Prince of Lies, they try to cast doubt upon our Lord who is doing something good by saying that he is complicit with Satan, “Beelzebul”.
Jesus makes the point that those who are in league with one another do not work to reduce their strength. In fact, they work together to strengthen each other and they bind the opposition. They do not bind each other. So, it does not make sense that those who cast out demons would be in league with the demons.
The leaders and the people also try to say that Jesus is mentally ill to the point that he needs care. So, his family appears on the scene to perform their function to remove him from harm’s way and out of society. It is their responsibility to take care of him. It is in this context that Jesus makes a stunning claim to the ears of the ancients: the bonds of faith are just as strong and just as obligatory as those of blood.
Just as we are obligated to be in the watchful presence of Weird Uncle Wayne, and not let him fall into ruin because he is our family member, we are required to tend to and love others who are part of the faith community. We may forget, but it is ever on the mind of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are at war for the souls of everyone in our parish. Our mindfulness to the rest of the world and to the suffering of the world is not diminished, but for today and for this passage, we need to be mindful that we are on a mission—together. In that mission to love the unlovable world, we need one another. We need to take care of each other. We need to be committed to one another.
Jesus is saying that not only do we have family, which without question we must have a commitment to whether we like it or not, but we have an equally important family: the family of God. If you think of the mutual support that is needed in this world, it makes sense. How often have you felt that your values, which you share with the people in the pews, are way different than those of your family members, your co-workers, and the general society? They are. If they aren’t, then you are not practicing your faith right.
Our operating principle is love. The operating principle of the world is power. That is Satan’s M.O. He is always exerting power and control over others. What do we think demon possession is? It is the taking over of a person by the evil spiritual realm. So, if Jesus and his 12 appointed are being sent out to cast out demons, they are not exerting power over them. They are using their power to set people free. Why would they want to go around setting people free? What business is it of theirs? Why should they care? They care because their operating principle, and ours, is love. Love is concerned for others.
The question of the world is “how can I control and manipulate you to my advantage?” Our question to the world is “how can I help set you free to know God’s love and for you to love others?”
As a side note, and before I continue, we need to address what [I] Fr. Mark thinks is “the sin against the Holy Spirit.” In the context of this passage, the sin against the Holy Spirit is to say that God is evil. It is to say that God is working in league with the Devil. It might be noted here that one of the first indoctrinations of the people that [I] Fr. Mark has met who have been in Satanic Cults is that they are asked to chant, “Evil is good and good is evil.” We reject evil is good. We reject that God is working in league with the Devil.
We reject that God wants to manipulate us for his own personal gain. God wants us to freely choose him, of our own accord. Therefore, we are committed to allowing others to choose him freely, too.
So, if one of the points of this passage is the claim that we have the same obligation to our church members because we have a mission, then what does that mean about the way we live our life together [in our faith communities]? Look around [your] our parish. Who is missing? When was the last time you called them to see if they were OK or if there was anything they needed?
Listen to the conversations in [your] our parish. Are they real? Are they truthful and supportive without being too heavy and dramatic? Are the conversations loving, kind, generous, and focused on how we can create a community that loves one another?
Have you two cloaks and someone in the parish has none? Is [your] our church equipped for mission? Are we equipping others for mission? If not, then ask yourself this question, “If I am forced to spend time with Weird Uncle Wayne, who is very difficult to be around, then what am I called to do for the faith community to which I belong, with whom I share so much?” Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian