6th Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2015
Mark 6:1-13 You can click on this link to read the Bible verses in Oremus Bible Browser
So when you heard these two stories side by side did you find yourself wondering why those old guys who put together all the readings all those years ago would pick these to read together? As your preacher, I did a lot of wondering about that this week. Do these stories have anything in common? I would say that the theme they share is about trust, that quality that is the basis of faith.
So indulge me a bit and wander in the first story with me for a minute. One thing that occurs to me is that Jesus is coming home on a roll. Think about all the recent stories of miraculous feeding (5,000 people!), healing (the demon-possessed man and the pigs, the dead girl raised, the woman with the hemorrhage): you’d think that people at home would have heard about all that and been so proud of their local hero. But instead, the Evangelist tells us, people end up thinking that he is too big for his britches. After all, wasn’t he the son of Mary who had to get married pretty quickly, and wasn’t he just a woodworker, not a rabbi.
It’s an interesting contrast to the quiet way that Jesus has been telling people that their faith is what has been the source of healing for them. It has been their trust that possibilities exist beyond what they can see and the limits of logic that has been the reason they approached Jesus at all, and that trust has made the miracle possible. The people at home can only see the kid who grew up in their midst acting like he’s some big deal, and they miss out on the opportunities available to those who have not closed their mind and closed their ears. They are not willing to receive the grace that is presented to them, in part because they are too committed to what they think they already know.
As Jesus moves on, he is accepted in other villages and sends his disciples out on their first mission with very strict and specific instructions. Oh my. For all you travelers out there, did you freak out at their packing list? No extra shirt, no walking shoes, no camping cooler with breakfast, no cash or ATM cards, only a walking stick for uneven roads. “He ordered them to take nothing for the journey.”
He gave then all they needed, authority over the spirits that caused disease and destruction in communities. It’s hard for us to understand a culture like theirs in which hospitality is expected: there are not 7-11’s for roadside snacks or Holiday Inns to sleep in. People expect to host strangers on the way, as they expect to be hosted. Even so, this is pretty bare bones; not even a change of clothes. They are forced to rely on the hospitality of others to complete their task. And so they do, we are told, casting out many demons, and anointing and curing many who are sick.
It is trust or lack of trust that links these two tales. We see clear examples of what can happen when disciples are willing to venture with radical trust to do the work that Jesus does, and what happens when that work is received with trust.
And what about us? Are we worried by all the talk about how the church is declining? About the hysteria that surrounds every change in the way church is done and Scripture is interpreted? What if what is happening is that how and where God is at work in the world is changing? What if the church is no longer the only mediator of grace and healing in this world and that faithful people are doing the work of Jesus’ Spirit outside the church and we haven’t been paying attention?
I hate having to preach this, it’s really scary. If we, the Church, are being sent out on a mission, what is it Jesus is asking us to leave behind; what baggage must we lose in order to trust in the message we bear and the message alone. As the debate rages about gay marriage and climate change, have we failed to offer the real message of help and hope for people on the margins – living paycheck to paycheck, without a stable home, discriminated against and persecuted for color or ethnicity.
How do we see ourselves in these two stories: as the home crowd so focused on what we expect to hear and see in church and from church that we wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he came to teach us and heal us? Or do we see ourselves as sent out with nothing but trust in the Sender to heal and cast out the demons of our day? And then, where is the message of grace in these questions? The message of grace is that even though we fail to be the people God has called us to be, that God’s love for us never fails. In Jesus’ resurrection, we also are brought into the new kingdom that God has already created. We are born anew on the promises of God that never fail, and adopted into God’s forever family in our baptism. Our lives are secure in God’s love no matter what. The one thing we can trust in all the world is God’s love for us and God’s love for the rest of the world that we are called to love as well. So let us begin with prayer:
Jesus, we don’t always see you as you are, but only through our own understanding and our own needs. Forgive us when we are narrow-minded and slow to trust your call to love the world. Give us the courage to leave all our baggage behind and step out in mission to offer healing and love wherever we see it is needed. Amen.