And now for something completely different! (Mark 3:20-35)

Whose side are you on?

This is a different way of looking at Mark 3:20-35 (cf: https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/a-difficult-reading-prejudice-mark-320-35) – variations of it were used in St. Martin, Droylsden, St. James’ and St. Peter’s, Ashton-under-Lyne on 7th June 2015, the first Sunday after Trinity. ….

So, ….. whose side are you on?

In our house over the last fortnight, there have been very different emotions experienced by my wife Jo and I.  Jo supports Wycombe Wanderers, the local team from where she grew up in High Wycombe.  They’ve had their highs and lows as a team, and this season spent most of it in the automatic promotion spots at the top of league two.  But at the end, they ended up 4th and had to face the play offs.  They reached Wembley where they played Southend. They played well, but sadly for Jo, they were defeated in a penalty shoot out 7-6.

On the other hand, I support Arsenal! So last Saturday was wonderful! A 4-0 win in the FA Cup Final! Many of you will know that I was born in Manchester, lived in Hull, Essex and Norfolk as a child before moving back to Manchester when I was 18. So why support Arsenal? It was about saving my bacon. A large group of boys in the school made it very clear to me in a school playground in Braintree in Essex, that unless I shed my allegiance to Hull City and started supporting Arsenal, there would be serious consequences! So reluctantly I agreed, and that year Arsenal won the league and cup double! It was 1971!

For many, choosing who you support is a serious thing. So who do you support?  Man City?  Man United?  Chelsea?  Liverpool?  ………………………..

How did you decide who to support?

Now, you might not think that the Bible has much in common with football, but the Gospel reading for the first Sunday after Trinity is all about choosing sides and about people trying to score against one another!

In the story, the scribes are the religious experts from Jerusalem and they want to know whose side Jesus is on:  God’s or the devil’s?  Jesus argues that everything he does is good:  he’s curing sickness and getting rid of evil spirits so if he were on the devil’s side he’d be scoring own goals!  It’s surely obvious that he’s on God’s side.

What about us?  Are we on the same side as Jesus? Check out what he says at the end of the reading: ‘Whoever does God’s will is my mother, my brother, my sister – you are my family?  So what does this mean?  What do we need to do to be on Jesus’ side and belong to his family?

If I just start wearing the football kit and the team scarf of my football team and if I know the rules of football – does this make me a good supporter of my football team?

Of course not!  What do I have to do?

It’s about staying loyal, even if my team loses or is relegated.  It means actively supporting my team by watching matches and cheering them on.m I’m sure there is more as well that makes someone a loyal supporter.

If I wear a cross, own a Bible and watch Songs of Praise, does that make me a Christian, on God’s side?

No!  To be on God’s side, we need to believe in him, even when things are not going well. It means doing what God wants by behaving in a loving, caring, forgiving way towards others.

So, are you on God’s side, on Jesus’ side?  Jesus invites us all to be on his side.  Whoever we are and whatever we have done, he calls us to come and join him – all we have to do is choose to start following him and living in the way that he shows us.

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