Saturday, July 7, 2018

7 Pentecost Proper 9 Yr B July 8 2018



7 Pentecost Proper 9 Yr B July 8 2018 Audio

It seems like a rather harsh story. Jesus has gone home to preach, and first the people are somewhat surprised, and then they quickly turn to “who is this guy, isn’t he just Mary and Joseph’s son?” “Hasn’t he gotten a bit full of himself, too big for his britches?” This is a story about the hometown boy making good, and I wonder if they aren’t just a little bit jealous. Jesus’ friends and neighbors turn away and unfortunately resist Jesus’ invitation into the grace and mercy that is offered.

But Mark’s reason for telling us this story isn’t just about that, I think it’s about something much more deep. Jesus invites us to partner in this ministry of love. Which means that each and every day we have before us the opportunity to be channels of grace and mercy to people and a world desperately in need of grace and mercy.

Mark continues to tell this tale of rejection. The people who are in the synagogue, Jesus’ hometown church, Jesus’ friends and neighbors, take offense and reject him. But in the quiet, the back rooms, the barns, Jesus continues to heal. And then they leave. What’s going on that makes him unwelcome, what’s going on that makes him say to the disciples “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.”

Jesus instructs the disciples to go out into the villages and teach, taking nothing with them and accepting hospitality as it is offered, and if it is not offered, move on. Trapped in their comparisons and complaints, they are not remotely interested in receiving Jesus’ blessing. Even Jesus cannot believe it.

In a world so desperate for grace and mercy, why is this story here, why will the people not accept Jesus’ offer. Why would people kick them all out?

Sometimes we have trouble imagining ourselves as the ones in the pews when Jesus’ comes, and being the people who kick Jesus out of there. We would know Jesus, we would welcome Jesus, we would offer coffee and donuts and a bed to sleep on. And we would welcome Jesus’ disciples, wouldn’t we?

What’s going on here? Remember everything Jesus represents. Jesus offers grace and mercy, and with it comes a threat to the principalities and powers. Jesus’ message of love is a message that includes everyone. Jesus’ disciples are not the ones in power, Jesus’ disciples are not the well to do, Jesus’ disciples are fishermen. They stink like fish.

In our communities and our neighborhoods, we have a lot of trouble welcoming the ones that stink. We want them to be like us, well groomed, well fed, well moneyed. We want them to look like us and talk like us. We want to be able to know that their God is our God. And we really don’t want to be upset by any difference in belief, or culture.  

In this world where there is so much fear, it’s really hard to offer hospitality to those who we don’t know, or those who don’t come with a good recommendation, or those who have no where else to go. We are the ones, you see, who close our doors to stinking fishermen.

The good news in this story is that Jesus invites the disciples to partner in the ministry of love. Jesus tells them to travel light, and accept the hospitality that is offered. Jesus equips and commissions the disciples to carry on the ministry. They are now partners in ministry in a way they have not been up to this point in the story. And the instructions Jesus offers demonstrate the mutuality, even interdependence, of the disciples on those to and with whom they minister. They go out in pairs, because this work can’t be done alone. And they do not take their own provisions but rather depend on the hospitality of those they meet. And while some will receive them and be blessed, others will refuse their ministry and blessing.

And the good news in this story is that even in the face of rejection, even when the principalities and powers refuse the invitation to love, the invitation to grace and mercy that Jesus and the disciples offer, the offer continues to be made. Jesus does not recant, Jesus continues to bring love even when that love, and grace, and mercy, is rejected.

The good news for us is that Jesus invites us to partner in this ministry of love. Jesus invites us. And really, we are the stinky fishermen, and we are the well groomed. We are the very imperfect humans that are created in God’s image. We are the ones who are really good at loving one another, and we are the ones who miss the mark mightily on many days. We are the ones who are broken, and we are the ones who are healed in the bread that is the body that is broken for us.

And the good news for us is that our actions matter. Not as works that earn God’s favor but as a response to God’s holy invitation. God has chosen us in Baptism, not only for salvation but also for purposeful, consequential lives here and now, and each day we have a choice between resisting God’s activity or partnering with God’s intent and action to bless and care for God’s world.

We are the ones who bear love, mercy and grace into all the places we find ourselves: our homes, our work, our schools. We are the ones who break down the barriers between us and them, We are the ones who seek out those who will listen to the words of God’s love for everyone, we are the ones who love compassionately and fail miserably in the short sightedness of our compassion.

What we do matters. Jesus invites us to partner in the ministry of love, and we are equipped to be agents of love, of grace, and of mercy.

I heard a story this week. There’s a woman, whose sister-in-law came to stay. The woman, we’ll call her Gladys, and her sister-in-law, we’ll her Ethel, couldn’t be more different. Ethel has no time for those who are down on their luck, addicted, homeless. Ethel thinks that those people should just get a job or get lost. Gladys, on the other hand, volunteers at the homeless shelter. She makes friends and builds relationships with people who look like they are very different from her, but in the end, are not so different at all. Gladys had a fellow who lives at the homeless shelter over to her house to help her do some work around the house, and then to drive him to a doctor’s appointment. Before it was time to get going to the appointment, Ethel found herself sitting in the living room talking with the fellow, just about this and that. As Gladys was getting ready to take her guest to his doctor’s appointment, Ethel got up to set the table for dinner. Gladys noticed there was an extra place set.

What we do matters. Jesus invites us to partner in the ministry of love, and we are equipped to be agents of love, of grace, and of mercy. Love does indeed, win. Amen.

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