the one about Jesus making us uncomfortable...
July 8, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from July 8, 2018

Text: Mark 6: 1-13

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and around the people who know him.

Jesus comes home in our gospel reading this morning. And his homecoming was not filled with bands, a parade, or celebration. Contrary to how some might want to think, Jesus’ return home in our Gospel reading this morning does not look like the welcoming of soldier that has come home from a war.

In fact, Jesus is confronted with scoff and ridicule. Where the most common thing said about him (from those who watched him grow up) is essentially, “Who does this guy think he is? Doesn’t he know that we know who he is?”

I’m a firm believer that everyone has experienced a portion of what Jesus is experiencing in our gospel lesson this morning. How many of us have gone off to college, or camp, or a mission trip, or a trip of ‘self-discovery’ and felt like they had ‘changed’ in some way and wanted to share and invite others into that change as well. Perhaps your view of the world has changed, maybe your attitude and relationship to an ‘other’ group has shifted because of your real experiences with those sisters and brothers; all this change and you want to invite others – those you know so well – to see and experience the world as you have and want to continue living in.

And the response more often than not? We know who you are. Change? Yeah right. You better get back in your role.

I think about that as I hear of Jesus’ interactions with those he grew up with. But, when I sit back, and really think about those experiences he probably had, I have to sort of agree with those who scoffed at Jesus. The things he says, proclaims, and invites us into are radical, frustrating, and a little off-putting.

A pastor friend and I talked a little bit this past week about those things that Jesus says and invites us into that make us squirm, that make us a little uneasy as we try to live into this love and mercy that God has for us. Those things that Jesus does and says that frustrate us to no end.

For me, it has always been Jesus’ seemingly unwillingness to answer questions concisely and clearly. Questions are responded with more questions, stories, or what appear to be far off tangents.

Lord, what’s the kingdom of heaven like? Well… it’s like a mustard seed, or a shepherd who lost a sheep, or this older woman who found a coin. Ok…

Lord, what is God’s love like? Well… listen to this story about this guy whose son left and returned.

Jesus, by what power do you do these things? Where did John’s baptism come from?

For a world that operates in clear cut and defined ways, we want our answers printed clearly in black and white as if on the pages of a book. Yet, our Lord God continually invites us into the murky grey area of life. Jesus invites us into deeper conversation and relationship through continued thinking about the things he says. Always telling more stories and parables that open our minds – as they make us squirm – to see how God’s love is lived out in the world.

For my friend (and for me too) there are those things that Jesus tells us that just flat out go against the things we are taught and told. One of the ‘biggest’ sayings of frustration are – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What?

Does Jesus not understand that that is one of the hardest things to do? Living into God’s love is caring for people who don’t like you or actively work against you? And how does that love look like? Turning the other cheek, offering a coat, giving your shoes, laying down one’s life.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And how do you expect me to do that? Listen to this story about a guy you’ve been told was evil and bad and how he was a neighbor to a beaten man on the road.

Lord, how can we live a faithful life? Give up everything you own – everything – and follow me.

Jesus invites us into a life that is truly counter to what the world shouts out. It’s a life that goes against all that we know and are comfortable with. Yet, it is a life that leads to truth, lives out of love, and cares for the needs of others because God has loved, continues to love, and cares for us first.

Jesus is scoffed and rebuffed in his hometown because of the things he says and invites folks into – even the folks who know him so well; the ones who’ve seen him grow up.

As he leaves his home and continues his ministry he then sends the disciples out with words of advice and direction that seem truly mind-boggling.

Go out into the world – proclaim, heal, and teach. But as you leave, don’t take anything except for the clothes on your back and the sandals on your feet. Stay with strangers as long as they welcome you. If you aren’t, shake the dust off your feet and continue on.

Trying to find an ‘equivalent’ to our day, it would be as if Jesus tells us – go walk across this world proclaiming God’s love and mercy and asking for repentance. When you go, don’t take your phone or your wallet, not even a backpack. Don’t even think about getting in a car. Stay with people you don’t know as you heal and love and teach. If they don’t want you around? Just continue walking on.

I don’t know about y’all – that makes me squirm. That’s not something I look forward to doing or even know if I am capable of participating in. Yet, that’s what he called his disciples into and in many ways calls us into as well.

As I mentioned last Sunday, Jesus calls us to have trust and faith. Trust and faith that God is at work (because God is at work) and that God is indeed present and with you.

For surely, if God is present with the disciples who were sent just as they were, then wouldn’t God be present with us as we live into each day with even more than what they had? And God isn’t ‘with us’ because of this extra stuff we have, but God is present with us because we are God’s – and God is present with us through love, grace, and the life and death of our Lord Jesus the Christ.

What I find most reassuring and comforting – that in spite of the things that Jesus does and says that makes me squirm and uncomfortable – he doesn’t leave me by the wayside. Jesus continues to work on and in and through me so that I might know of God’s grace, love, and presence. Jesus has shown that willingness to be with us despite our hesitancies to what he proclaims and invites us into.

How? Because as I told our young friends last week – asking questions invites us into deeper conversation and relationship. Jesus continues to make us squirm, but he continues to invite us into that life of faith through questions, stories, and more so that we can fully see God at work in and through us and throughout the world.

Jesus can make us squirm, but Jesus is still here with us to help, guide, and love us along the way. Amen.

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