Sermon, Sunday July 8, 2018, 7th Sunday after Pentecost.
Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.
4 Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
8 These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.
One of the unspoken rules of sending a pastor out from Seminary after he is ordained is to never send him back to his own home town. The wisdom on this comes from this text about Jesus doing exactly that – going back to his home town once he has begun his public ministry. It does not go well!
These people knew Jesus when he was knee high to a grasshopper. They saw him crying in church, walking around with a snotty nose when he had a cold at aged 2. They saw him break out in pimples when he hit the teens. They saw him learn his trade skills with his Dad, Joe, whom they also have known all their lives.
He is just like them. And maybe 1st Century Jewish people were like us 21st century Aussies. If there is one thing we dislike it is someone we know big noting themselves. We tend to cut leaders down to size if we feel they are getting too big for their britches.
Here’s Jesus, now becoming a ‘big man’ in the region. Who does he think he is?!” they cry!
3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.
There it is: “They took offence at him”.
“Offence” – Guess what the original Greek word is: “Skandalizo” They took ‘scandal’ with him. He was a scandal to them. He became a challenge to their views, their expectations, their assumptions. He caused them some displeasure about their understanding of God, faith, and their reputation. He did not fit into their small world anymore and they disapproved of him for that. They would not listen to him. He made them uncomfortable and they got angry at him for that.
What’s Jesus’ response to being cut down to size by his home town relatives and friends?
Does he runaway; sit on the synagogue steps crying and saying sorry for being the Son of God sent by the Father to face off against Evil and kill death so that even these rejecting people can have forgiveness and life forever in the Father’s love? No.
Does he fight them; get into a slanging match and try and win the argument and guilt them into taking notice of him? No.
Does he call down a couple of legions of angels and give them a show they will never forget to prove to them by sign and miracle that he is who he says he is – God with them and for them in love, not wrath, come to love them not condemn them? No.
He does not retreat, ignore, cave in, fire up in anger or put on a show of power to shock and awe them into hearing him.
None of those things will get his mission done. These things would kiss salvation of billions of broken sinners goodbye.
So what does he do?
- He confronts them.
- He calls people towards him.
- He sends those he calls.
He confronts them. “He was amazed at their unbelief”.
He calls people towards him. He does not push them away. He continues to call them to himself – into his forgiveness and love.
He sends those he calls. He sends them into the fire of his mission with his authority to speak and do his mission of love.
And who does he call into the furnace of Kingdom work? People. Ordinary people. People who for whatever reason sense his love, his authority and know they need it. Disciples – students, learners. No big noting here. No ‘special people”; just people who know they need him, and not just what they can get from him. people who find themselves seeking his forgiveness and healing and peace.
What does he send them to? A fair chance of rejection, criticism and harsh judgement. But also, the chance to be part of people being freed; people being given a new life; people being restored to the bottom of their soul and back; new eyes to see the world and see God; new hears to hear people’s pain and hear God’s promises of peace and hope; the immense satisfaction of not living for yourself or your own ego, but for the coming of life in death, hope in despair and depression, healing in a broken marriage, freedom from being a people-pleaser, joy in knowing you are never not loved and called by the God of all creation who is the centre of your whole life and hope of this generation.
What does he send them out with? Two things, maybe three: He sends them with;
- his own authority and
- with each other and
- with friendly strangers to receive and help them.
He sends them out into the fray with his authority; with himself and his words in them. He speaks in them as they simply tell of what they have seen and heard of him and he makes it all work.
And they are not Lone Rangers: he sends them out with each other as support. He sends them out in pairs, never alone. They have each other to remind each other of him and what they have seen and heard from him. They have each other to help each other provide their basic needs. They have each other to correct each other, challenge each other and share the good and the bad – the rejection, the hurt, the anger the suffering and the joy, the satisfaction of one more sinner now saved, one more family now restores, one more person on the outer now in.
They are always partners with him and each other in this mission. No one person gets to do whatever they want. It is always doing and speaking together in partnership and with his word and power. And he sends them out to make relationships with those he loves.
He even sends them out with a need to depend on others, not just themselves for survival. That is so that they have to meet friendly looking strangers who can welcome the message and work with them in the mission.
Friend, this local church is hopefully your home town place of support and love. But you are called, and you are sent.
Our ongoing issue as long-term Christians is getting way too comfortable with where we are now and forgetting where we are still sent and with what and who.
We are called to him in Baptism. We are sent out with his authority to forgive and proclaim him at Baptism. We are sent into the fray with each other – never alone and always together with him and his authority, his words, his presence and his power. We are called to relate to friendly looking strangers who will welcome the message and take up the mission with us.
And the incredible gift is that we have a God who does not call us and send us from some lofty heavenly cotton wool blue sky world of bliss. He calls us from the blood and guts and rocks and sand and cold stone of the cross and the tomb.
The person who sends us out knows the cost and call us anyway. He can do that because he sends us out with him – his authority – his word of truth, his Spirit of power.
Hear the call. Come to him. Go with others and engage with a stranger. And repeat that daily.
And if they don’t listen? And if they think you are a scandal? If they take offense at the good news of him you know and love?
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
(2 Corinthians 12: 9)