First Congregational Church July 5, 2015 6th Sunday after Pentecost Mark 6:1-13 “Independence, Freedom and Strength” Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Little Sven vas at his first day of school, ya know, ven his teacher, Mrs. Olsen, advises da class that each school day starts with the "Pledge of Allegiance” and instructs them to put their right hand over their heart and repeat after her.
As Mrs. Olsen starts the recitation she looks around the room, 'I pledge allegiance to the flag........', when her eyes are drawn to little Sven, who has his hand over the right cheek of his bottom. 'Sven, I cannot continue till you put your hand over your heart,' she demands. Sven looks up and replies, 'It is over my heart.'
After several more attempts to get Sven to put his hand over his heart, Mrs. Olsen enquires, 'Why do you think that is your heart, Sven?’ 'Vell Miss,' answers Sven, 'because every time my Grandma comes to visit she pats me there and says, "Bless your little heart," and my Grandma never lies.’
I don’t know if Jesus ever had a Grandma pat his bottom, but our scripture passage for this morning is the one that tells us that Mary and Joseph had other children. Even if we don’t know their names, like many of us oldest children, Jesus learned a lot about independence, freedom and strength, simply by being the oldest child.
Mark 6:1-13 MSG 1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”
3 But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.
7-8 Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:
8-9 “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.
10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.
11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”
12-13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.
Thank you, John. I was a little surprised at how much this scripture seemed to sit up and catch my attention. I’m sure that a large part of it was having recently returned to the town where I grew up, where I, too, was once “known” well enough that whatever trouble I might have found to entertain myself would have gotten back to my mother. I thought I was independent back then - choosing not to get into trouble - to keep up the family’s good name, ya know. Maybe it was more fear and naïveté than nobility and independence. I also love the fact that this passage paints Jesus with a real brush, and that not even Jesus had what looked like perfect, successful days - 100% of the time.
At first blush, I was tempted to look for a different passage for this conspicuous 5th of July Sunday. But as I visualized those disciples pairing off in different directions, it made a connection with subsequent “disciples” grouping off in search of new territory - territory that would become our nation. In one sense or another, perhaps most if not all of the immigrants to this country have felt a “sending forth” - a hope that has drawn them into a radically different life.
When the gift of all the music for this morning began to reveal itself, I realized how each of the singers - and players - used what they had to bring wellness to us, maybe healing some spirits, and certainly anointing this body of Christ today. And sometimes we look at people with varying gifts and think that what I have to contribute to the worship service of humanity may not be so great, but it’s so not true.
In this country we get to call home, we have the exquisite gift of determining for ourselves how we will use the gifts God has given us, to help others realize the freedom we have in understanding God and our relationship to Christ. Our passage sets up the visual for us, of Jesus standing at the door, using whatever number came with us today, and saying, “You go and deal with the dark forces that threaten the well being of those who are vulnerable, who need you to heal their spirit. You, not the group after you or the group in front of you. You send the demons packing with your joy and mercy and compassion and all the other gifts with which you’ve been blessed.” So let us get on with it.
Great God of independence, freedom and strength, love and life and joy, we are grateful for all those who chose to arise in leading us to this time and place. As we recall the richness of our nation’s history, let us not become disillusioned, but hopeful, not discouraged but encouraged through your Holy Spirit. Help us be strong and free and independent in our weaknesses, bindings and dependencies. Thank you for the reminders that we are to do our part, not getting caught up in popularity, that you have given us all we need. In faith, freedom and fellowship, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.