June 10 2018 “Cramped in a Crowd” I Samuel 8.4-20, *Mark 3.20-35 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
We all appreciate a good crowd. You may have been a part of a crowd recently at the Pottstown Memorial Day parade, [slide # 1 parade] the Elverson Blues festival, [slide # 2 festival] the royal wedding, [slide # 3 wedding] or the funeral of Rev. Billy Graham. [slide # 4 Graham funeral] There is a crowd at church depending on what we are celebrating or what the menu is. We certainly have the finest cooks around! [slide # 5 good cooks…]
We do not mind being in a crowd if it is a good crowd. There are crowds we would prefer never to be a part of – such as crowds on the expressway, or in a grocery store before a storm, or when a couple is arguing in a restaurant. We rather be in a good crowd.
Some who heard about the royal wedding wanted so much to be a part of the in-crowd that they gave nice gifts. They wanted to be remembered as being a part of something big. The royal couple, for ethical reasons returned 9 million dollars’ worth of gifts – gifts that were apparently given perhaps by businesses and wannabee famous persons who hoped for some gift or favor in return.
Every now and then, we may find ourselves wrestling with what donations we should give to get the most “bang for our buck.” Like any good steward of the blessings God gives us, we do not want to drop money into a bottomless pit, we want to make a difference. We want what we give to produce good things and to multiply blessings.
Meda Maron is the director of Project Outreach with which Bethel has been one of the 26 churches involved for about 35 years. [slide # 6 Project Outreach] They serve 180 families per week with food, (for the 9 % of Chester County families that are food insecure); they help with temporary housing, oil bills and anything else they can. When I asked Meda this week how things were going she said they were going very well. She said we never have to say “no” to a need. How amazing is that. We all want to be part of a crowd where the work is so blessed, that it is a blessing to many.
We all want our spiritual cups to overflow. There are three spiritual states that we may find ourselves: We either have not enough, just enough, or more than enough. Of course, we pray and work for God’s mercy and grace to have more than enough of what we need so we can share, rather than not enough or just enough for ourselves.
When Jesus was hanging out and helping the crowds, the scribes, writers of the law, claimed that Jesus had a demon. Verse says “‘He has Beelzebub” [slide 7 verse 22 …He has Beelzebul] which means “Lord of the flies – where the nasty, infectious, infested, refuse piles can be found. The scribes were determined to make a case against Jesus. So they depended on diagnosis and labels to prejudice people against him.
Demonic influences and mental disorders are often blurred in our minds, in our churches, and perhaps a bit less in the minds of psychotherapists and psychiatrists. One thing is for sure, whether in mind or body, when we are not well, it is a blessing to have a crowd of family and friends who care about us, and to have well-researched treatments that can restore us.
There are seasons when neither our mind nor our bodies find much balance, only chaos and confusion. It is in those times that we are left with our faith in God alone. When God is all we have, God is all we need. Whatever our health status, prayer makes a difference. Prayer creates good energy. Prayer opens our spiritual eyes. Prayer opens our spiritual ears. Prayer opens our spiritual heart to feel compassion, our hands to do good deeds, and our arms to hold on to one another. Prayer changes things. [slide # 8 prayer changes things]
We know from particular bible passages that at one point, Jesus’ brothers probably spent more energy being jealous of Jesus and trying to get rid of Jesus than they spent praying for Jesus. When we stop praying, the devil starts preying on us and we become more like him.
Jesus’ family wondered about the crowd that he was hanging around. It seemed he was so involved that he did not even get a chance to eat. They did not think that was good. My mother used to tell the story of how worried she was that my baby sister would go for an unusually long time without eating, so she took her to Doctor Hadadd, who said, “She’s fine. She will eat when she gets hungry and that is exactly what she did on her own terms.
Jesus had said to his disciples that his bread, his primary sustenance, was doing the will of God, but that did not fly with his mother Mary. She thought he was losing his mental and emotional balance. Perhaps they thought he was too young to be so fanatical about religion, that giving 100% to God was too much for anyone to give, much less a young man. His family sent for him and tried to bring him home, but Jesus refused, claiming that his family were those people who do the will of God, not just what they wanted to do.
That is why we in the church we call ourselves “family.” We focus on God’s will above our own. God gives us 100% love and guidance and we want to give God and God’s people 100% of what God asks and nothing less. That is not easy.
I recently listened to a couple men who had visited the Middle East. They were unnerved by the lack of love, the willingness to hate, and the ease at which they could kill. They were happy to return and set their feet on American soil, for God has blessed America.
We have done enough peacemaking in order for many to live in peace, at least more peace than many countries. If we do not want to become like other countries, we must continue to do the work of dialoguing, getting to know and love one another, and daring to pray for one another. Otherwise, war and distress will find us and sneak up on us like a thief in the night.
In spite of much sad news, there was good news this week in the Middle East. A woman in Saudi Arabia was the first female to be issued a driver’s license [slide # 9 Saudi driver] since the ban against women drivers was finally lifted beginning June 24th. This is progress, even though at least four women who were arrested for protesting the ban, are awaiting trial. Other protesting women have been killed, detained for months, and had to take refuge in other countries. Now they won’t have to hire drivers or depend on their husbands and sons for a right that we Americans have free to exercise since cars came on the scene in the 1900’s.
We need to stop acting like the Spirit is not calling us to pray or do something to bless someone when God is calling us. That would be the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that verse 29 refers to; [slide # 10 verse 29 whoever blasphemes…forgiveness] to dismiss the presence of the Holy Spirit urging us to care about each other as human beings who laugh and cry and suffer, whether they be across the street, across town, or across the ocean, is unforgiveable.
We may be doing all God is asking of us today. [slide # 11 God is pleased] If not, there is a price to be paid in our hearts and in one another’s lives. The cost of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, disregarding, disrespecting, disapproving, dismantling, disengaging with the Holy Spirit is not forgiven. Consequences will ALWAYS be incurred. We need to care. Hate and ignoring one another’s needs is too high a price to pay for any person, family, country, or church. I cannot always tell you what God wants you to do; God will speak to your heart if you are listening.
It is not easy, but we have Jesus as our model to give our all, all that God asks. Giving our all begins with being grateful. When I bring in a bag of groceries and forget to thank God for the bounty or when I pray for something as simple as a nice parking spot when I am in a hurry and I get one and I don’t think about saying thank you, I often say to myself, it is good to remember to say, “thank you, God.” I say to myself, “Would I want to live without all those blessings that I take for granted and gobble up without breathing a word of gratitude to God? Which of the blessings that I can’t remember to give thanks for, would I want to live without?
I will never forget one of my Confirmation students long ago who during a discussion about tithing ten percent of our income, explained, “Giving God, ten cents for every dollar we get, that is not much at all!” [slide # 12 giving to God]
No, ten percent is not a lot compared to the 90 percent that is ours to keep. Even though, we only keep it long enough to hand over 35% to the government [slide # 13 couple viewing bills] and another percentage to the mortgage broker or our children’s education fund or that supplementary health insurance plan, not to mention groceries and a couple dollars to go out to dinner or an annual get away to vacation or be with family and friends living far away.
Ten percent is not much; it is a test; it may be the source of temptation to hold back our grateful giving out of fear of having a need, rather than having faith that God will provide. Ten percent is a reminder of the time to pray and ask God what we can best give and how we can best serve, though we may not want to have the conversation with God out of fear that we may be called to share or sacrifice.
Nevertheless, our lives are crowded with blessings. When we are blessed, we can bless God. We can bless one another. We are blessed to be a blessing, a blessing to many. [slide # 14 thanking and giving to God] Amen. [slide # 15 …more in return]