Power.

Mark 6:1-13

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

The Mission of the Twelve

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

What a week.  Writing this sermon in the midst of this past week has some interesting pondering within me.  

As many of you know, my mom was taken to the hospital last week.  In the course of her being in the hospital, we found that she has cancer in different parts of her body.  It’s been a wild week of wrapping our minds and hearts around it.  And, as I mentioned earlier, we so appreciate your prayers and your support this past week!  It’s an amazing testimony to the love and care of this particular church community!

Being in Louisville, in my hometown has given me some perspective, as it often does, of how I grew up.  People know me in a certain way, and, it’s fascinating, it’s me, but it’s also several lifetimes ago.  Even my mom has a vision of me that’s not the full picture of who I’m becoming.  Now, there is lots of love and and oftentimes folks see a version of ourselves that we need to see as well, or be reminded of.  But, all of us have a sense of being in different places of understanding ourselves over the years, don’t we?

Jesus is not different from us, his hometown knew him as Mary and Joseph’s son.  He was a carpenter.  Galilee, during this season was apparently fairly prosperous, so he wasn’t a wandering carpenter, but had fairly stable employment.  We know from a few readings ago that some in his family wanted him to have some stability and not get out ahead of himself or others.  So, heading back to his hometown had Jesus thinking a lot I bet!

As we’ve read the past few Sundays and discussed, Jesus had been busy!  Calming storms, healing folks, performing miracles, raising people from the dead.  Starting a movement that was getting a lot of attention, both good and bad.  Showing radically inclusive love and inviting folks to think differently within the systems that they have lived in.  You know, just the ordinary Son of God kinds of things…

Yet, his hometown didn’t throw him a parade, didn’t welcome him with open arms, they were amazed…but, in the kind of incredulous kind of way.  Saying things like, “who does he think he is?”, “Where does his wisdom come from?”.  And, as if to say, we “know” him, “isn’t he the daughter of Mary, brother of of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon?”  Which is interesting, because later in scriptures, we know Mary stands with her son, and that at least two of his brothers become early church leaders.  

There’s also this theme of faith that we’ve talked about in the past.  It seems like Jesus is telling us that faith is shared, it is something we have and that we have to exercise it, practice it, for it to grow or be useful.  

But, the people in Jesus’ hometown did not want to do that.  They wanted to stay comfortable and keep folk “in their place”.  He’s Mary’s son they say, not even mentioning his earthly dad.  The crowd may have been suggesting that Jesus was different, and maybe he really wasn’t Joseph’s kid…of course, if only they knew…or were willing to risk getting to know Jesus now.

For 30 years, Jesus had been someone, now he was growing into a very public, deeper version of himself, his “true self” as the monk Thomas Merton would say.

He tries to do some miracles there, but could only lay hands on a few sick people…and realized that the familiarity of who he had been was would not let folks see him, or his power of love.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Again, could it be that his hometown was looking for a heroic, triumphant, local kid makes good kind of story?  I think so.

But, Jesus was in the process of re-ordering so many things.  How we view one another, how we love, how we connect, and who’s included (everyone), and that God does not show favoritism but wants all of us to be in communion with one another, and with God.  That there is one allegiance in this world that matters, and that is to God.  

God has been telling God’s people forever to be a witness to God’s love to the world, to the nations.  Instead, they became just like the other other nations.  God’s power was shown as God giving God’s self to us, and that we are to follow in God’s example.  And, specifically, to follow in God’s example through Jesus.  Yet, we too, just like Israel, often forget and simply become just like others, living in a system and a culture without thinking much about how to make our lives and the lives of others more connected, more human as in the image of God that we were created.  

I love this quote from Richard Rohr on power:

“God has communicated in a million ways that “I am your power,” but we do not believe and trust what we cannot see or prove. Instead, we bow down to lesser kings (like institutions, nations, wars, ideologies, etc.) that we can see, even when they serve us quite poorly.” – Richard Rohr

Jesus has a message, this message that God’s presence, God’s kingdom, God’s reign, is with us and it supersedes all other earthly kingdoms, systems, governments, etc.  

He calls his disciples, his closest disciples around him and sends them out to share this with others.

He tells them to go in twos, because we are relational and need each other.  None of us are superman or wonder woman on our own.  To only take a staff…not a bag, don’t take bread, and wear sandals, but don’t take an extra tunic.  To lean in on the first house that shows hospitality, don’t go to another house if it’s nicer, but stick with the first.  

Again, this past week was a good reminder of so much, that relationships are important more than anything.  I did pack a small bag, but only one change of boxers as I thought, at first, that I will only be in Louisville for a day and night…but, when the severity of mom’s condition was presented, I knew I needed to stay a bit longer.  

Hospitals are supposed to be places of welcome, rest, relief, and healing.  Hospital comes from the word “hospitality”.  And, mom’s hospital was pretty good at that.  

As Jesus followers, we are also places and people of welcome, of rest from a weary world, of grace and relief, and of healing.  Healing of ourselves, others, and living into the promises of God.  As we do that, we change, people don’t understand us, we are even not welcome at times.

Yet, Jesus says to shake the dust off of our feet and move on if we are not welcomed.  Now, this doesn’t mean that we give up on those who don’t welcome us.  I’ve heard it said that this actually a phrase that means to dust off the criticism that we receive and keep on walking the path that we have been given within a community of faith called to love the neighborhood in which we live.  

Friends, may we live into the faith that God has in us as God sends us out, together.  May we receive and give hospitality and share the good news that God is with us and loves us.  May we be the alternative, loving, authentic community within a world so desperately in need of people and places like that.  

And may we remember along the way that we are in communion with ourselves, others, and God as demonstrated in through Jesus.  

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