“…When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of demons he casts out demons.’” –Mark 3:21-22
How many good friends do you have? I hope many, and especially some close ones. If you are married, I hope your spouse is one of your best friends. And I hope you have a close friend or two outside your family. Naturally, spouses don’t always agree but that’s part of maturing, isn’t it? I was golfing a few weeks ago where I was in a league with my father for 15 years. I walked the course alone but feeling as though my father and other deceased partners were with me. When I finished, the owner, Kip, recognized me and came over to shake my hand and ask how my mom was doing. I told him how much she misses dad, even though at times they had some pretty loud arguments. Kip replied, “Oh, loud arguments are just part of being married!” And he was right. But we can still be each other’s best friends.
Do your best friends ever criticize you? I bet they do! My wife sometimes criticizes me, and maybe even thinks I’m a bit crazy! And I confess I often “return the favor.” Best friends and family can be very supportive but then, sometimes not. It’s just the way it is.
In our story from Mark 3, Jesus is receiving a lot of harsh criticism. The highest ranking religious officials believe he is not only a bit crazy but operating under the influences of Satanic spirits. His healings given to the throngs of people coming to him had to be nothing more than demonic possession. In fact, they said he was captivated by the “Lord of the Flies”, Beelzebub, the King of Devils!
If having religious scribes and law keepers after you wasn’t enough, Jesus’ own family think he’s lost his mind. They rush in to get him, take him back home and quiet him down, help him find reality again. It must have been hard to have his own family members questioning his ministry and thinking. It probably was quite embarrassing to his family members, however, to have their son being criticized by the “church official law keepers.”
What do you do when such criticisms come your way? Maybe it’s not over religious issues but something more ordinary. To live in a body is to be critical. Bodies are as imperfect as its brain thinking powers. One can’t identify with a body without living with constant judgments and evaluations. Am I doing this right? How does it look? Am I normal? Am I embarrassing my friends and family and church?
One Christmas little Johnnie wanted a special video game. All his friends were writing letters to Santa Claus asking for gifts but Johnnie came up with one better; he would write a letter directly to Jesus. “Dear Jesus,” he wrote, “if you make sure I get my special video game for Christmas, I promise that I will never fight or argue with my brother and sister again.” But then he thought, “They are such idiots I could never do that!” So he wrote again, “Jesus, if you give me my video game, I promise to eat all my vegetables,” but then he thought, “That means I would have to eat broccoli, squash and asparagus; Yuk! I could never do that!” So he took the family’s statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, wrapped her in newspapers, stuffed her in a grocery bag and hid her in the back of his closet. He then wrote, “Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again, you had better bring me the video game!”
Maybe that’s what Jesus’ parents would have liked to do to him; bring him back home, make him busy building houses or something, and stay out of sight and trouble!
To live and do what you feel is right, even “led by God” will mean criticism and to be judged against. You and I can never stop it. It’s the nature of this world and of our egos. I have never been able to escape it, especially from my religious friends and religious “authorities.” You will be called “odd, different, ignorant” and in many cases, “Crazy!” Like Jesus. Like the gospel says, we easily “demonize people” who don’t think and act like us. All politicians do.
When I grew up in my large family, I often heard about people who were judged as different or a bit “out of it.” Our word was “funny.” A neighbor drove his “funny” tractor in a “funny” way, dressed “funny”, milked cows “funny,” treated his family “funny,” and believed in a religion which was “funny.” So it goes.
Fr. Tony DeMello, the late wonderful teacher of spirituality but truly hated by many religious authorities, told the story of a person coming a Master wanting to be a “Teacher of the Truth.” The Master asked, “Are you prepared to be ridiculed, ignored, and starving until you are forty-five?”
“I am. But tell me, What will happen after I am forty-five?”
And the mentor answered, “You will have grown accustomed to it!”
So it goes. I know a man who went to school with me at Sherman Central back in the 1950’s. He married a local farm girl, they went to college, and then came back to Sherman where he taught art classes. In a few years he and his wife opened up a retreat and “truth seeking” camp near Sherman in a wooded area, right near the farm where he grew up, down the road from ours. It’s been operating for years as “Brush Run.” You can find it online and it’s filled with a schedule of spiritual teachers and musicians teaching people how to connect with Spirit which is all around them. But if today you go to the few church goers left in Sherman, they will speak with scorn and anger about his “blasphemy” for betraying the “true Christian faith!” Why at Brush Run, to the horror of the community, even clothing is an “optional” choice!
The “Scribed and Pharisees” loved to keep check on “who’s in and who’s out” of the boundaries of their “ism” or as Fr. DeMello would say in place of “denomination”, “abomination.” If you want to be a seeker and teacher of truth, get used to criticism, to being demonized, being seen as “funny”. Be ready for it. I have experienced some of that. It’s actually kind of fun. Some have accused me of being a deceiving person, a “trickster” no less for my “skirting around the rules.”
I am reminded of the speeding old lady (over 50) who got pulled over for speeding. She was quick the trickster! The young officer came up to her window and she asked, “Is there a problem, Officer?”
“Yes, Ma’am, you were speeding.”
“Oh,” she replied, “I see.”
“Can I see your license please?”
She said, “I’d give it to you but I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have one?”
And she said, “No, I lost it 4 years ago from drunk driving.”
“Well,” the officer said, “I see, but can I see your registration papers for this auto?”
“I can’t do that,” she said. The officer asked, “Why not?”
“I stole this car.” Officer: “You stole it?”
“Yes,” she said, and I killed and hacked up the owner!” Officer: “You what?”
She said, “His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you care to see them.”
The officer looked at the woman and slowly backed away. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the lady and her car. A Senior officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun. Officer 2 says, “Ma’am, could you please step out of the vehicle please!” The woman steps out of her car and asks, “Is there a problem sir?”
Officer 2 replies, “One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car and murdered the owner.”
The woman: “Murdered the owner?”
Officer 2: “Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car.
The woman opens the trunk revealing nothing but an empty trunk.
Officer 2: “Is this your car, Ma’am?”
She says, “Yes, here is the registration papers.” The officer is stunned. He says, “One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving license.”
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands it to the officer. He examines the license and looks quite puzzled. He then says, “Thank you, Ma’am, but one of my officers said you didn’t have a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up the owner.”
The older woman says, “I bet the liar told you I was speeding too!”
The moral: “Don’t mess with an older woman!” Or maybe with “an older minister!”
Remember, we are all on a path toward our Spiritual Oneness with the Creator. Some may be further than others. Each one is trying the best he or she can do to get there. In reality, we are there but just don’t know it. At least yet. “God doesn’t make junk”, the saying goes. God made us as One with Him in Spirit. Spirit is our True Self, one with the Great Ocean of Love. We have this treasure, Paul wrote, in our “earthen vessels.” These vessels are mortal and always changing. Their very nature is the opposite of God who is endless, changeless, and perfect. Don’t go to sleep and forget or criticisms, judgments, and threats will rock you and upset you. The very nature of the body is to bring this on; the ego loves nothing better than a good fight, a good ego spree! I try to live by the 60’s theme: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”
When we go to sleep, we have dreams. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. In dreaming, we often become deeply involved in them. Some of them terrorize us and we cry or jump. Once I thought I was kicking a dreaded monster and it turned out to be my wife! I felt terrible! So did she. But when we wake up, we let these dreams go, especially the bad ones, and realize nothing really happened at all.
Life is but a dream too. Outside of remembering ourselves as Loving Spirit, we are sleep walkers, dreaming up all sorts of weird and wild ideas. Some of them are good. But many of them just add more misery to misery. In Awakening, “In Christ” awareness, we come back Home into the Ocean of Love once more. We are free. We are at peace. We can love.
So fear not the accusations, the smears, the words of distortion. They are nothing but projections of one’s own fears and guilt. Let them go and in time you may even become an instrument to help someone else let go their lifelong scripts of limiting judgments and abuses laid upon the mind. Choose your True Identity; love, Son of God, Child of God, One with God forever, and be free forever in this Now, in these moments of “Holy Instants.”
In the East, especially I remember in India, they have “Lotus Flowers.” They are beautiful and bloom into brilliantly bright colors of yellow, red, blue and purple. The amazing thing, however, is that Lotus flowers do best in mucky mud, stinky, waste kind of mud. The more poop the better they grow and flourish! When they taught me to meditate, there were no chairs. I was supposed to sit on the hard ground or cement floor in the “Lotus Position.” I asked there the name came from and was told about the flower blossoming out of garbage and muck. In meditation and understanding, our goal was to become awakened to the flower within our bodies, inside our souls, or however you want to label it. We live in a world of death and spiritual sleep, where horrible things happen and people do very unkind actions toward one another. The goal is to experience the Lotus Spirit within and when we get up and begin to move and act, to be a beautiful Lotus Flower of love and compassion in a world of darkness and despair and hatred.
Criticism, ridicule, name calling are part of the “poop” you and I must often endure. Don’t worry about it. Remember your identity as God’s Son or Daughter. Amid the ignorance and hardness, even from the current day Scribes, just keep blossoming out. You will feel better, and in the end, even in death, you will leave the lights on just a little brighter for someone else.
Summary of talk given at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, West Seneca, NY, on Sunday, June 10, 2012, at 10:00.