Devotional Message: The 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9B (7/8/2018)

Lessons

Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2nd Corinthians 12:2-10
St. Mark 6:1-13

Semicontinuous Series

2nd Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48

Prayer of the Day

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If 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.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

St. Mark 6:1-13 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Prophets Are not without Honor

This week’s Gospel lesson begins with great promise. After relocating to Capernaum [1:21, 2:1], and a time on the road, Jesus returns to his hometown. By now he is a celebrated preacher and healer. Word has clearly made it back to his hometown, and his family and neighbors are excited with anticipation about what will happen when he makes an appearance in the local synagogue. It starts out well enough. The people are astounded. They are struck by his wisdom, and the deeds of power that he has done.

But then the tide begins to turn. Wait a minute; isn’t this Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Didn’t he grown up among us? Don’t we remember what he was like as a child? Didn’t he spend his teenage years running around with the other boys in town? Who is he to lord it over us? What makes him think he is so special? In almost no time they go from being astounded to being offended. Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house!

Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. The people of Nazareth write Jesus off, and he is able to do no deeds of power there, among his unbelieving family and friends. And he is amazed at their unbelief.

But truthfully: there is no way to anticipate when, where or how God will speak. We might write someone off because we knew her when she was just a kid. Or because he doesn’t have the education we have. Or because (horror of horrors!) they belong to the other political party.

God has a way of surprising us. Israel is led from slavery to freedom by a stuttering exile, who doubts his call (even though it came in the form of a burning bush). A prostitute hides the Israelite spies who have come to investigate the military defenses around Jericho, and is honored in the Hebrew Bible. The greatest king of ancient Israel is a ruddy shepherd boy who grows up to be an adulterer and a murderer. The leader of the early Christian movement is the same one who denies Jesus three times on Good Friday. And the Messiah comes from Nazareth (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”)

It is easy to reject a message from God because it comes from a source we don’t respect, or in a form we don’t recognize, or with a message that is counter to what we would prefer to believe. But if we want our lives to be shaped by the truth — in fact, if we want the truth to set us free — we will need to open our eyes to how God might be calling us to a truth we might never have discovered on our own.

“And [Jesus] could do no deed of power there… and he was amazed at their unbelief.” The narrow vision of the hometown crowd prevents them from experiencing Jesus for who he is. May the Spirit broaden our vision, and strengthen our insight, that our hearts might be shaped by the truth of God that sets us free.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What prevents the people of Nazareth from seeing Jesus for who he is?
  2. Does Jesus seem saddened at their response to him? Or angry? Or puzzled?
  3. Why is he received so differently by the people in Capernaum?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I been surprised by a message that seemed to come from God?
  2. What sources, or points of view, do I reject because they don’t line up with what I already believe?
  3. How might I broaden my search for where God is speaking today?