Mark 6:1-13, July 8th, 2018
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 Joseph 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 listened to the reading of these ancient words, let us now open our hearts and minds, to the meaning of this ancient writing, as we seek out their meaning to us in the Twenty-First Century.”
When I was a youngster, I never really thought about what I would do with the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I got into High School, it was then that people started asking me what I ‘wanted’, what I ‘envisioned’ I might do with the rest of my life. Lots of parents start talking about what their children need to be considering for their futures, and what career they need to start preparing for, long before the child has even learned their a, b, c’s or how to add and subtract, say nothing about being proficient at reading and writing! Historically, it is common for a parent to want a child to follow in their footsteps. A doctor wants their son or daughter to go to college and study to become a doctor as well. A firefighter wants their offspring to become firefighters as well. A minister wants their children to get involved in the church and hopefully become a pastor or some type of spiritual leader. A small business owner may send their children to college, so they can come home and take over the family business. In the case of Jesus, we know Joseph was a carpenter and he passed on the skills of the trade to Jesus. This is how Jesus was known in his hometown, the son of a carpenter. They knew Jesus as the local child of Joseph and Mary; they knew him as a carpenter.
When I was growing up, my father worked in a machine shop, making small parts for various types of equipment. It was a living. It was the trade he learned. His brothers were carpenters and they built houses. My grandfather Woodard was a farmer. He raised cattle, chickens and pigs. He planted fields of corn and had a vegetable garden. There were always fresh eggs and homemade butter on the table. Now, my mom’s dad, he was a preacher and one of my aunts married a preacher. So, late in life, at age forty-three when I entered seminary, it wasn’t very surprising to folks who knew my family history. Yet, the folks in the computer industry, in the Boston Massachusetts area where I had been scratching out a living for over twenty years of my life, they thought I had gone stark raving mad when they learned I quit my job to go to seminary! They rejected me in every way when they heard my decision! This seems to be how Jesus was received when he began his career in ministry. “And they took offense at him!” /Mark 6:3b/
Growing up and becoming an adult, is sometimes difficult. Making choices that everyone in town doesn’t approve of, is often down right difficult! Personally, I have always felt it was outrageous that Jesus was rejected by his hometown neighbors as he began his public ministry. When I personally experienced it in my own journey, I was saddened as I came to realize that those whom I thought understood me, didn’t. Yet, as my journey continued, I developed a different support group from those whom journeyed with me. As we turn to today’s teaching we see how Jesus also had developed a group, whom we call the first disciples, whom traveled with him throughout his earthly journey of ministry. They were with him when he was rejected in his hometown. They were with him when he healed the sick. They where with him when he fed the crowds. They were with him when he celebrated the Passover meal on the night of his betrayal. Yes, those closest to him stayed by him in good times and in bad times. They were his circle of supporters, they carried on and shared his teachings after his death.
Many have asked, “why did Jesus allow himself to be treated this way.” Others point out how he may have wanted his disciples to realize that as they went out to share and teach, carrying the message of Jesus, they too might also encounter rejection! Which we know they did! Surely, as the story of Jesus was written down, it was felt this accounting was important to document! As Jesus interacts with his early disciples, Jesus instructs them to travel in pairs; perhaps this was to ensure they always had someone at their side as support along the way. Jesus said to them: “travel light, living with those whom receive you, depending on your host to tend to your needs.” /Mark 6: 8-11/ Some of you may be wondering why we are focusing on this, as you are not planning to ‘go out into the community’ and minister like these early disciples! Well, perhaps not in the same manner, yet we are all called upon in some way. If you have not yet perceived this, then perhaps you are not listening to that small voice of God deep down in your heart.
Granted, ordained clergy like myself may take this passage a bit more personally than the average Christian, but it is up to me and my peers to help you realize this is not exactly what Jesus may have intended. You have heard the phrase: “the priesthood of all believers,” have you not!? When I was serving a church in Sebastian, there was a bell hanging by the alter area in front of the church. It was put there by a prior pastor so that when two or more gathered together and wanted to start a new mission or an outreach ministry, all they needed to do was ring the bell and announce their intent in front of the gathered congregation! The question you may need to ask yourself is simply this: ‘what is ‘my mission’ in this faith community?’ Or possibly you need to ask yourself, ‘what is Jesus calling me to do?’ Perhaps you may want to spend some time in prayer and or meditation, thereby giving the Spirit an opportunity to awaken your understanding of what ‘mission’ you are being charged to grapple with. What task or assignment is God seeking for you to undertake?
There are many, as well as various and different ways to accept the call of ministry. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he speaks of the various gifts of the followers of Christ. “There are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit’ /Corinthians 12:4/ Paul is reassuring us all that though we each have different gifts we are nourished, feed and led by the same Spirit of God. Paul goes on to speak of how we, as followers of Jesus, are part of the body of Christ. And as such we each have different responsibilities and together we accomplish the work of Christ here on earth. It is valuable to say, yet even more significantly ‘notable’ to bear in mind, each and every member of the body are vital to the function of the whole body. “The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need for you.’ Nor can the head say to the feet’ I have no need for you.’ /1 Corinthians 12:21/ Therefore, it is important to understand, we all have a place and are each a part of the ‘whole’ ministry of Christ; not just our ordained clergy. They, like all Christians are but a part of the whole which constitutes ‘The Body of Christ!
Clearly, clergy, like myself, are ‘called’ to take on a central part of the spiritual leadership of the church. Yet, again, let me assure you, neither I nor any clergy person, we are not capable of functioning in our roles without the full support of the respective parts, the disciples of Christ, within the local church community. Which constitutes the full body of Christ, representing the ‘United Church of Christ,’ in this community. Every time we lose a member, whether it be by death, or their relocation to a new community, or simply their feeling this was not meant to be ‘their’ church home, this is a loss which disrupts the entire body, the entire church. Consequently, as the void of their departure seeks a solution, the Spirit of God continues to bring, visitors, new potential members to our fellowship. It is our responsibility to welcome them into our faith community. This process of regeneration happens in all church settings. Sometimes this happens quickly and abundantly and other times it seems the regenerative process slows way down. When this happens other members of the body are called upon to take on double and sometimes triple functions. Oftentimes, this causes stress to the entire community involved. This lifts-up the importance of striving to support the efforts of each member of this local church, this local community of faith. We need each other! Let us be sure to acknowledge this as we work toward the common ministry we are called to serve.
At least, at this point, it ought to be coming clear, why, Jesus was giving distinct, simple directions. His disciples were about to go out into the community and plant the seeds of Jesus’ ministry and they needed to know how to do so. Their journeys would take them into the ‘far off regions’ of the territory of God’s creation which they were sent to serve. Just as Jesus was rejected in his home town, those whom serve Jesus’ expanding church body, they would encounter rejection as well. The world is filled with diversity and division and the message of hope and salvation through Christ has not been and will not be easily received in every town, city or village. Jesus gave the disciples permission to move on from a place if they were rejected. This is important, as some communities would be more receptive to these teachings than others. Jesus was striving to teach his disciples how to create communities of faith; communities whom were willing to support the teachings of Jesus.
You and me, we are called to come together supporting a common ministry. Our mission together, if you are willing, is to continue to fortify and strengthen the ministry of this faith community. Together, two by two, together like the early disciples we shall journey as one, in the ‘ebb’ and ‘flow’ of ministry. We shall endeavor to fulfill the mission we are called to! It is up to us to support each other, as there shall continue to be those whom reject us and the ministry we stand for. It was so in the time of Jesus and it continues to be the way it is in the here and now.
May the Spirit of the Risen Christ be with you, now and forever more. Amen.