Preacher: The Rev. R. Bruce Todd
St. Thomas – Whitemarsh, PA. July 8, 2018
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Mark 6:1-13
“Prophets are not without honor, EXCEPT in their home town.” What a perfect lesson for me to preach on, my first time here at St. Thomas. I’m not from here! This isn’t my regular congregation. You don’t know me! “Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town.” You don’t know me – – – yet!
I could use this opportunity to preach about being more committed to the work of the Church! Sure – you may do a lot. But be honest. We could all do a bit more. Maybe I should talk about faithful Church attendance!? Yes – you’re here today, but what about those rainy, chilly Sundays when you just rolled over in bed, or after some of those late Saturday night activities? Oh wait! This is my chance! SEWARDSHIP! None of the Clergy want to tackle this one in their own congregation. An outsider can hit-and-run! I could challenge you to not ask, “How much do we need, to pay the Bills” but instead ask, “How much should I give, to reflect how much God has given me.” Then again, first impressions are the lasting ones! Maybe I better just stick with, “Jesus loves you!” and “Love one another”
But that’s not what today’s Gospel lesson is about. Today’s Gospel lesson is about Jesus teaching in the synagogue… in the synagogue in Nazareth! It was probably the same teachings he did in Capernaum, Bethlehem, Cana, and numerous other towns, where he was loved and accepted. But now he’s in his hometown. They KNOW him!…. or they think they do. They’ve heard of the deeds he has done, and agree he has wisdom. But they let Jesus’ background get in the way of his teachings. Where does HE get off telling US how to live? When did HE get to be so smart? What great accomplishments has HE made? He’s ONLY a carpenter, Joe and Mary’s kid. Their kids went to school with OUR kids. HE’S no better than the rest of us.
I remember when I told my mother that I was going to major in Music in college. She said, “Go ahead. Waste your life! You’ll never make any money in music!” Well I had a very nice Director of Music position at a large congregation. I was my Organ Professor’s assistant at the Synagogue where he played. I gave various recitals as well as playing for events at the Academy of Music. I was doing pretty well as a college student. In fact, I was making about half of my mother’s Full-Time salary in my part-time.
I remember saying to her, “I thought you said I wouldn’t make any money in music?” She said, “Well you wouldn’t, unless you were good!” “So, you didn’t think I’d be any good?” I asked. She said, “It’s hard to think that your own kid will be that good at something.” “A prophet is not without honor, except in their own town.”… or their own house!
When Jesus realized that the people in his home town were not open to receiving the Gospel, it says: “He was amazed at their unbelief.” Mark’s Gospel has a theme going these past few weeks. Two weeks ago, you had the fishermen in their boat during the storm when Jesus asks: “Why are you afraid? Have you no Faith?” Then last week we had Jarius trying to get Jesus to come and heal his daughter. When Jesus is taking his own good time getting there he said, ‘Do not fear, only believe.'” Faith – Belief -and today-“Unbelief.” “And when he was amazed at their unbelief, he knew it was time to move on.” Jesus and his disciples were leaving Nazareth and going to other villages where they did have faith and believe.
Like many of us, who are leaving for a trip, we have to decide what to pack. There are two types of travelers. There are those that travel light; and, there are those who pack for self-preservation. Do you take a small bag with the basic essentials and figure you’ll pick stuff up as you go? Or do you cram everything you can into every corner of an extra-large expandable bag, making sure that whatever comes your way on your trip, you are prepared?
Parents traveling with small children have both extremes. They bring enough “kid gear,” emergency medicines, food and drink boxes, stuffed animals, and beloved story-books to keep the children satisfied for weeks. They’re lucky if they get a toothbrush and a change of socks for themselves.
In today’s text we learn how the disciples, in keeping with Jesus’ own directives, took basically nothing as a “back-up” for themselves. Jesus was challenging them to TRUST Him!
Take your staff, your sandals and only one tunic. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry about your food or lodging. I’ll take care of those.” And based on those directions, his disciples went out and formed the Church as it exists today.
We can’t even leave our house for a few hours with just the clothes on our back and the shoes on our feet. We need our wallet with our cash and credit cards. And if you leave your house without your cell phone you’ll turn around to go back home and get it.
In Greek Mythology, for offending the gods, Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. That was as harsh a punishment as the ancient Greek mind could conjure up. Today, it seems, we have volunteered to play the role of Atlas. We have not offended God, we have dismissed God, told God that we are grown up enough not to need his help any more. We struggle to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders. The question is, when it gets too heavy for us, when there are questions too hard for human knowledge to answer, and problems that take more time to solve than any of us have, will we be too proud to admit that we have made a mistake in wanting to carry this world alone?
God knows we have tons of excess baggage that we try to carry on this journey of Life. How are we doing on our Faith Journey? Many of us are carrying excess baggage there too! Excess baggage that hampers our Faith Life. We carry burdens that God did not intend for us to carry.
It’s our lack of faith, trust, and confidence that God really is alive and able to relieve us of our baggage that keep us burdened down.
We have heard Jesus say: “Why are you afraid? Have you no Faith?” “Do not fear, only believe.” We’re told that he’ll take care of the Lilies of the field and the birds of the air, but we still don’t trust God to take care of US!
Today we read how Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. How frustrated Christ must be at times with our unbelief. If we really believed that God can help us, we would be praying much more frequently. If we really believed that the Body & Blood of Christ dwells within us, we would live our lives with more commitment. If we really believe that Jesus takes away the power of Sin, we would forgive ourselves more, and stop carrying around all of the excess baggage of guilt that we load onto ourselves.
This week we celebrated Independence Day! For us – our Independence Day was not on July 4th 1776! Our Independence Day was our Baptismal Day. That is when we became a Child of God. That is when we received the Promise of Eternal Life! That is when God promised to send his Son to carry our Baggage for us. Our Lord Jesus Christ has made us Independent from the power of Sin and Death.
Jesus told them to take your staff, your sandals and one tunic. Don’t worry about the other stuff. We carry around so much excess baggage. We have the baggage of Guilt, Greed, Gossip and Gluttony; of Debt, Lust, Jealousy and Envy. We have tons of baggage – called Sin! Jesus said he will lift our burdens – He will carry our baggage for us! Let’s show our Independence by letting go of the baggage, and living the life God intended us to live! Amen!