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Pentecost 7B Sermon
Mark 6:1-13
8, 2018


Sermon Archives


Mark 6:1-13

Jesus left that place and came to his home town, 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 Maryand brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, 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.
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. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 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.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

There is a lot of concern in our Gospel reading this morning about rejection. In a surprise move, Jesus experiences rejection from the people in his own hometown. They probably knew him as he grew up, saw him running through the streets with his friends, felt him underfoot, wondered what would become of this common peasant boy. HE is the one who is healing and who wants to teach in our synagogue? No way, we can’t believe that he is the one; besides, there is still that issue of his legitimacy – didn’t Mary get pregnant while she and Joseph were still betrothed? There is no way he could have been sent by God.

Interestingly enough, because of their lack of faith, Jesus seemed to have limited power to heal in that place. It seems that the close relationship that these towns people had with him and his family (maybe even a few that still believed he was born out of wedlock) resulted in rejection by those that Jesus only wanted to love.
Maybe it is because of this personal experience that, when Jesus sends out his disciples two-by-two, he warns them about rejection right off the bat. “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.” As a pastor I regularly wonder at why people do not believe the promise of God’s unconditional love for them. I cannot understand why anyone would reject Jesus, the personification of perfect, Godly love: but folks still do, and sometimes it has to do with their own experiences of being rejected by people around them all of their lives which leaves them wondering if there is even a God, let alone if this kind of love exists.
One of the more memorable speakers at the Youth Gathering in Houston was Nadia Bolz-Webber, a Lutheran pastor in Denver, Colorado. Nadia has spoken at one other youth gathering, and until recently was the pastor of the congregation called, “House for All Sinners and Saints.” I say she was memorable because she is a six foot tall woman with black and grey hair and tattoo covered arms, which she shows prominently with short-sleeved clerical shirts. Nadia’s message was a powerful one for these young people because, let’s face it rejection is something that every teenager worries about in their lives, in school, with friends, at sports and in their families.

Nadia said that between the ages of 12 and 16, she had an auto-immune disorder which caused her eyes to bulge out of her head so far that her eyelids could not close all the way. Doctors could not operate to correct the condition until she stopped growing … and it took a while for her to stop growing. She says that she looked like a freak, and as a result had a very painful adolescence. Her daily reality was name calling, bullying and social isolation. You can imagine her cynicism for anyone who might tell her that Jesus loves her when she was getting the opposite message from everyone else around her constantly. As a result she dove into a lifestyle that included alcohol and substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, and the tattoos to try to put forth an image different from her own malformed face.
Nadia said that if she had been one of the youth attending the gathering, she would not have been standing up during the songs and doing the hand motions. She would have refused to stand when everyone else did. If her adults would have told her that she was saved by grace through faith, she would have responded that she didn’t ask to be saved in the first place, what is grace, and I’m not sure I have faith, so who cares!

But it is grace that counteracts rejection. When we get that voice in our heads that seems to be on auto play saying that we are unworthy and rejected, grace is that reality which comes from the true source of life, Jesus Christ. When we think that spirituality is the attempt to smooth out the rough places so that we can finally clean up our act enough to be in touch with God, then we don’t understand grace. Grace is the reality that all of our wrinkles, failures, misconceptions and mistakes are what create texture on us so that God and others have something to grab onto! It’s like when you are attaching one piece of clay to another in ceramics, you have to rough up the surfaces so they will bond more solidly. It seems that in our lives, the more roughed up the surface is, the better grace sticks!

Nadia talked about our ideal self over/against our actual self. No one has ever become their ideal self because it is a moving target, a false promise and a lie. The self that God has a relationship with is your actual self. The self that God loves is your actual self, and that is grace!
It was a powerful message for those 30,000 young people, but lest you think that Nadia’s message was strictly for our youth, let me tell you what she said that we can all appreciate: Grace is why we have human community! Jesus may have been rejected by his hometown, but our Christian communities – our churches – at their best never reject; they are places living out the rule of grace, founded upon the grace of Jesus Christ. We help each other shut down the voices of rejection and criticism and unworthiness. We tend to each other’s wounds. We share each other’s scars. We see and forgive each other’s shortcomings. We let each other cry, we make each other laugh, we are adamant about grace for everyone! Based upon the foundation of the love of Jesus, we are called to be a community of grace.
Thursday evening I drove up to Camp Mowana where my daughter and some other teenagers were spending the week for Senior High camp. They wanted to have communion at their last campfire, and asked me to come up to preside. At the chapel service a young girl got up and shared her story. She said that this past year she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to live anymore, and so she took a bunch of pills in order to bring things to an end. As she was in the emergency room being treated for the overdose, she started thinking about the community that she had with her camp friends. She thought that if she had been successful, she would never be able to go to camp again. Camp Mowana had become for her that community of grace when she was experiencing the rejection of others around her in her life. And when I say Camp Mowana, I don’t mean the cabins, trails, lodges or food that they serve – I mean the people who are part of that community.

Clinton Heights – when rejection is the norm of our community, our call is to be a place of grace. It won’t always be comfortable because the grace that grabs our rough places also grabs the rough places of the people we really can’t stand to be around either! But that is our call … and it is a call that literally saves peoples’ lives: not only their earthly lives with love and acceptance here, but their eternal lives for whatever comes next. May the grace of Jesus grab you in your rough places to assure you that God will never reject you, no matter how unworthy you may think you are; and may our church be a community of grace where we live out our calling to welcome and love each other and all people, no matter how rough or jagged our edges may get. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.