Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sermon - 7th Sunday of Pentecost - Year B

Mark 6:1-13   

                                                                      Not in My Hometown!

This Gospel text seems ideal for the special event we are marking today.  As a part of the 11:00 am liturgy, we will commission Christine Hart as a missionary.  Her placement is in Mexico, with the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. 

The Gospel text speaks of Jesus calling the twelve to himself, and sending them out.  The story we read mimics the events of our liturgical life on this day.  It was said of those first twelve who were sent that they proclaimed God’s Word, they cast out demons, anointed those who were sick, and cures happened.  What a joyful celebration.

We commission Christine with equally high hopes and expectations.  She will be teaching.  She will be accompanying sisters and brothers on their journey.  She will report back to us what gifts could be ours as a result of stronger bonds and deeper commitments to the care of these children of God’s.

This is a very appropriate text for this Sunday in this place and among these people. 

I want to note that we have Christine’s mother and father and sister with us today.  I remember sitting in their position eight years ago.  My daughter also served as a YAGM, in Mexico, about 80 miles from where Christine will be.  I remember the sending forth of our daughter.  And I remember asking, “Isn’t there something you could do a bit closer to home?”  Leigh and Hansel might be asking that very same question.

Here, again, is where the Gospel text for today is helpful.  I started this homily by looking at the ending; the beginning sets up a differing set of expectations and anticipations.

Jesus is once again back in his hometown.  I say “once again,” because the Gospel lesson for June 10 (the last Sunday I preached) also included a trip home for Jesus.  He seems to go home a lot.

But things don’t go well for him when he gets there.  Do you remember four weeks ago?  And the reading from Mark 3?  A crowd gathers around Jesus, “so that they could not even eat.”  When Jesus family hears about this, go out to restrain him, because some where saying he was possessed.  “He has Beelzebul” the ruler of demons!  They say.

What bad thing happens this time?  Here - I would like for y’all to answer.  Look at your bible or the passage as printed in the bulletin.
“They took offense at him.”
What did he do?  Or what might he have said?  (I don’t really want you to answer those last two questions.)  We would be here all afternoon.

The story doesn’t tell us.  No negative encounters are recorded.  All we hear are what seem to be to be positive things happening.  He begins to teach in the synagogue.  Mark records that “many who heard him were astounded.”

The only note as to what brings the change is when they start to remember who he is.  They ask “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?”  They seem to be saying, “We know this kid!  We know where he came from and we know who he is.”  And somewhere, in recognizing him, they begin to take offense at him.

That is when Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor, except in their own hometown.” 

And, “he could do no deed of power there.”

If the bible is to be believed, we are all confronted with the irony that while a particular village might raise up prophets who can speak God’s Word and do God’s will, they may need to be raised up and lifted up and sent out into the world in order to do these tasks.

I wish Christine could stay at home.  But she can’t.  And the call of God won’t let her do so.

In our prayers, we will give thanks for her courage.  For the courage to go.  And we will pray that we too might find that courage and be willing also to leave behind the familiar and comfortable and travel to the places where we too might cast out demons and offer cures.

It does take courage.

But, again, this is something you also already know.

I would be willing to wager that it hasn’t been much longer than seven days since you found yourself wanting to say something, but just couldn’t.  I would wager that each of us has been in that awkward position where we knew what needed to be said, but also knew that the words would hurt too much or cut too deep.

A pastoral care teacher helped me to realize that the more connected a minister becomes the less likely that minister is to point out the obvious.  “You just can’t take the risk of alienating.”  So, you hold your tongue or at best hint at the truth.  Be careful, when the need arises to say clearly the thing you know to be right.

It isn’t simply that the folks in your hometown won’t hear or accept.  It also happens because you know them too well.

I am trying, really hard, to keep to the message of a sermon crafted on Thursday after having stood by Ron Black’s hospital bed yesterday afternoon, reciting the prayers of committal of the dead.  And I understand that many (or most, or ALL) of you UniLu regulars have likely been somewhere else as I rambled on these past thirteen minutes.  You were remembering Ron; remembering others who have died; recalling his role in helping us re-design and re-construct this very building.  And then the preacher stands up and speaks of “no honor in one’s hometown”?  Being from here, this being my hometown, I find it difficult to say what this text is saying to us.

I want to bring this to an end by going back once more to the Gospel lesson from four weeks ago.  Does anyone remember how that one ended?  Jesus redefines what it means to be part of his family.  He says, “’Who are my mother and my brothers (and sisters)?’  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and brothers (and sisters)!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”

If blood is thicker than water, the thickest of all is the invitation as extended to God’s children.  That bond will separate us from those we love and many of those who love us.  That bond does unite us with the community built upon Jesus’ words, ministry, and life.

As is true for the other 87 YAGM’s, Christine Hart will work miracles.  She will do this because she has heard the call of God.  That call came to her at Bethlehem Lutheran in Irmo, and it was given greater clarity during her years at University Lutheran.  She will speak the Word of God because she has heard it – from us.  And she will go to a place where her courage will not falter and she can say what needs to be said.

As we pray for her, we will pray for that same courage.  From her example, we learn the importance of saying what needs to be said and living the life that ought to be lead.

It is a scary and frightening thing – that she is doing.  We know – because we are aware how frightening it is for us – when we do the same thing, here, in our shared hometown.


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