Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sermon; Proper 9B; Mark 6:1-13

Proper 9B
Mark 6:1-13

How do you hear the word of God?  Where do you see the work of God being done in the world?

This is the overall theme of today's gospel passage – hearing and seeing God at work.  To date the people have heard the word of God preached in controversies, parables and conversations.  The word has been heard in a variety of locations and formats.

Likewise, people have seen the work of God in the healing of demoniacs and other diseased people, the restoring of life to a girl and the calming of the sea.  God's work has been seen in a variety of locations and styles.

The Gospel of Mark moves at a brisk pace.  The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Buckle up, here we go.  John appears.  Jesus arrives, is baptized and immediately driven into the wilderness.  He calls disciples, teaches and heals.  He is immediately doing one thing or another and he is preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand.

In this fast-paced gospel, we can easily fall into the mistake of thinking that everything Jesus did was immediately successful.  In reading Mark, we can get the idea that, immediately after calling a few disciples, Jesus begins trending on social media sites.  It can sound like everything is going great, his evangelism methods are bringing people in by the hundreds, if not thousands, and the only people who dislike him are those threatened by a loss of power and control.

Not so fast.  Today's passage puts Jesus back in his hometown, where he does not get the Jimmy Stewart “Local Boy Makes Good” welcome.  Instead of things immediately happening, things slow down considerably.

Jesus arrives in his hometown where he begins to preach.  The people want to know where he got his education and authority, and then immediately (my words, not Mark's) dismiss him.

Why was that?  Why did they dismiss Jesus out of hand?  The short answer is because they were unwilling to see Jesus as anyone or anything other than who they believed him to be.  And whether they saw him as the local kid who had gotten too big for his britches, or the local kid who they had known for all those years, they were tied to seeing Jesus only for who they thought he was.  They could not believe Jesus was anyone other than who they said he was.

That unbelief allowed Jesus to do exactly what was expected of him – nothing.  The people of his town couldn't hear Jesus say anything they didn't already know.  The people of his town couldn't see Jesus do anything they weren't expecting.

This incident begs the question:  Who are the people in our lives who we can't hear God speaking through because we think we know what they have to say?  Who are the people in our lives who we can't see God working through because we think we know them?

Following this hometown incident, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples on an evangelism mission.  They healed the sick, cast out demons and preached repentance.  As an aside, this is one of the places where we get the traditional use of healing oil.

Why this change in tactic here?  Why did Jesus stop going to places and send his disciples out instead?  There are probably several reasons.

First, it could be that Jesus was exhibiting good leadership.  He himself had gone about the towns and villages doing the very same thing, while the disciples followed.  Now he was giving them the chance to practice what they had been watching.  Nobody learns to ride a bike by watching a youtube video, but they might get some helpful pointers.  So Jesus was giving them the opportunity to get on and ride the bike themselves.  He was letting them preach and heal.

Second, Jesus was human.  Maybe after this incident he was a little depressed.  Maybe he thought, “You know what . . . why don't I send out the disciples and see if they can do it any better.”  And when they came back, he heard their stories and got excited again.

Finally, maybe he thought it was time for a change.  It's been said that an expert is someone who lives more than 50 miles away.  Maybe he thought his message was becoming stale, so he decided to mix it up a little by sending out twelve guys with different styles and abilities.

As we move through this Season after Pentecost and Mark's quick-moving gospel, let's slow down for a minute and ask some questions.

How do you hear the word of God?  Where do you see the work of God being done?

Is it possible that people have stopped listening and looking for Jesus because they think they know who he is, or what the message might be?

If that is the case, are you willing to be sent out to proclaim the good news in a way that might cause people to hear and see?  Because really, that's the next step of discipleship.

So, as we consider our own discipleship this season and how we might grow and change, let us remember the words of our dismissal:  Go forth.



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