Sermon Passage: Mark 6:1-13

 

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 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! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

The Mission of the Twelve

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, 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.

Don’t Let Them Take Y(OUR) Jesus!

Pastor Tyler Yost

July 7, 2024

          This passage is one of my favorites because I can relate to it quite well. It is near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Already he has healed many people. He has been in the streets with the sick, the lowly, and the marginalized. He has also spent his time in the wilderness with the adversary tempting him at every turn without food and water. He learned from the Rabbis at the temples in his youth and was putting their teachings to good use and cross referenced them with the enlightenment given to him by God. He comes away from these firsthand experiences with the marginalized, his teachers, his own trials and tribulations, and wants to share his newfound knowledge with the people of his hometown of Nazareth. I would imagine that Jesus was excited to share this knowledge that he had gleaned from his heavenly parent and his experiences with the poor and sick. I can see it now, he is standing outside the synagogue, praying and asking God what the people of his home needed to hear. He receives the revelation, goes in front of the people of his home, he hears the murmurs of people that recognize him. Perhaps they even thought to themselves, “oh, is that Jesus? How wonderful that he has returned home and is about to read the scriptures to us!” The other Synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Luke, delve into greater detail of the scene unfolding. Luke 4 lays out the full scene for us to take in. Jesus stands up before the congregation and reads from the prophet Isaiah…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Jesus then rolls up the scroll and says, “Today, this scripture this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people in the Synagogue are amazed! “Is this not Joseph’s Son!?” Jesus responds by predicting their next move. Following the pattern of the prophets that came before him, he predicts that his people in Nazareth would demand that he perform miracles to prove that he is indeed the Messiah. When Jesus wouldn’t perform for them like some trained Cocker Spaniel, they drove him out of the Synagogue. Now Nazareth is on some interesting ground and not just because it is the land that housed our Lord and Savior. Nazareth resides near a cliffside. A cliffside which the people of Nazareth were more than ready to throw Jesus off of for not giving them the special treatment that they believed they were entitled to. They were angry that Jesus didn’t act in the way THEY wanted him to act. So, they rejected him outright, not only on principle but on the basis of his right to live. Jesus ends up escaping this premature attempt at his demise by, according to Luke 4:30, passing through the midst of the angry mob, in true Jesus-like fashion, without difficulty or opposition.

I said earlier that relate to this passage. Why would I, when it seems so Melancholic? After all, it’s not a happy passage. It’s actually quite sad, Jesus is kicked out of his hometown very nearly literally kicked off a cliff and the people of Nazareth don’t get to experience the blessings that Jesus would have given them. I relate to this passage because it reminds me of my time in Seminary. One of the first days in orientation, one of the professors, I believe it was Professor Mai-Anh Le Tran, said to all of us, you may have heard from your families or from folks in your hometowns, don’t let them take your Jesus! I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much else from that orientation… but that line stuck with me and reminds me of this passage. That phrase is incredibly common to hear for those who hear God calling them to Seminary. This phrase essentially means don’t let them change you or don’t become someone we don’t recognize. Up until the point they leave, it is likely the would-be seminary student has been getting along with the people around them in their hometowns. This is because they are caught in a socio-cultural vacuum. This is especially true for small towns, if any of you grew up in a smalltown you know what I am talking about. In fact, I would almost say that Rock Island is very similar to a small town, at least in its vibes. In smalltown life, you are incredibly isolated and the only knowledge about the greater world around you is filtered through the people in your hometown. So, eventually you are formed by the environment that you are raised in! I suppose that is a point for Nurture in the great Nature v. Nurture debate. Without significant intervention and a desire to learn about more than the world just outside your front door, you are essentially going through your life with horse blinders on! And what are horse blinders for? They are to keep the horse from getting spooked.

But Pastor Yost, what could we or others in small towns be spooked by? So, very glad you asked! It’s easy for anyone to get spooked by encountering traditions, cultures, beliefs, or worldviews different from their own. This spooking or let’s just call it fear, is essentially the root of all the isms and phobias that we have been told in the progressive church to watch out for and speak out against. It is fear that drives people to actively discriminate and disregard those that are different from them. Maybe you knew this already? Afterall, It’s not a new concept. I mean just look at our passage for today? Do you think the Nazarenes wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff because they thought he was going to encourage them and tell them that they are already on the right path? Certainly not. They wanted to throw him off the cliff because they knew he would challenge them. His very prediction about them asking for signs to prove his divinity was threat to their worldview. They knew that their way of life was about to be challenged by this carpenter’s son who had been away from home for up to 18 years! Isn’t it funny though, that they only felt threatened when he presented them with new information that would change their lives?! They were more than happy to bring him back into the fold up until the point when he brought a new perspective on the passage he read. A prophet is never accepted in his hometown. Ain’t that the truth, Jesus.

I think we call relate to this. How many of us moved away from our hometowns? Now, for those of you who were born and raised here, how many of you left for an extended duration and found yourselves in a new place or environment? When you all returned home, what was the response? Maybe at first it was novelty, everyone enjoyed hearing your stories about new people, new situations, maybe even your new beliefs. How long was it before someone challenged you on those new beliefs? What is it that we aren’t supposed to talk about when around dinner table? Well, it ain’t todays top 40 playlist, though I’d probably create a bit of a commotion over that topic. Its politics and religion. Why is that? Because these are no longer friendly topics. Our society has become so polarized that any mention of a perspective different from someone else’s is immediately a challenge to that person’s very humanity. That is why Jesus was nearly killed that day. In a way, our society is more like the society depicted in the Bible now more than ever and it’s because of how engrained our own perspectives have become. Somewhere along the line, some of us seem to have lost the ability to think imaginatively or empathetically.

This hits extra hard when we remember that this is the first Sunday after Pride Month. How many queer children are thrown from the cliff that is their front porch and into the abyss that is the cold hard world around them by none other than their own family members? So, Pastor Yost, what do we do with this? You’ve made your point, sometimes the least accepting place is someone’s own home. Well, my friends, we should not let those who perpetuate this lack of acceptance to take our Jesus. When we see someone who is suffering acutely, kicked from their own home, we need to be their home. Because that is OUR Jesus… and OUR Jesus is THEIR Jesus too!

If we let the folks that preach hate have the last word, we are letting them take our Jesus. If they take our Jesus, we might as well be the ones who are throwing people from the cliff. So, my friends, do not wait for God, for Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to do the work for you. If you see something in your community that needs attention, be an extension and example of your divine teacher. Do not wait for a Holy cleansing rain to remove all the injustice in this world. Someday it may come, but while we wait and sit on our hands for it, there are more and more people who are forced from their homes both metaphorically and literally. I’m not saying be the savior, because we already have one. And the weight of the entire world was already thrust upon their shoulders once already. Do what is in your means and what the Holy Spirit is pushing you to do. Every little bit of resistance, of kindness, of generosity, of time given to a cause, is showing the world that Jesus is still theirs has not been the instrument of division that some would have us believe he is. As you go from this place today, don’t let the world out there, the one that is wrought with suffering and wrongdoing take OUR Jesus. Be the hand of OUR Jesus in this world that it desperately needs. A Hand of the encouraging pat on the back. A hand that picks someone up once they’ve fallen. A hand that clasps another in friendship and love. Amen.

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