Pastor Sherry’s message for June 6, 2021
Scriptures 1 Sam 8:1-20; Ps 138; 2 Cor 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Three years ago, when these Scripture passages appeared in the Lectionary, I preached about “Semantic Spin,” and the distinction the media and politicians were making at that time between a “spy” and an “informant.” I referred to that as a real life example of defining something one way to deflect criticism, when in truth it is actually the opposite. Despite the 9th Commandment, which prohibits lying–or bearing false witness against another—isn’t it all too frequent that we find our politicians, media, business leaders, educators, and neighbors, spinning lies to in an attempt to manipulate our cooperation/compliance/agreement? Some notable examples recently include:
1. Critical Race Theory—now embedded in our school curricula, government, military, and corporations—and touted as truth, it defines human history as a struggle between oppressors, usually white, against everyone else. This is Marxism with a new spin. Rather than breeding a spirit of unity in our country, it actually promotes racial division and hatred.
2. We were told the Group “Black Lives Matter” exists to encourage and strengthen black families; but it is actually a front for funding and fomenting civil unrest and hatred toward America.
3. We were told Covid-19 did not originate in a Chinese Virology Lab, so as not to offend the Chinese Communist government. But now a significant amount of evidence supports the conclusion that it was manufactured by the Chinese and escaped containment.
4. The power elites advocate that, contrary to science and to God’s order, there is no such thing as two genders. Kindergarteners in some school districts are being taught this as truth. They are also recommending that kids as young as 8YO should be allowed to opt for sex change surgeries and authorized to use powerful sex change hormones.
5. President Biden’s proposed Budget for 2022 resumes federal funding for abortions because they are considered by some as a women’s health issue. What about the health of the unborn baby?
6. 1 year ago, segregation was immoral, but now we are going to segregate those who have declined taking the Covid vaccine from these who have taken it. If we begin this sort of discrimination, what might be next? Will we segregate those with Hepatitis-C, with TB, or with HIV-Aids?
Radical influences in our culture would like us to set human will above human nature or even common sense, let alone good theology.
My favorite news commentator often ends his show by stating that his program is “the sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness, and group think.” These four are all good things to oppose and are currently rampant in our culture.
Our Scriptures today provide two further examples of Semantic Spin, and how God responds to it:
1 Sam 8:1-20àThe Israelites are unhappy. The Prophet Samuel has reached retirement age, so the question has arisen as to who should replace him. Like Eli’s sons before him, Samuels’ two sons did not walk in the ways of the Lord. They were either not believers at all, or they knew better–but lacked integrity–and sold their influence to the highest bidder. The people did not want these two young men to lead them. Up until this point, there had been no king in Israel. God had appointed a prophet (or a judge) who was to hear from God what He wanted, then convey God’s will to the people. So rather than ask the prophet to inquire of God who God wanted to lead them, they ask for a king. Notice, Samuel could have inquired of the Lord but he didn’t. And now the people have an excuse they spin to justify getting a king: A reliable prophet has not been assigned us.
So, we’d like to be like all the other countries of the known world, and have a king. What they really mean—but don’t say—is that we want to do things our way rather than be led by the Lord.
In verse 9, God tells Samuel not to take it personally—God knows they are actually rejecting Him, not Samuel—but to warn them what having a king might mean for them. God has a special house, the Tabernacle, but they will have to build another special house for the king, a palace. This will cost them money, which means they will be taxed. A king will want to have his own army, which will result in higher taxes. And their sons will be conscripted into the army, while their daughters will serve as palace maids, artisans, and possibly wives and concubines. Samuel warns them in verses13+àHe [a king] will take the best of your fields and vineyards and give them to his attendants….He will take the best of your menservants, maidservants, cattle and donkeys….He will take a 10thof your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
Nevertheless, despite all these arguments against it, the people still demand a human king. What were they thinking? God is not fooled! They can spin it however they want, but they are rejecting God’s leadership.
We gotta have a king…is a semantic spin on disobedience. It’s a “no confidence vote” for God—we don’t trust The One who is the same today, yesterday, and forever—so we want to place our trust in a human, fallible, possibly self-focused leader. REALLY? YIKES! They will get a king but at considerable cost. Accepting semantic spin is ultimately expensive.
In our Gospel lesson, Mark 3:20-35, Jesus is teaching in Capernaum, 30 miles from Nazareth. He’s been so swamped by ministry at this point that He has ducked into a home to get a meal (probably Peter and Andrew’s house). But the teachers of the Law have followed Him, to accuse Him: This time they claim He is doing His miraculous work by the power of Satan. Good gracious! Think of this: They are saying the 2ndPerson of the Trinity, who stands before them, is doing work inspired by the Father (Person 1), through the power of the Holy Spirit (Person 3)—and they are claiming He is instead drawing on the power of Satan. Even Satanists will tell you their power comes from the Devil. What an insulting charge! What an outrageous spin!
But Jesus responds to them calmly and logically. Essentially, He says, I am casting Satan out of people; why would Satan want Me to work contrary to his goals? He asserts in verses 23-26àHow can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. Then He warns them—I am doing what I do by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you call what I do a work of Satan, you have blasphemed/falsely accused both the Holy Spirit and Me, two persons of the Trinity. This is not smart. This is in fact an unforgivable sin because it credits the Work of God to Satan; and it indicates a heart already taken over by Satan. Again, semantic spin is very expensive!
Now He’s really said it, hasn’t He? The crowd is murmuring, no doubt speculating how long Jesus has before the power elites arrest Him. Some gossip, or perhaps even some well-meaning person, runs the 30 miles to Nazareth to get Mary, James and Jude to rescue Jesus before He is arrested. No doubt they cry, He’s talking crazy! He’s making them mad! They’ll arrest Him for sure! You better go see about Him! Afterall, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, has already been arrested and jailed. His family knows what tends to happen to religious zealots. They’ve suggested Jesus is crazy, but He is just honestly challenging the illogical arguments of the teachers of the Law. He’s being defined as out of His mind—semantic spin–
but He’s actually exercising His power as God to define what is true.
Nevertheless, Mary and her grown sons rush to rescue Him. When Jesus is told that His family has arrived, He responds in an unexpected way. We/they would have expected Him to go greet them. Instead, Heredefines the concept of family: Verse 33àWho are my mother and my brothers? Verse 34àWhoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. He is saying the spirit-ties of those who believe in Him actually form a closer relationship to Him than blood ties do. Haven’t you found that this is so? I share much more in common with the Body of Christ than I do with my blood kin who do not accept Jesus as Lord. I can and do love them; but there is not the same meeting of the mind and heartwith them that I enjoy with my fellow-believers. We have heard, “Blood is thicker than water.” But here Jesus is saying that the waters of Baptism are supernaturally “thicker than the blood of family.”
So, let’s return to the business of “semantic spin revisited.”
There’s a lot of this going around in our culture today. We need to know God’s Word to discern the truth. We need to call upon the Holy Spirit to pare away fiction or lies from the truth. We can ask the Holy Spirit for spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment. He can and will help us identify—and resist–lying, pomposity, smugness, and group-think.
Let’s pray: Gracious Lord, please lead, guide and direct us. Help us not to be taken in by those whose motives are to tear down another and advance their own cause. Help us to discern truth and to recognize semantic spin. The enemy tried so many times to accost you with lies, Lord Jesus. We appear to be similarly bombarded with lies today. Reveal to us the truth in every political and governmental situation. Bring integrity and truth-telling back into the halls and agencies of our national and state governments. Rule and overrule the hearts of anyone who is corrupt or who is advancing an evil plot. Bring all lies and corruption out into the light of Christ, we pray in His all-powerful name. AMEN
©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams