top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureRobert John Andrews

Reflection: Blasphemy



June 9, 2024

10:30 AM

Sunbury

“Blasphemy”


OT I Samuel 8:4-11,16-20


8:4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD, 7and the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only — you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”


10So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;


16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”


19But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”


Hold it now, before we go onto the New Testament text, do kings go forth and fight our battles? History tells another story altogether. Kings make us fight and die for theirs, for them.


God through the Bible warns us how kings, monarchies, are a recipe for poverty, for disaster. By embracing kings, the people reject the rule of God, saith the Lord.


You want poverty, let kings rule.


You want your sons and daughters made into slaves, let kings rule.


God’s problem with Kings is that kings demand that you focus on the king – its all about him, for kings only take, and take, and take. The Bible tells us so.


God gives and gives and gives. Why? So that you can have a good life, raise your kids, love your spouse, take care of your neighbors, grow your crops, eat your crops, take care of the farm or shop, enjoy what God has given, what God meant to be enjoyed. Or enjoy Jimmy Buffett music at a Riverfront Park and slide down an inflatable slide.


Oh, how obvious, how persistent, how pervasive, how human this perverse hunger for kings. Fix it for us. Make it all better. The sin of wanting kings to save us, no matter the cost to peace, prosperity, freedom. We can’t stand instability, feeling insecure, so we sell our souls for a vain boast from the king that he will save us, make it right. The Hebrews think kings are an easy way out. Guess again. If it’s easy, it’s usually wrong. God reminds us, it is easier for us to sin in a crowd than individually (Niebuhr),


Now, we may mumble we resent being told what to do, but we do like being kept. At least then we have someone to blame for our problems. Let him fight our battles…


Thomas Paine in “Common Sense,” his 1776 masterpiece appeal for Americans to reject British tyranny, based part of his reasoning on this passage from Samuel.


103But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.


Thomas Paine in “Rights of Man” extoled the three essentials for rulers in a Republic:


 Virtue – the willingness to subordinate selfish interest to the good of the whole

 Equality – which encouraged not simply equal treatment before the law but also the absence of vast disparities of personal wealth

 Independence – the ability to resist outside coercion


We listen to a revolutionary voice from the 18th Century.


Or we can pay attention to D-Day. D-Day reminds us of those brave souls who said no to domination by kings.


God’s warning through Samuel proved all too true. The kings of Israel were a miserable lot. Saul, Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, even David.


The best of the bunch was King David despite him shunning his wife, despite his son revolting the dethrone his father, despite him murdering his lover’s husband.. What made him the favorite king? David came to learn he was a miserable king and miserable sinner. And he was. He came to learn how much he needed God if he was truly defend, protect, and care for his people the way he’s supposed to. From Psalm 72:


May the people blossom in the cities…

14From oppression and violence he redeems their life…

13has pity on the weak and the needy, saves the lives of the needy…

12delivers the needy, the poor and those who have no helper…

7righteousness flourishes and peace abounds...

4defends the cause of the poor of the people..

gives deliverance to the needy, crushes the oppressor…

judges your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice…


Listen please:

.

Gospel Mark 3:20-35


20... and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?


In other words: can evil deeds get rid of evil deeds?


24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.


We interrupt again and pause. This Scripture is the origin of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech delivered in 1858 at the Illinois State Convention, accepting the nomination to run for the United States senate. He lost that race. He won the next one in 1860.


Lincoln often quoted Scripture. It is how he learned to read, he estimated he had about one year of official schooling. Because he read, he became our wisest President.

Said Lincoln:


"A house divided against itself, cannot stand."

I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved

– I do not expect the house to fall

– but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States,

old as well as new – North as well as South.



Meaning that either we will all banish and reject this curse of slavery or we will all be forced to accept this evil.


A House Divided isn’t referring to architecture. Lincoln appreciated the Hebrew understanding of a house: it meant a people, a family, a living heritage.


What happens, says Jesus, when a people are divided, hostile to other, failing to heed facts, failing to be faithful and true to a higher calling? Jesus warns us: you will not stand, you will be tied up and plundered, you will let the devil win. A blasphemous people let blasphemy win.


We finish.



28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”


31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”


Blasphemy. Blasphemy is one of those solid Bible words out of fashion these days, more’s the pity. What does it mean? Blasphemy means to revile, to injure, abusive speaking.


So what does Jesus think is truly blasphemous? Breaking the ritual rules the religious big boys imposed? Really? Rather: believing we are beyond God’s reach and salvation.


Sounds very similar to the debate over obscenity. What is obscene? Is it a few inappropriate words or photographs? Or how we treat each other?


We can get a bit lathered up about that so called “Unforgiveable Sin.” Note how the better translations say, whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness. Very different from saying: whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven.


Present tense, subjective, versus absolute future tense.


What Jesus is talking about it are those folks unable to be forgiven because they shut themselves off from the possibility of feeling forgiven. This passage isn’t about insulting the Holy Spirit (as if anything we could say or do could insult God); they’re denying their own chance for a taste of divine joy. Joy – wouldn’t that be something, given so much daily desperation. Can you imagine what it would be like to feel innocent again? Buoyant? Hopeful?


One young man once said how he feels like a rock stuck in the water watching all the fish swim past him upstream. Young people frustrated by the cost of buying or even renting a home.


Spiritual teacher Ram Dass reminds us how we condemn ourselves: To busy holding onto our unworthiness. Imagine choosing to remain in blasphemy. Thinking yourself forever unworthy of grace.


Closed up. closed off, refusing to admit weakness or hurt or need or pain, possibly because it its just too scary to be loved, to be free. Grace is terribly scary because you can’t quite predict where it’s going to take you. So they themselves shut themselves down. They let the world win.


Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an echo of that duJune 9, 2024

10:30 AM

Sunbury

“Blasphemy”

OT I Samuel 8:4-11,16-20

 

8:4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD, 7and the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only — you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

 

10So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 

 

16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

 

19But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

 

Hold it now, before we go onto the New Testament text, do kings go forth and fight our battles? History tells another story altogether.  Kings make us fight and die for theirs, for them. 

 

God through the Bible warns us how kings, monarchies, are a recipe for poverty, for disaster.  By embracing kings, the people reject the rule of God, saith the Lord.

 

You want poverty, let kings rule.

 

You want your sons and daughters made into slaves, let kings rule.

 

God’s problem with Kings is that kings demand that you focus on the king – its all about him, for kings only take, and take, and take.  The Bible tells us so. 

 

God gives and gives and gives.  Why?  So that you can have a good life, raise your kids, love your spouse, take care of your neighbors, grow your crops, eat your crops, take care of the farm or shop, enjoy what God has given, what God meant to be enjoyed.  Or enjoy Jimmy Buffett music at a Riverfront Park and slide down an inflatable slide.  

 

Oh, how obvious, how persistent, how pervasive, how human this perverse hunger for kings.  Fix it for us.  Make it all better.   The sin of wanting kings to save us, no matter the cost to peace, prosperity, freedom.  We can’t stand instability, feeling insecure, so we sell our souls for a vain boast from the king that he will save us, make it right. The Hebrews think kings are an easy way out.  Guess again.  If it’s easy, it’s usually wrong.  God reminds us, it is easier for us to sin in a crowd than individually (Niebuhr), 

 

Now, we may mumble we resent being told what to do, but we do like being kept.  At least then we have someone to blame for our problems.  Let him fight our battles…

 

Thomas Paine in “Common Sense,” his 1776 masterpiece appeal for Americans to reject British tyranny, based part of his reasoning on this passage from Samuel. 

 

103But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

 

Thomas Paine in “Rights of Man” extoled the three essentials for rulers in a Republic:

 

§  Virtue – the willingness to subordinate selfish interest to the good of the whole

§  Equality – which encouraged not simply equal treatment before the law but also the absence of vast disparities of personal wealth

§  Independence – the ability to resist outside coercion

 

We listen to a revolutionary voice from the 18th Century. 

 

Or we can pay attention to D-Day.  D-Day reminds us of those brave souls who said no to domination by kings.

 

God’s warning through Samuel  proved all too true.  The kings of Israel were a miserable lot.  Saul, Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, even David. 

 

The best of the bunch was King David despite him shunning his wife, despite his son revolting the dethrone his father, despite him murdering his lover’s husband..  What made him the favorite king?   David came to learn he was a miserable king and miserable sinner.   And he was.  He came to learn how much he needed God if he was truly defend, protect, and care for his people the way he’s supposed to.  From Psalm 72:

 

May the people blossom in the cities…

14From oppression and violence he redeems their life…

13has pity on the weak and the needy, saves the lives of the needy…

12delivers the needy, the poor and those who have no helper…

7righteousness flourishes and peace abounds...

4defends the cause of the poor of the people..

gives deliverance to the needy, crushes the oppressor…

judges your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice…

 

Listen please:

Gospel Mark 3:20-35

 

20... and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 

 

In other words:  can evil deeds get rid of evil deeds?

 

24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

 

We interrupt again and pause.  This Scripture is the origin of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech delivered in 1858 at the Illinois State Convention, accepting the nomination to run for the United States senate.  He lost that race.  He won the next one in 1860. 

 

Lincoln often quoted Scripture.   It is how he learned to read, he estimated he had about one year of official schooling.  Because he read, he became our wisest President. 

Said Lincoln:

 

"A house divided against itself, cannot stand."

I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved

– I do not expect the house to fall

– but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States,

old as well as new – North as well as South.

 

 

Meaning that either we will all banish and reject this curse of slavery or we will all be forced to accept this evil.

 

A House Divided isn’t referring to architecture.  Lincoln appreciated the Hebrew understanding of a house:  it meant a people, a family, a living heritage. 

What happens, says Jesus, when a people are divided, hostile to other, failing to heed facts, failing to be faithful and true to a higher calling?  Jesus warns us:  you will not stand, you will be tied up and plundered, you will let the devil win.  A blasphemous people let blasphemy win.

 

We finish. 

 

 

28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

 

31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Blasphemy.  Blasphemy is one of those solid Bible words out of fashion these days, more’s the pity.  What does it mean?  Blasphemy means to revile, to  injure, abusive speaking.

 

So what does Jesus think is truly blasphemous?  Breaking the ritual rules the religious big boys imposed?  Really?  Rather:  believing we are beyond God’s reach and salvation.

 

Sounds very similar to the debate over obscenity.  What is obscene?  Is it a few inappropriate words or photographs?  Or how we treat each other?

 

We can get a bit lathered up about that so called “Unforgiveable Sin.”   Note how the better translations say, whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness.  Very different from saying:  whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. 

 

Present tense, subjective, versus absolute future tense.

 

What Jesus is talking about it are those folks unable to be forgiven because they shut themselves off from the possibility of feeling forgiven.   This passage isn’t about insulting the Holy Spirit (as if anything we could say or do could insult God);  they’re denying their own chance for a taste of divine joy.  Joy – wouldn’t that be something, given so much daily desperation.  Can you imagine what it would be like to feel innocent again?  Buoyant?  Hopeful?

 

One young man once said how he feels like a rock stuck in the water watching all the fish swim past him upstream.  Young people frustrated by the cost of buying or even renting a home. 

 

Spiritual teacher Ram Dass reminds us how we condemn ourselves:  To busy holding onto our unworthiness.  Imagine choosing to remain in blasphemy.  Thinking yourself forever unworthy of grace. 

 

Closed up. closed off, refusing to admit weakness or hurt or need or pain, possibly because it its just too scary to be loved, to be free.  Grace is terribly scary because you can’t quite predict where it’s going to take you.  So they themselves shut themselves down.  They let the world win. 

 

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an echo of that dumb king thing.  Kings want to have what we have to give him. Kings take. God gives.  Kings want themselves to get all the goodies.  God wants us to have, to receive the goodness for which we are created.  Kings can’t give this.  And it is good.  Good to be forgiven.  Good to know that in the midst of our travails, trials, and struggles, we are not forsaken.  Good to be loved.  God to have a spiritual Lord who wants for us peace, fulfillment, joy.   

 

Good, for we are family.  We are Jesus’ family. 

 mb king thing. Kings want to have what we have to give him. Kings take. God gives. Kings want themselves to get all the goodies. God wants us to have, to receive the goodness for which we are created. Kings can’t give this. And it is good. Good to be forgiven. Good to know that in the midst of our travails, trials, and struggles, we are not forsaken. Good to be loved. God to have a spiritual Lord who wants for us peace, fulfillment, joy.


Good, for we are family. We are Jesus’ family.

216 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page