Mark 6:1-13, July 4, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Mark, chapter six, verses one thru thirteen.”
1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 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! 3 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. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 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.
“Having heard this account of “The Carpenter” from Jerusalem, let us now open our hearts as we seek its meaning in the Twenty-First Century.”
My uncle Chester, my father’s older brother, was a carpenter. He started building houses during the depression. His father, my grandfather, divided up the farm and invited his sons to learn how to build homes for themselves. And that they did, even hand dug wells for water at each home. Chester continued and developed a business building houses. In his case, necessity taught him how to be a carpenter. I do not have enough information to know who passed on the skills to him, yet I suspect growing up on a farm gave him a good start! I do remember helping pound a few nails when my father added on to our original home. All of us children helped a bit. I suspect my older brothers did a lot of the work. As the years passed my father took other work, but Chester continued building houses. He was the real ‘Carpenter’ in the family. From what we know of Jesus’ upbring, his Father Joseph, who raised him from birth, taught him the trade. We even hear Jesus called the ‘Carpenter’ in our scripture lesson. Carpentry is certainly an honorable trade!
Jesus was a ‘Carpenter’ and he loved to build things! We know he loved to build compassionate and uplifting conversations as he began to build his following of those that absolutely wanted what he was building. Jesus was building a new understanding of the ancient words of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, as he artfully spoke of the kingdom of God. His words were captivating as he built bridges between the marginalized remnants of the Israelites, seeking to draw a clear line from the ancient understanding of our Creator God to the God of Salvation, forgiveness and compassion for others, no matter where they were on life’s journey! Jesus reached out to the tax collectors who were believed to be over taxing the people for their own gain. Jesus challenged those that would condemn a woman for prostitution, thus building a new understanding of compassion and mercy. Indeed, if Jesus were seeking to draw a crowd in our modern society, he could easily build a platform that would shatter the illusions of power and wealth verses those in the food lines and unemployment lines! Indeed, carpentry is a noble trade, used to build strong reliable things like homes for all of God’s children and tables with chairs. Around those tables Jesus drew together diverse groups from different walks of life, so they might find common ground as he worked his trade to cause them to see how equal they were in the eyes of God. So, just where did Jesus become such a skilled craftsman? Clearly, it started at his birth.
We do not hear a lot about Joseph beyond the early years in Jesus’ life. We can presume he died long before Jesus began his formal ministry around age thirty. What we do know is that Jesus picked up the carpentry trade and was known by the hometown crowd as a carpenter. We also know that Jesus began his ministry and was baptized by John the Baptist which led Jesus to become more visible in his hometown. What ought to catch our attention here is that folks were skeptical of his ministry in and around his home and community. Jesus even says that “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” /Mark 6:4/ How utterly sad, yet it has often been confirmed as true. With this setting we begin to hear of how Jesus was preparing his disciples, building up their tools of ministry which they would need to carry with them, as he sent them out two by two to begin their ministries among the people in surrounding areas. No, he did not send them off with a three-gun salute or a marching band. Rather, Jesus sent them forth with instructions as to how to deal with those that did not welcome them. “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.” /Mark 6:11/ He told them to travel light and be prepared to be moving on when rejected. What a discouraging way to start out! But, not necessarily, as the truth is known to set us free!
We can only speculate, yet it does appear that Jesus was preparing his Disciples for the harsh truth: “becoming a part of the ministry to which Jesus calls others to join, will not be greeted with open arms by all who hear his message.” People back then were oppressed as conquered people living under the rule of the Roman armies and their rulers. They had been taught that a Messiah would come and rescue them! They believed this meant they would be sent a strong leader to lead them in battle against their oppressors. This does not describe Jesus, the Carpenter from Jerusalem. Just the opposite, Jesus was a loving, compassionate man who humbly walked from community to community, hanging out with common working-class fisherman. He also spent considerable time with the outcast, the lame, and the crippled, also the blind and sinners alike! He was virtually homeless and as far as we know no one every paid him for his work. Rather the disciples were always seeking ways to secure food and the occasional nights lodging with family, friends and/or those Jesus was ministering to. However, we see all this, we need to acknowledge that Jesus was said to have empowered his disciples to heal the sick and lame, casting out demons just as Jesus himself did.
This passage challenges us, each of us, to face our journeys with a sense of clarity, not naivete! Like inexperienced disciples or carpenters who had to ‘learn’ how the ‘hard way’ as sometimes things can just be tough, difficult, and demanding! What we need to know is that building something worthy; is worth all the sweat and aching muscles it takes! I was listening to the TV as I am typing out this message, and there was an interview with a young woman who built a house for her family from scratch with no prior experience. Much like how my Uncle Chester and family became carpenters! But in the case of the television interview, which I only half heard, a young woman and her younger children built a house with no experience from growing up on a farm such as my uncle did. But, in a nine-month period they got the job done! And that is when I walked back into the living room and saw the picture of their two-story brick home! Amazing! Surely, if she had asked anyone she knew if it were possible, they would have laughed at her or brushed her off. Yes, we need to accept that things may be hard on the road of life ahead of us. But we do not need to give up without giving it a try. By trying I mean we need to dig deep and when we believe in something we need to commit to it and strive to get it done. Things get built after a commitment is made to bring projects to completion – especially when coupled with faith and determination to get the chosen mission done!
Jesus had personally trained his disciples. He showed them the power of faith. He led by example to show them a new way to help others and to save people. He gave them hope and he encouraged them to build upon such hope. He also offered them the opportunity to be ‘servants’ of God while helping them understand the ‘freedom’ that can be had by doing good! Jesus words, in today’s lesson, perhaps did imply that the going may get tough, yet he was teaching them, training them how to do this in community. Jesus was encouraging them to not give up or give in to rejection. No, he wanted his disciples to remember their roots, deeply entrenched in their faith and belief in the transforming power of God! Why would untrained famers, built their own homes while continuing to farm the land? Because they wanted to have a home for their families, and they also needed food to nourish their bodies as they pushed forward with their task! The disciples needed to know they were doing God’s work and it would make a difference!
When we take on a task, we need faith that we can get it done. The woman on TV, which I listened to briefly, believed she could build that house, thereby making a real home for her family – and she did! Across the street in front of my home, a man is building a new home, with plans to build two on the two lots he purchased last year. The foundation, the roof and the concrete block walls are all in place. He paid contractors to do the work. The other day, I noticed he was doing the outside painting on his own, a light blue, truly beautiful. When I engaged him in conversation, I learned he was painting it himself, as he learned and now believes he saved close to seven thousand dollars by doing the work himself! The combination of having contractors do the specialized projects and doing some of the other projects himself seems to be a winning combination. Jesus was teaching his disciples to do the leg work and leave the miracle of building the Universal Church of Jesus Christ to God’s handiwork!
For over one hundred and thirty plus years, the Riviera United Church of Christ has been serving the needs of the Melbourne and Palm Bay communities. It has been a challenge. To read the full story go to our website at rivieraucc.org and read about ‘who we are’ and ‘where we came from.’ To continue this ministry into the unknow future, we shall need new disciples, new craftsmen, and craftswomen, to continue our efforts to build bridges out into the local community. We need talented, faithful people who are not afraid they may be rejected by nonbelievers. We need willing disciples of Christ who are ready to donate their talents, their time and to support this ministry financially – if we are to continue serving God and future generations who shall follow us. As we gather around our Communion table this morning, around the table built by a handy craftsperson, a carpenter, consider how you can actively help continue this ministry well into the future as envisioned by the early pioneers who began the process of building this church.