Posts Tagged ‘Mark 6:1-13’

Things Change 7-8-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 6:1-13, I explore the rejection that Jesus faces in his hometown. Often our tendency to resist change blinds us to the invitation that God offers into a new reality.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/things-change-7-8-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Just a couple of weeks ago, my hometown of Graettinger celebrated their 125th anniversary. I wasn’t able to make it back to town, but I heard about many of the different things that went on…one of which included an all-school reunion. Now granted, I’m not sure how many of the 24 members of the Graettinger class of 1997 attended…I’m guessing a few…but I was thinking about that…and about the fact that my class hasn’t done an overly great job of having reunions.  We missed the 5 year…I skipped the 10 year. We missed the 15 year…and I think since our 20th was just last year everyone probably thought “let’s just wait till the all school next year.”

And so, with that track-record…I have yet to attend any of my class reunions…but I have been to one…and it gave me the opportunity to take an objective look back in time, as I tagged along to the 15 year reunion of the Manson Northwest Webster graduating class of 1997…my wife’s class. She and I road-tripped towards the booming metropolis of Manson, IA. And after a bit of driving around town, which is a small town about the same size as Underwood, and giving her the chance to see her old neighborhood, we parked the car and walked into the local bowling alley which was serving as the sight of the reunion.

Now, I should mention the fact that I did not know anyone that was going to be there. So this is where the objective part came in for me. We walked in, being one of the first to arrive…and over the course of the next half hour approximately 25 members of my wife’s class along with some of their spouses came through the door. And for the most part I just sat back and went into people watching mode for the duration of the evening.

It was fascinating. Some had stayed put in this small town, never leaving. Others had spread out a little ways but were still easily in driving distance, others had moved across the country, but then ended up “moving back home.” And a few, my wife included, have completely relocated to another region, but managed to make it back for the reunion.

But regardless of where members of the class put down roots…they all seemed to share a bit of a common trait…in my “objective” observational opinion…they never left high school. Everyone fell into the old cliques pretty quickly…gravitating towards those that they were comfortable with in school…mostly ignoring everyone outside of those old social circles beyond the polite greetings initially offered up upon arriving.  I can’t help but think at the 15 year mark, there’s a lot of truth that old saying that “some things never change.” (pause)

But you know what…I also can’t help but think that saying is wrong…because things do change. We might not notice it when we’re in the midst of it…but changes do happen…they happen in communities…and they happen in the lives of individuals.

The only problem is that we tend to forget this fact, until something or someone comes along that brings us face to face with it. And its possible that the best example of this is when someone “comes home” after years of being away…and we just can’t see them in a new role…but we think they are still the same person that they were when we knew them.

Now I can speak to this from personal experience…because if you had asked 20 years ago about a wise cracking blond kid from the class of 97, no one in my hometown would have anticipated that I would become a pastor…and when I bump into people at synod events, I still hear comments to that effect…and it would seem that I’ve got this in common with Jesus in today’s story.

He comes back to his hometown….and he finds himself bogged down in old expectations.  Granted…maybe its understandable. Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of his formative years…was tiny…I’ve seen the remains and the whole town is all of about 100 feet across. They estimate that the population was probably only a few hundred people…I’m guessing everyone knew each other.

Now imagine yourselves in first century Israel. There’s not a ton of excitement going on…but word is spreading around the region that there’s this new rabbi on the scene. He’s traveling around…hitting all the towns. He’s teaching, he’s even healing and casting out demons. There’s even rumors of miracles that the guy is performing.  And then you hear he’s coming your way…that he’s gonna be teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath…probably worth checking out.

And so, as Jesus makes his way into town along with his entourage of disciples…pops into the synagogue and starts teaching…people start squawking. (pause) WAIT A SEC…THIS IS THE GUY? That’s Jesus…known him for years. I remember when he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Dude’s a carpenter…learned it from Joseph. He helped put the roof on my house a few years back. That’s his mom right there…his brothers too.  (pause)

Now we hear that the people are in awe of what Jesus is up to…maybe in a good way or maybe not so good…but it seems, based on this whole deal, that they can’t quite wrap their heads around things…around the amazing stories that they’ve heard. About the miracles and the radical teachings about the kingdom of heaven coming near that Jesus has been embodying up to this point…I don’t know if the stories that had spread around had called Jesus by name, so that when the source comes strolling back into town they’re shocked to find it’s the young man who grew up playing in their neighborhood…or on the flip side if they had heard it and couldn’t quite believe it was him until he showed up again…but clearly something’s going on…and we hear that they took offence at him. That they were scandalized by it…you can even say they were tripped up at this new reality that Jesus was bringing about right here in their midst.

Their apparent reaction is so extreme that it Jesus compares his reception with that of the Old Testament prophets, and how they were often ignored or worse…and its even to the point where miracles aren’t happening…and it all seems to boil down what Mark calls their Unbelief.

That’s actually a pretty good description…its literally the opposite of believing…apistis in case you want a little Greek…Jesus is amazed…and probably not overly happy…at their lack of faith.

But if that’s the case…then just what is it that they are supposed to believe?  That he is who he says he is? That maybe, just maybe there’s something divine at work within this man that they thought they knew?  That maybe when he says the kingdom of heaven has come near…that it has done so in the flesh of this person that they’re scoffing at?  That maybe just maybe that which is divine and so utterly other than we are has made the choice to come among us…AS ONE OF US…that the divine will be found amongst and even within the human?

Maybe that is kind of a tall tale…but what if its true? Just what does that mean for those people on that day…or even for us today….that we might turn from unbelief to belief…from a lack of faith in the good news that Jesus has brought forth into faith….and not only that, but just how might that happen?

I think that’s a big question right there…especially for us in the church now in the 21st century…as we continue to look forward into an unknown future, within a society that doesn’t really seem to care if we’re around or not…with individuals who have either been burned by the church…or they’ve got zero experience with it…or perhaps worse yet, the only things they hear are the judgmental wrath that tends to get spewed around on social media or on the news by people who seem to have missed the utter magnitude of just what the gospel really means. (pause)

I think we all wrestle with that don’t we? How can we make this make sense to someone else…something that is so meaningful to us…something that has changed our lives….its changed our perspectives…this idea…or this concept…or maybe we just call it the truth of our own existence that there is something out there…we call it God…that takes so much love and delight in us as individuals who exist bearing the divine image of that thing we call God, that we are chosen and claimed as children even in the midst of the brokenness that is a part of us…that’s the gospel…while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s it.  And it seems so simple…and it just kinda makes sense doesn’t it…and I don’t know about you…but this mind blowing truth of God’s grace changes everything…and once you’ve have seen you can’t unsee…once you have heard you can’t unhear.

But perhaps the biggest problem that we face is the desire that we have to MAKE others see and hear that which we have experienced…to somehow force them to have the same experience with the divine that we have had…because if we can make that happen…well then their faith will be the same as ours. (pause)

But that’s not how this works is it? How many of us can “make” someone else believe?  How’s your track record? How many people have you willed into believing this stuff? How many can you claim on your evangelism scoreboard?  (pause) I’ll be honest…if you say any number larger than zero, you’re lying to yourself…because we can’t do it…and in fact I believe we can’t even do it for ourselves. Others will disagree with me on this and you are entitled to…but I believe that faith…that believing in Jesus…that trusting God’s love is for you now as you are…it’s a gift…its not of you…and we find this if we explore the only other time that the idea of “unbelief” comes up in Mark’s Gospel.

There’s a story, its in chapter 9, when man comes up to Jesus, utterly desperate for someone to help his son who is possessed by a demon. And he asks Jesus for help…Jesus tells him, all things are possible for those who believe…and the man responds “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

That guy gets it…that the reality of the kingdom of heaven is WAY bigger than we can comprehend…and that even when we come face to face with it, it might be too big for us to handle…and so we look to the one who is able to do something it…for the Lord is the source of belief…God is the source of faith…not us.

That’s the beauty…all of this stems from God. Its not of us. The promise comes from God. The claim on our lives and our souls comes from God.  Through Christ the good news from God LITERALLY came among us…and just as Jesus sent out the disciples 2 by 2 in the back half of today’s story, to share their experience with this life changing news, we’ve been given the same authority and the same command to do the exact same thing.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a relief to know that all I’ve been called to do is to share what I’ve experienced…to share what I’ve found to be true despite my shortcomings.  God will handle the rest. Things change…and I thank God that its possible…and that through Christ, its not only possible…it is a reality. That, is what I have experienced. Amen.

Maybe We Should Just Wipe the Dust Off 7-5-15

In this sermon I explore Mark 6:1-13. Jesus is rejected in his hometown and then sends out the disciples two by two. I also explore the reality of opposition to not only the gospel, but its presence in general within our society.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/maybe-we-should-just-wipe-the-dust-off-7-5-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 years ago…to the day…and almost to the exact minute…I drove into Underwood with the moving truck…we pulled up into the driveway at the parsonage and with a lot of help from congregational members, we unloaded to start our new life, and join together with you in the ministry here at Underwood Lutheran.

Its hard to believe that its been 2 years already. On one hand, two years sounds like a long time…but in reality, its not that long…not if you compare it with another celebration that’s going on this weekend. Independence Day…as the United States of America has now turned 239.

239 years…pushing two and a half centuries…and to us…that seems like an awfully long time doesn’t it? But, if we compare the longevity of our nation’s history with that of some of our European nations…America is pretty much a spritely teenager…wet behind the ears…and just getting started.

The various nations in Europe began emerging as the Roman Empire dwindled away…some as early as England back in the 10th Century…others over the course of the next 4 or 5 centuries…culminating right about the time that this random German monk got ticked off a the church at nailed 95 theses on the door of the chapel at the University of Wittenburg…sparking off what history has come to know as the Reformation. (pause)
Now with all this talk of history, perhaps we should switch gears to think about the history of the church itself…something that started round about 2000 years back with a Jewish carpenter turned traveling rabbi…and his rag tag cohort of 12 random ragamuffins…and throughout the years since then, history has watched this movement grow and expand…and throughout history, we have seen a cycle…that about every 500 years or so…something pretty major happens…something…pretty earthshattering in terms of the historical perspective.

The first go-round happened when the Roman Emporer, decided that he was sick of the old Roman gods…because there were way to may to keep track of…and so he converted to Christianity…bringing along the entire Roman Empire with him…pretty major expansion at this point…but it also brought with it all kinds of turmoil as literally millions of individuals, almost overnight, tried to change their theological mindset…and it took a while for the dust to settle.

Then we fast forwards aways…to round about the year 1000…when this little debacle known as the great schism occurred…and the single unified Christian church split…resulting in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church…same God, same Savior Jesus Christ…but some pretty radical differences in the way they run things…and once again…the dust up was pretty major.

Now we fast forward again…to a moment that I mentioned earlier…the Reformation…when for the first time the availability of this radical new invention called the printing press…allowed materials to be mass produced…so that the ideas of the various reformers and their critics could spread around like wildfire…

Starting to see a pattern here? Would you be interested to know that 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses? (pause) And I don’t know about you…but it seems to me that, once again…we are in the midst of a pretty major dust up here in the realm of the church. (pause)
Now if history has taught us anything, its that the church, much like the mythical phoenix, always manages to rise up again with new life…but it usually takes a while for everything to settle down…often times a century or more…so I guess if history is truly cyclic…and we’ve really only been in the early stages of this major change for perhaps the past 10-20 years, depending on who you talk to…then we’ve got quite a while to go before things will really smooth out.

And in the mean time, we have to live in the craziness that comes with it…the new ideas clashing with the old ideas…old reliable verses innovation…all the while, listening to the various voices clamoring against one another. It is by no means a new concept…we just have a relatively new way of both listening to, as well as ourselves participating in the conversation.

And I’m talking about the advent of the internet…our online presence…spearheaded most predominantly within the world of social media. (pause) Its both wonderful and horrible all at the same time. It’s a blessing and a curse. We can connect with one another and share all kinds of information…We can find like-minded people and speak with passion about whatever topic we choose, and likewise we can either find…or be found…by those who oppose us…often times with utterly hateful, venomous comments. (pause)

And the past couple of weeks have certainly provided a lot of real world fodder for the social media spectrum hasn’t it? (pause, and take this slow) Charleston SC shootings…which led to questions of racial tension…outrage both against and for the presence of the Confederate flag flying high…followed almost immediately by the Supreme Court’s divisive…and equally divided…decision on marriage equality in this country…which has led to more rainbow pictures on Facebook that anyone can count…then smacked back with American Flag pictures…all the while postings of passionate people, on both sides of every single coin imaginable…listing out reasons to love, or to hate…of being persecuted, or of finally being accepted…posting after posting…picture after picture…meme after meme…and each one more self-righteous than the last…and each one seemingly rooted in the notion that I’m right…or I’m entitled to my position…or to borrow a phrase from that German Monk…Here I stand, I can do no other. (pause)
I sat at my computer late in the week, getting absolutely bombarded with this as I was working on this sermon this week…and while I recognize and fully support in every way our 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech…to the freedom bought and paid for by the blood of those who served to win America our Freedom two and half centuries ago…I also got to the point where the noise was just too much and I just wanted to tell EVERYONE all over social media to just…shut…up already. (pause)

If you agree, that’s fine…if you disagree, that’s fine too…there’s no right, no wrong…no definitive answer to the multitude of issues that we are facing in our society today…some of us see recent events as progress…others as attacks on their way of life…some see the lack of progress in social matters, others think we’ve come so far…and in the end, it seems like no one really wins…and all we do is argue about who’s to blame for it. (pause)
Life…is full of controversy…its full of doubt…and different opinions…and different experiences…and there is no one constant that anyone can agree on to cling to in all this…and while those of us sitting here this morning might name God as a constant…there are those out there…many of whom seem to find their way to my facebook feed…who will argue that point with us…This…is…our reality. (pause)

This has been dominating my attention this week as I worked with the gospel text out of Mark…two, seemingly disconnected stories partnered up together simply because of their proximity in the gospel, and the thought that 6 verses isn’t enough for a lesson and so we better double it.

Jesus is rejected in his hometown…and then the disciples go out two by two…What do those have to do with one another? And perhaps the other question you are, I’m guessing…asking yourselves right now…what do they have to do with all this stuff that I’ve been up here squawking about for the past few minutes? (pause)

I was going round and round…asking myself that very same question…but then in the midst of texting my wife…trying to explain my frustration at the distraction of all the online hub-ub…I realized that there is a connection…and here’s the first one.

Jesus goes home…to the place that should be the most familiar to him…the place that’s safe…family is there…and friends…people who have known him his entire life…perhaps your hometown is like that…a small intimate place where everyone knows you…and if you’re part of a certain family, you’re related to ¾’s of the town.

That seems to be the case for Jesus…he steps into the synagogue…and though Mark doesn’t give us all the detail, we hear from the other gospels that he shares a reading from the Prophet Isaiah and then proceeds to preach to these well-known people how its all about him…and they…freak out.

Jesus…Dude…we know you…you’re a carpenter…that’s your mom right there…we know your brothers and your sisters…We know better. (pause) Mark tells us that they took offense at him…which is a really nice way of saying that they tried to take him out and throw him off a cliff. (pause) And so, connection number one…we see here that the gospel has ALWAYS been one of those things that people get up in arms about…they either accept it…or they scoff at it…and if the people that knew Jesus best had trouble with it…it should come as no great shock that we also encounter people…sometimes those we are closest to…who will scoff at the message that we share…whether it’s the gospel or any other topic that we throw up a post about on Facebook.

Now stick with me…because this first part also connects to the second part…remember who was with Jesus as he headed home? The disciples…they traipsed along behind, and I found myself wondering just why Mark felt the need to share that with us…and then I realized just what the disciples had been doing up to that point…they were tailing Jesus…observing…watching the miracles, seeing the healings…listening to the preaching and the proclamation…and that included seeing this moment of intense opposition…and it was all in preparation for what Jesus had in store for them next.

Because directly following this encounter at home, that nearly resulted in death by unintentional cliff-diving…Jesus seems to shrug his shoulders…and move on to the other villages…doing more of the same…and in the midst of doing just that…he sends the disciples out…two by two…to do the exact…same thing.

And Jesus doesn’t sugar coat it…He sends them with no supplies other than a walking stick…totally dependent on the hospitality of those they will encounter…to proclaim the gospel…to preach the good news that through Jesus, the kingdom has come near…that forgiveness for sin is possible…that a renewed relationship with God is now possible…and as they had witnessed just prior to this…they will encounter opposition…they will encounter people who will scoff…people who will laugh…people who are so set in their ways because of their experience that they are completely unable to listen to the message that the disciples are sharing.

And what does Jesus tell them to do in these moments? Wipe off the dust from your sandals…and head off to the next town. Which to me sorta sounds like that old saying “water off a ducks back.” (pause)
People are going to disagree with you…people are going to oppose you…some openly, some secretly…but rest assured its going to happen…and when you start talking about something as life altering as the gospel…something as life changing as becoming a NEW CREATION in the eyes of God…well, not everyone is going to be ready to hear that.

And that…is…ok. So in those moments when we encounter the noise…the opposition…maybe all we can do is shrug our shoulders…kick the dust off our sandals…and move onto the next thing…to the next encounter…and we’ll see how that goes…We can’t control the response of the other…that’s not up to us…we can’t change their opinion any more than we can change their experience which has led them to that opinion in the first place.

But what can we do in the mean time? Well…love God…love your neighbor…and maybe log out of facebook when the noise gets a little too much…and maybe if we can all start doing that…then it won’t get quite so noisy…and maybe by the grace of God, then we can start to have a real conversation. Amen.